Archive for January, 2019

Let’s talk about humbugs!

Have you ever misplaced your glasses? Or maybe you couldn’t find your favorite tee shirt?

Well you know what the problem is, it’s those mischievous little humbugs! They can be invisible and fly around with their gossamer wings. They love to play tricks on people.

Nana told me that her cell phone is never where she left it; if she thought it was in the living room, she would find it in the laundry room!

I told her that HAD to be a humbug!

And Pop Bob’s iPad is always on the move. Once my sister was watching Paw Patrol on it – she knows his password and everything – and she put it right back where she found it, but a humbug came along and poof!

He found it under the couch.

Mama is always searching for her scissors and Dada couldn’t find his new sunglasses one day. I told them for sure it must have been a humbug.

Of course there are good and bad humbugs. But mostly they are curious and don’t like causing trouble. It’s just their nature.

And you know they can travel all over the world. That’s why Nana and I had to tell this hungry turtle about them!

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Our family is on the move again. I swear Bob comes from a tribe of nomads, he is only happy in transit. After returning from NJ to see his brother Jeff, we turned around with the Bride and Groom (and the wee ones) to fly back to our favorite island in the French West Indies.

Here it is sunny and warm. We smother ourselves with sunscreen while Bob’s color turns burnt caramel. This is the land of tortoises and tropical wind. Where our friends kiss us hello on both cheeks. We’ve been returning here for over thirty years.

St Barth’s saved me so many years ago, it was a time when I’d lost my compass. We had left my beloved friends in The Berkshires and moved back to NJ. Only I didn’t belong there anymore. I didn’t fit. I couldn’t eat.

But I would joke about it with Great Grandma Ada – see, I’d tell her, I’m Irish because when I’m stressed I don’t want to eat. And she would say she likes to eat when she’s stressed and when she’s not although come to think of it when aren’t we stressed?

I should have seen a therapist. The feedback loop of compliments on my vanishing body only complicated things. But we moved closer to the ocean, and I found another newspaper that wanted to publish my random thoughts.

Then we discovered this island.

Pelicans dive into Gustavia’s harbor and small motorcycles buzz up and down the hills. This morning we set sail on a Catamaran for Columbier. The Love Bug is a mermaid and her brother longs to be a pirate!

We are on the lookout for a cannon and a parrot!

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Waiting is a big part of “adulting.” One of my parenting mantras was, “Want? Work. Wait!” Teaching our children to wait, and not decompensate over an ice cream cone, is serious business. Eventually we must all wait for a plane, wait in line for a coffee, wait for a paycheck before paying the mortgage. Like Penelope, weaving by day and unraveling by night, we women are experts at this waiting game.

When I was little, I’d wait by the door for my father’s return from work. In one of his pockets he had hidden a small trinket. I can’t remember what they were exactly, only that they could fit in the palm of his hand. Maybe it was a colorful rock, or seashell? Perhaps it was a barrette? It didn’t matter really, because my memories of him are his many small acts of loving kindness.

We would collect popsicle sticks until one summer day he built me a dollhouse.

We would roll up coins from my piggy bank and deposit them in my savings account.

We would always stop for an ice cream sundae at Zanelli’s after Mass on Sunday.

Until one day years later, I walked into Daddy Jim’s hospital room and he didn’t remember me. My visits with him at the end of his life, coincided with finding Bob again, in that same hospital. Great Grandma Ada stopped me by the elevator and said, “Come with me, you’ll never guess…”

Last night I was visiting with the Bride in her ER. I’d accompanied a friend and neighbor to the hospital and we were given the royal treatment. She had an EKG done while I was parking the car! Then, while I was waiting for her tests and scans to be read, I simultaneously read a post about “Waiting” from my dear friend Bess. She too had been waiting in a hospital:

As for me, I watch and wait, and try to be who he needs right now. We are all headed down this road. John is just a few steps ahead of me. Acceptance of the new limitations of our bodies, re-evaluation, re-prioritizing, using everything we’ve learned over a lifetime to figure out how to navigate in a new reality where the only certainty is uncertainty.

My heart goes out to Bess and her husband. May this next procedure work its magic. And my heart is breaking for all those federal employees who are working now without pay. To all those furloughed and waiting at home to get back to work. To our fellow citizens who must choose between a trip to the grocery store or an electric bill.

It’s hard to accept our new reality, with a toddler-in-chief at the helm. The uncertainty of this time in our lives can seem overwhelming. The L’il Pumpkin must wait for a new helmet before he can ride his scooter. The Bride had to wait and see if the Love Bug’s new passport would be renewed. And I am waiting for Bob’s safe return from NJ.

I will not look at ridiculous pictures of McDonald’s sauce in silver gravy boats at the White House; it’s not funny at all to me. Instead, I will drive my neighbor to T’ai Chi, because it’s Tuesday. And leave you with a thought, some of us are better at waiting – insert crying/laughing emoji.




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When I was a student at Sacred Heart School, I would sit with my hands folded on my desk per the nun’s orders, and stare out the window at the Cadillac dealership across the street. In between daydreams and catechism, I’d count the bricks on the wall of that monstrous building. The bricks were that siena color, formidable and cold. I couldn’t wait for the bell to ring, to rush outside and stand there on the sidewalk across from that brick wall, waiting for my school bus. For freedom.

Call it a fence, a barrier or a wall, call it whatever you like, our government has ground to a partial halt because of it.

When our children were young, my good friend’s husband returned from Germany with a piece of the Berlin Wall. His name was Gunther and he’d been born in Germany. To hear him tell it, there was a party in the street and pieces, chunks of crumbling cement were strewn all over the place. It represented so much more than an end to the Cold War.

The Wall was a metaphor for Rockwell’s four freedoms – “Freedom of Speech, Freedom of Worship, Freedom from Want and Freedom from Fear.”

Taken from one of FDR’s speeches to gain public approval for our entry into WWII, Rockwell’s paintings were purely propaganda; they raised $133 Million dollars in war bonds. As I try to understand the Trumpeteers among us, the Freedom from Fear image resonates with today’s imagined crisis at our Southern border with Mexico. A white father stands in the foreground as his wife tucks their children into bed.

Fear is a totalitarian government’s bread and butter.

When Mr T tells his followers that rapists and gang members are setting up caravans to invade our country, they believe him. Today’s illustrator might paint the image of a white father in that same child’s bedroom, within a walled-off, gated community holding a rifle. After all, in the art of Mr T’s deal, it pays to keep his customers afraid.

Barriers, man-made and natural, can keep people in or out, depending on your perspective. Nomads and cowboys and cowgirls hate fences, farmers love ’em. I was surprised in Key West to see a small chicken coop behind a house in the historic district, after all, hundreds of colorful roosters and hens roam free in the Conch Republic.  Then Bob pointed out that not only was the chicken coop door wide open, so was the wall surrounding the yard.

I wondered aloud what keeps those chickens hanging around; and I wonder why all the other chickens haven’t invaded their coop?

We returned to a freezing Nashville this week where Winter Break is over and children have been heading back to school. Our grandchildren loved returning to school, where they needn’t sit still with hands clasped counting bricks. I can only hope that all those 8th Grade trips around this already great country to our nation’s Capital are NOT cancelled.



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Greetings from Florida! The state that brought you hanging chads, ballot box shenanigans, dirty trick gerrymandering, and Marc Rubio.

Last night we watched a crazy “Catman” in Mallory Square put his new kitties through their act. Getting a cat to do anything would be miraculous in my book. But here in Key West, where a gorgeous drag queen rides a red platform heel down a building to start out the New Year, anything is possible.

One year the Big Chill was here, in the Historic District celebrating Thanksgiving, when a nudist walked in off the street and jumped in our pool!

But this year we are trying to avoid conflict. Bob and I are scouting out the Keys to see if we might want to “winter over” in a state that could be under water in our children’s lifetime. We basically have three choices:

The fancy West Coast, including Naples and Sarasota; the wild Southernmost Keys; or…

The Panhandle – that area close to Georgia and Alabama and easy to drive to from TN. Places like Destin and Rosemary Beach. And another town you’ve probably never heard of, Marianna, FL.

Marianna is a heavily conservative Panhandle town with a federal prison that was already severely damaged by Hurricane Michael last October. Its prisoners were moved to another facility hundreds of miles away.

So now, the prison guards, who probably voted for Mr T, will not only continue to commute for their twelve hour two weeks at a time shifts… they won’t be getting a paycheck.

While I was worrying this morning if the government shutdown might have a TSA effect on our ability to fly home, Mr T’s temper tantrum of an imaginary “Federal Crisis” is starting to have an impact on his base.

My sympathies to every government worker, farmer and everyone else peripherally harmed by this partial/pretend/pathetic president. Go ahead and give him some air time tonight. But how about a split screen for a real time fact check?

Today will be hot and sunny but it’s been cold in Key West, low 70s. Not that I’m complaining, or calling it a climate crisis, as I break out my fleece vest. Maybe another rum punch with lunch today?

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I’m reading an essay in the current New Yorker aboard a plane. It’s about the latest “It” girl novelist who happens to be from County Mayo, Ireland.

Sally Rooney’s sophomore book, which will not be in the US until April, has already been short listed for the Mann Booker Prize, and it seems she can communicate in our digital language like only a twenty-something could…

The marketing tag line for her debut novel, “Conversations with Friends” was “Salinger for the Snapchat generation!”

Anyway, there I was sitting in my cramped seat and feeling offended. In an excerpt from Conversations, a teenager is at a party of thirty somethings that is “full of music and people wearing long necklaces.”

Looking down at my three, long pearl necklaces I felt immediately dated and dowdy. Even though I had strung all those tiny beads myself, and I wouldn’t mind being thirty again, I began to wonder if maybe I needed a new hobby?

“Look Look,” Ada said yesterday pointing at CNN, ” she’s not wearing a necklace!”

Ada had taught me how to string beads awhile ago, so naturally she noticed that Nancy Pelosi, surrounded by her grandchildren while being sworn in as Speaker, was NOT wearing her signature short baroque pearl necklace.

What’s up with that?

I made a note to ask Aunt KiKi what she thinks. Is jewelry so last year?

Congratulations to the new Madame Speaker! With Tony Bennett in the House, I felt like singing “I left my heart in Nashville,” or um San Francisco? What a propitious start to the new year!

A woman’s place is in the House, and the Senate, and the SCOTUS, and the Oval and…

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