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Archive for March, 2019

Our newly discovered niece, Tamara, was thrilled. She sent us a picture of her son, a high school senior, with his college acceptance letter right before the holidays. He had excelled in his studies and won a scholarship to the school of his choice, the Citadel, the Military College of South Carolina! He towered over her, looking somehow humble and proud at the same time. And even though I’d missed his birthdays and holidays over the years, I’m determined to make his graduation this Spring.

This is the pinnacle of a parent’s job here on earth, the icing on the cake of motherhood. After all, we modern moms have little or nothing to do with our child’s choice of friends, which sport they may, or may not want to play, or whether they decide to rehearse their heavy metal band in your garage…but, we may still have a little pull and persuasion in the dastardly-named “college application process.”

And as F Scott Fitzgerald said, “Let me tell you about the very rich, they are different from you and me.” To which the Irish writer Mary Colum replied, “Why yes, they have more money.”

And possibly less scruples. Last week we were shocked, well maybe only slightly shocked, to find out that money seemed to be the defining factor in by-passing the usual college admission rigmarole for a kind of side-door acceptance scheme. The college counselor to the stars and the top 1%, William “Rick” Singer, enlisted university deans and college coaches, along with SAT testing officials to fix the game of College Choice in his client’s favor. https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-47585336

The case looked at a period between 2011 and 2018, when, according to the authorities, $25 Million in bribes were paid by people looking to sneak around the usual university admittance process. Fifty people – including 33 parents and various sports coaches – were indicted.

In our tony suburb of Rumson, where the Bride played field hockey, the kids drove better cars than the teachers. And guidance counselors were swamped with the high-end demands of their students and parents who were alternately nouveau riche investment bankers or old world riche tennis players. The college admission stakes were high.

The Bride got into Duke the old-fashioned way, although she was a Legacy since Bob had graduated ages ago. Still, we didn’t build a building or donate to the library. Her test scores were her own, as were her grades. Her high school guidance counselor advised against Early Admission, the stakes were too high, but she proceeded and gained entry anyway. Her college essay was about her work at Planned Parenthood, a risky choice. We had done all our heavy lifting in her previous 17 years:

We instilled in her a love of learning, of art, of reading and traveling. We encouraged her curiosity, and desire for social justice. We drove her to and from piano lessons, horseback riding, and even Sea Bright for her very first job as a waitress.  She took charge of her college application process, at one point finding a teacher’s reference letter that the counselor had lost!

When I read that Desperate Housewife Felicity Huffman, had not only lied and said her daughter had a learning disability in order to have an unlimited time frame to take the SAT, but was arranging, through Singer, to take that test at a special place in West Hollywood where someone else could pose as her daughter, I was shocked. The fictional daughter was actually an ex-tennis star with a high IQ who often did this for a price; in this case it cost Huffman a mere $15,000, less than the cost of a new Tesla.

We Americans like to think that our country is the one place on earth where Horatio Alger dreams can still come true. A place where with enough hard work and diligence, anyone can rise above their socio-economic circumstances to the the next level. In fact, the opposite is true. People born into wealth here are more likely to keep their status, while someone born into poverty is more likely to stay in that lane. https://www.forbes.com/sites/aparnamathur/2018/07/16/the-u-s-does-poorly-on-yet-another-metric-of-economic-mobility/#4ce797c56a7b

The U.S. is one of only four high income economies amongst 50 economies with the lowest rates of relative upward mobility. While the problems in each country are unique, many solutions are universal. The report highlights much needed investments in early childhood through subsidized childcare and paid leave, nutrition programs, good quality public education programs and schools, improved occupational networks and labor market interventions such as employer tax credits to employ younger workers. But it also points to a new, and often overlooked, factor: the role played by aspirations, both of the parents and the children themselves, and the link between aspirations and mobility. 

Aspirations, what a quaint word. Every parent wants one thing for their child, a safe, effective education. It doesn’t matter if you live in the projects of Jersey City or the suburbs like Rumson or the city of Nashville. And we all know, with private, charter, magnet and regular old public schools, our child’s education is no better than a horse race. The rich are starting off with an advantage, but we cannot allow cheating.

Here is the L’il Pumpkin, who wants to be a fighter like his Great Grandpa Hudson and loves crossing bridges!IMG_2494

 

 

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This morning we awoke to another mass shooting, except this time the carnage took place in New Zealand, a country we Americans like to think of as idyllic. Friends returned from a trip once to tell us that Kiwis are the most delightful people they’ve ever met! The Bride will tell anyone that people just don’t sue their doctors in the land of Tolkein.

But today, hate has landed on their shores in the form of far-right, white supremacy.

49 people are dead and more than 20 are injured simply for attending their mosque in Christchurch. The young man, the terrorist with a gun, live-streamed his vicious attack shooting men, women and children at close range for Facebook.

How is this different than a neo-Nazi killing Black people in a Christian church in South Carolina? Or is it different from an anti-Semite slaughtering Jews at prayer in a synagogue in Pennsylvania? Is a shooting at a place of worship any different from a school massacre?

An anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim, racist bigot with a camera on his head is no different than other young, white men on a mission to hate and kill; what they all have in common besides hate is a GUN. Yes, terrorists will try killing with cars and trucks and knives, but a gun is so much more efficient

And in this respect I do have some good news to share – the Supreme Court of the state of Connecticut has ruled that the Sandy Hook Elementary victims have the right to sue the manufacturer of the gun, a Remington Bushmaker AR-15, that was used to slaughter their children. The Associated Press reports:

In a 4-3 decision, justices reinstated a wrongful death lawsuit against Remington and overturned the ruling of a lower court judge, who said the entire lawsuit was prohibited by the 2005 federal law. The majority said that while most of the lawsuit’s claims were barred by the federal law, Remington could still be sued for alleged wrongful marketing under Connecticut law.

This is a huge step for gun control safety, ending the age-old practice of complicit immunity to gun companies and their shareholders.

And in other good news, the 55 year old father of the Waffle House shooter here in Nashville has been charged with unlawful transfer of a firearm, a felony, in his home state of Illinois. His “child” killed 4 people in 42 seconds. Because the father knew his son had been hospitalized in the past five years for his mental health, the state thinks he should not have given his son an AR-15. What do you think? Do you see a pattern? https://www.tennessean.com/story/news/crime/2019/03/14/travis-reinking-father-jeffrey-waffle-house-shooting/3016158002/

“If he is found guilty, the charge could carry probation or up to three years prison time and a fine of up to $25,000.”

My heart goes out to the victims in Christchurch this morning. But as Spring approaches, I have hope that we can turn this massive public health crisis around. Like Rip van Winkle, our country is awakening from the biting cold grip of the Second Amendment.

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While my brother Dr Jim was getting punished with a foot of snow in MN, Spring has sprung here in Nashville.

We’ve been busy collecting the daffodils in Ms Berdelle’s secret garden, and practicing Quigong on her patio. This past weekend I enlisted my young neighbor, Ashley, to give this ancient form of exercise and healing a try; but when she asked me what Quigong actually is, I was at a loss. I’d only studied T’ai Chi in the past and since today is Tuesday, I’ll be aligning my Chi pretty soon!

Still, Berdelle’s son is a Master of Quigong, and luckily he was visiting and the weather has been cooperating, I was game to give it a try:

When you start practicing Qigong exercises, the primary goal is to concentrate on letting go, letting go, letting go. That’s because most imbalance comes from holding on to too much for too long. Most of us are familiar with physical strength of muscles, and when we think about exercising, we think in terms of tensing muscles. Qi energy is different. Qi strength is revealed by a smooth, calm, concentrated effort that is free of stress and does not pit one part of the body against another.  https://www.consciouslifestylemag.com/qigong-exercises-healing-energy/

If that sounds like a song from a Frozen movie you’d be right. This is less like a Pelloton workout and more like a meditation on harmony, with birdsong as background music. When our Yin and Yang energy becomes unbalanced (or as Dr Jim would put it, we are too tightly or too loosely strung), it’s important to LET GO of everything that is holding us back and weighing us down.

Since Great Grandma Ada’s NJ house has just gone on the market, I’ve noticed a change in her – realistically she knows that her “collections” have served their purpose and she doesn’t need the hundreds of dishes, pots, silver and heavy furniture she has accumulated over a lifetime. In fact, she has sent the Steinway Grand piano out to California for the Rocker to enjoy!

But emotionally, she is still coming to terms with this new reality. Who are we without all our stuff?  

When I studied Buddhism at UVA, our class was told to write down words to describe who we are: Woman. Mother. Writer. Wife. Gardener. Chief Cook and Bottle Washer. (I wasn’t a grandmother yet)… but you get the point. How do we define ourselves? Irish. Democrat! Progressive! Feminist! Then our teacher told us to erase all those words, and some people had plenty of descriptors.

We were looking at a blank page.

The point was to empty our minds of all our labels, labels meant to divide us socially and politically, to create havoc and borders and even war. This past week we watched House Democrats try to come up with an Anti-Semitism bill that devolved into an anti-hate bill and lost its legs – criticizing a policy of racism and apartheid is not the same as hating a people for their ethnicity. Or spreading stereotypic garbage for that matter.

Is it possible to become one with the human race? To meditate and find the flow that connects each and every one of us to the earth and other living things. When I look into Ms Bean’s soulful eyes I see unconditional love. When we look into a new baby’s black, blue or green eyes we experience that same tenderness.

For some this is a very hard exercise, to give up everything we think we know about ourselves. We might feel like a ship stuck at sea with no harbor in sight. But for some, it is the very definition of freedom.

The Bride was asking me about Great Grandma Gi the other day. She wanted to know how and why the Flapper came to love Buddhism because she is seriously studying Yoga. Born in 1908, my Mother had a long hard life – she was abused as a young girl, had to relinquish two of her children for a time, and then her sixth and last child, me, after our Year of Living Dangerously. She survived a horrific car accident and buried three husbands. But her strength was a direct result of her suffering.

Gi was not a fabulist or a pollyanna in any way. She worked hard and constantly told me that every person has a story. Studying the interaction of mind and body became her religion in late life; just as integrative medicine, blending Western science with Eastern philosophy, has become accepted by wellness experts in America.

In this Year of the Pig, I will try to meditate, to breathe and to plan on letting go.

“I will practice coming back to the present moment,

Not letting regrets and sorrow drag me back into the past,

Or letting anxieties, fear or craving pull me out”

Thich Nhat Hanh 

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“Never be limited by other people’s limited imaginations,”  Dr Mae Jemison, American physician and astronaut.     

Go to the Google Doodle today, you’ll be glad you did. https://www.google.com  Today is International Woman’s Day. Let’s see how far we’ve come, shall we? We know that menstruation can still end a girl’s education in some parts of the world, while in the 1960s it meant we could get out of gym class.

But did you know that so-called “honor killings” are still taking place around the globe?

Pressure group Human Rights Watch says the most common reasons are that the victim:

  • refused to enter into an arranged marriage
  • was the victim of a sexual assault or rape
  • had sexual relations outside marriage, even if only alleged

 

Five women are believed to have been killed by their families for clapping and singing at a wedding (where men were dancing) in Pakistan. Wearing the wrong clothes or acting in a “disrespectful” manner can also lead a father to kill his daughter. An Italian-Pakistani woman was lured back to her province and strangled when she refused to marry a Pakistani stranger just one year ago, her name was Sana Cheema, she was only 26 years old.

Activists believe there are approximately 1,000 dishonorable killings of women in Pakistan every year.

I wonder how many women have died from illegal abortions around the world?

“If other countries are a guide, abortion restrictions won’t reduce the number of abortions that take place: According to the Guttmacher Institute, abortion rates in countries where abortion is legal are similar to those in countries where it’s illegal. In parts of the world where abortion is illegal, botched abortions still cause about 8 to 11 percentof all maternal deaths, or about 30,000 each year.” https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2018/10/how-many-women-die-illegal-abortions/572638/

You might ask how can that be, the same number of women die whether the law prohibits abortion or not? Whether a doctor in El Salvador or Brazil reports an incomplete self-induced abortion to the government, or whether a woman dies of septic shock in the comfort of her Florida living room after a legal abortion?

Well, it’s because some so-called “legal” countries, like the US, are still trying to restrict a woman’s access to reproductive services – and when I say “woman” I mean a poor woman. Because we all know that wealthy women will always find a way to acquire a safe, medical or surgical abortion.

Our local Planned parenthood has stopped providing abortions, and so Nashville women are forced to travel to Memphis. Women here donate money to help make those travel arrangements happen.

Yesterday, the TN House voted to join Georgia in passing a “Heartbeat Bill” Bill 77. Two Democrats joined Republicans voting for this bill by a large majority, 65 -21. I am embarrassed and amazed to say a Democratic woman was left standing on the floor, with her hand raised, to introduce an amendment for the exception of rape and incest. She was IGNORED by the Republican ChairMAN.

Since a fetal heartbeat can be detected as early as 6 weeks, before a woman even realizes she may be pregnant, this restriction is perilous and punishing. In the future, will Southern women eventually have to develop an underground railroad, a network to help others travel North to the Democratic states that do NOT restrict access?

Today we celebrate our sisters, our mothers, grandmothers and daughters. My sister, who had to hide her daughter in order to work as a stewardess in the airline industry. My Grandmother, who wasn’t allowed to vote. My Mother who lost her home when my Father died. My Mother-in-Law, who received her doctorate at age 65 after a divorce. My Daughter-in-Love, who organizes and volunteers for Bernie. My Daughter, who helps women in pain every day she puts on her white coat.

And the Love Bug, who is currently learning how to tell time. Let’s not let our granddaughters down and fall back on our human rights. Our girls deserve a limitless future.

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This weekend we had our very first double sleepover. We picked up both Grandkids around lunchtime Saturday and returned them to their grateful parents on Sunday. Bob warned me not to get my hopes up, four year olds may meltdown at bedtime and need to go home in his PJs. I however, would have none of that thinking, we were going to have so much fun, my L’il Pumpkin would forget where he was and sleep like an angel. Which, spoiler alert, they both did!

When we arrived at our townhouse it was cold and drizzly with an Amazon box on the front porch. I’d been collecting beads and jewelry making tools for the Love Bug for awhile now, and had recently found a cute craft box for her. She is very much like my daughter, her Mama; type A, hyper-organized, in love with the Container Store. I knew she’d love her craft box, but I needed something for her brother.

Thank goodness for two day delivery service. I ordered a small tackle box and a bunch of kid-sized real tools for the L’il Pumpkin. I had a plan but forgot to tell Bob about it, luckily he pitched right in – explaining each tool, then trudging up the steps together, they began “fixing” things, including the squeaky daybed he and his sister would be sleeping on that night!

I know – raising gender neutral kids is new to me, though I did help the Pumpkin make a Black Panther necklace!

Then we went out for a trek in Ms Berdelle’s Secret Garden. We searched in the misty rain for Tinkerbell trim – small, delightful pieces of nature to design and  construct a fairy house: pine cones, bark, leaves, dead flowers, berries, stones, snail shells. Anything glorious and small would do. I didn’t dig up moss for a thatched roof because Bob said it’s still living and we’re not arguing anymore over little things like that.

Every summer at Camp St Joseph for Girls I loved hiking through the woods and coming upon a fairy circle; a large, round patch of sumptuous moss surrounded by ferns in the dappled sunlight. I’m sure my love of mystery and magic began there in the Catskill Mountains many years ago.

When we returned home I started cooking dinner for four again! Mrs Zimmerman’s shallot chicken, mashed potatoes (little clouds), and broccoli (little tress). At Nana and Pop Bob’s house they can watch TV while I’m cooking and eat as little or as much as they want. It warmed my heart to see how much these two love butter! We followed that up with popsicles because we’re saving popsicle sticks for the fairy house. Then we played a good game of Alphabet Fish and the Li’il Pumpkin won!

After pulling out the trundle bed, we read my Editor Lisa Winkler’s book about a girl named Zimmerman, “Amanda at Bat” https://www.amazon.com/Amanda-at-Bat-Lisa-Winkler/dp/1533240094  It is a wonderful story about speaking up and making sure your voice is heard. And their eyes were starting to droop by the end of “Escargot,” while the Frozen night light sent its bat signal onto the ceiling of our 2nd bedroom. Good Night Room.

Long story semi-short, we all slept like babies and Bob made blueberry pancakes in the morning. Then we high-tailed it off to Great Grandma Ada and Hudson’s apartment to build our fairy house. Bob and I had made an executive decision to skip Hebrew School, sorry cousin Nancy! We’ve made a brave start jockeying a glue gun like nobody’s business, and we’re relying on Hudson to carve a tiny crooked fairy door. We have a very special tree stump in mind… then the Bride arrived to pick them up.

I was going to write about orchid and dandelion children. How one needs special care and an exquisite environment, while the other will flourish no matter where they find themselves. That’s the program I was listening to on NPR when I sat down to write, an old rehash of nature vs nurture. My Love Bug was definitely a wild orchid baby, the kind who would wake at the sound of a pin dropping, while her brother could sleep through a smoke alarm.

And I realized that I was a mixture of the two, a child who was smothered by my foster mother Nell, and never allowed to have a sleepover, yet my St Joseph camp mates could never wake me when it was time to head out into the night looking for trouble. But don’t worry, I found my own trouble eventually!

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How to properly apologize should be an AP course in high school. Especially for boys, who seem to barrel through life taking no prisoners, like they are entitled to step on a few toes along the way. Girls and women apologize too much and too easily; what are we so sorry about anyway? “Excuse this mess…Sorry for the inconvenience…Please accept my…” You might think we were born with a need to make excuses for taking up space!

Certainly my Catholic education prepared me for a lifetime network worth of apologies. I’m not quite sure how they did it, but those nuns had us feeling guilty for any minor indiscretion, and made us write, “I’m sorry and I will never do X again” a thousand times on a blackboard. In proper cursive mind you. No wonder we all vied for the privilege of erasing the blackboard after school.

Bob and I watched the Cohen hearing with eyes wide open: I thought it was an act of redemption, while Bob focused on the broken-record belittling by the GOP. The most absurd moment came when Rep Mark Meadows (R-NC) had a Black woman standing in a white cape behind him. Rep Rashida Tlaib lashed out at this pathetic attempt to prove our Commander in Comedy is NOT racist because he hired her. Tlaib scolded:

Just because someone has a person of color, a black person working for them does not mean they aren’t racist,” Tlaid said. “And it is insensitive, and some would even say that the fact that someone would actually use a prop, a black woman, in this chamber, in this committee”—here she took a heavy sigh—”is alone racist in itself.”

Well did he take umbrage? Of course, he didn’t like this woman, the daughter of Palestinian immigrants, suggesting that he pulled a racist stunt. HOW DARE SHE! So she immediately apologized in a polite, that wasn’t my intent way, “To my colleague, Mr. Meadows, that was not my intention, and I do apologize if that’s what it sounded like. But I said ‘someone’ in general.” This is called a hedging your bets apology.

OK so I understand it takes a lot of guts for a freshman/woman legislator to call that old white guy to task in a public hearing, and it certainly takes a good amount of grace to apologize and later hug it out. But this morning the Twitterverse would like HIM to apologize to HER. We all know that will never happen, but what if it did?

May I present exhibit A on how to apologize… the Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau!

In 2017 he delivered a speech on the floor of the House of Commons apologizing for the dehumanizing treatment of LGBTQ service members and other government employees throughout the second half of the 20th century. It wasn’t the common, half-baked apology, “If I managed to offend your poor little ego I regret it, it was not my intention…” Which is basically a “I’m really the good guy here and you need to grow a pair” kind of non-apology apology.

It was a good and proper apology, one that my old nuns would approve of, if they ever accepted the human race as sexual. It was eloquent and moving, hitting all the right notes, and I happened to read it again on a quilt last weekend. You can read the text here: https://nationalpost.com/news/canada/full-english-text-of-prime-ministers-apology-to-members-of-lgbtq-community

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