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Archive for January, 2021

Friends and family were positively giddy on Inauguration Day. Happy tears were shed over our new VP Kamala Harris in her sorority pearls, and a most graceful young Poet Laureate, Amanda Gorman. We were transfixed throughout the day as Tom Hanks displayed our Hollywood talent to the world. Why go back to a bunch of Washington mega-donor inaugural balls?

This celebration, those fireworks, were for The People!

Then Twitter exploded with, of all things, Bernie Sanders. I guess he came to the Capitol Mall on his own; I’d heard that legislators could only invite one guest to the swearing in ceremony. Many didn’t want to bring a spouse because they had small children; imagine that kind of fear, in our country. So there he sat, Wednesday with Bernie, sitting all alone on a bleacher, legs crossed trying to stay warm and awake, like any other grandfather. Except that he is the Independent senator from Vermont, and he was wearing hand knit mittens!

Turns out, one of his constituents gave him those mittens five years ago. Her name is Jen Ellis and she used to sell her wares at arts and craft shows, but today she’s a teacher with a small child and she doesn’t have time to knit. Little did she know her mittens would become a meme sensation

“Ellis, who has sold her mittens — which she calls “swittens,” a portmanteau of sweater and mittens — online and at craft fairs. “I’m flattered that they want them, but there are lots of people on Etsy who sell them and hopefully people will get some business from them,” she said. “But I’m not going to quit my day job. I am a second grade teacher, and I’m a mom, and all that keeps me really busy.”

“There’s no possible way I could make 6,000 pairs of mittens, and every time I go into my email, another several hundred people have emailed me,” Ellis added. “I hate to disappoint people, but the mittens, they’re one-of-a-kind and they’re unique and sometimes in this world, you just can’t get everything you want.”

https://jewishinsider.com/2021/01/jen-ellis-bernie-sanders-mittens/

She sounds just like any other New England mom, you can’t always get what you want! And every mom knows that mittens keep your hands warmer than gloves, it’s a fact. My Berkshire roots are showing because I love, love, love the casual predictability of Bernie along with the pragmatism of his independent followers. One of my favorite tee shirts from our Pittsfield, MA era had a picture of American Gothic on its front emblazoned with, “Welcome to Dalton, now go home!”

On Wednesday there was no cow jumping over the moon, or three little bears sitting on chairs. But Bernie was there in all his everyman glory, with a manila envelope containing the inaugural tickets and a very unique pair of mittens. I’m not sure what all the fuss was about, but it was fun for the younger generation to blow off four years of pain and suffering under a demagogue by flooding social media with Bernie memes.

And we are all glad they did! Here are just a few.

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Do you feel as if your limbic system is on constant high alert?

In a nutshell, the limbic system is a part of the brain that is in charge of the “fight or flight” reflex; run away from the lion or fall in love with the lion tamer. It’s a bunch of cortical cells responsible for our very survival.

“These nuclei serve several functions, however most have to do with control of functions necessary for self preservation and species preservation. They regulate autonomic and endocrine function, particularly in response to emotional stimuli. They set the level of arousal and are involved in motivation and reinforcing behaviors. Additionally, many of these areas are critical to particular types of memory. Some of these regions are closely connected to the olfactory system, since this system is critical to survival of many species.”

https://www.dartmouth.edu/~rswenson/NeuroSci/chapter_9.html

Smelling danger is one thing, but feeling as though a casual walk during this pandemic might endanger your life is another. It’s become almost normal for us to second guess and debate every decision. Should we go to the Walgreens early in the morning, is it safe? Can’t the Bride come inside our house now that she has been vaccinated twice? What about the Grands? I must admit to feeling much better since my daughter and the Groom have received their second Covid vaccines, but according to the CDC the next peak of deaths is expected in mid February. Don’t let your guard down!

After all, you don’t want to be the last person to die of this virus before the vaccines are completely distributed.

And speaking of distribution, state governors are reporting that the promised vaccines kept in reserve by the federal government don’t exist. That along with the BIG LIE about the election, we’ve been served another BIG LIE about vaccine distribution. I didn’t find this surprising, because Mr T has shown his true colors time and time again. Expecting him to be something he is not would drive anybody’s limbic system crazy.

We are a nation on guard. Barricades have gone up around Nashville’s Capitol building. State capitols around the country are on “High Alert” this inaugural week – DC is teeming with our National Guard, looking more like Paris during the Jewish high holidays. I remember when the Paris police almost didn’t allow the Bride to enter a synagogue, because she “didn’t look Jewish.”

The rest of Europe cannot believe America has come to this. Today, Germans wonder if Americans ever heard of the word Volksverhetzung, in English “incitement to hatred.” This is a crime in Germany, as it should be all over the world. Unfortunately, parents continue to teach their children to hate. Racist, anti-semitic tropes were never gone, they have only just been allowed to grow through social media. In my wildest dreams, I never thought I would see a confederate flag in the Capitol; Nazi slogans and swastikas flying along with Trump flags last week.

Jewish families know we must never allow silence and indifference to win, we must always be ready to flee a mob of red shirts or red hats. This will be my last post before Joe Biden becomes our 46th president. He has an ambitious agenda ahead of him. First and foremost, attacking this pandemic. After many unanswered phone calls, and rebooting of websites, to try and obtain a Covid vaccine, we got lucky. By the end of this month, Bob and I will be fully vaccinated. It wasn’t easy. Obtaining a vaccine for a population not totally familiar with technology has proven nearly impossible.

“It feels like I’m trying to get a Beyonce ticket!” a daughter said while trying to help her mother navigate vaccine portals.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/health/2021/01/16/covid-vaccine-hunt/?

Bob heard through the medical grapevine about a public health facility giving drive-thru vaccines. The Bride told us to get in our car and take a chance. And because he is an ER physician, on call for Covid emergencies and willing to put shots in arms should the need arise, and because we showed up at the break of dawn, we’re halfway to Covid immunity.

I could finally breathe. My limbic system however, will take awhile to calm down.

Ada’s favorite quote

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Crybabies

Taking care of babies is my jam. Human babies, animal babies and puppies in particular. I love it when the Love Bug’s four month old French Bulldog starts to wind down, big eyes drooping and legs wobbling. He fights naps so hard! But once you hear that distinctive snore – part purr, part outboard motor – you can cuddle him up, no problem. And later, because Bob and I are just the occasional granddog sitters, we get to give him back.

Human babies, otoh, take a bit more work. Bob always had a way to soothe our crying babies. With the baby Bride, he would bundle her in the car seat for a ride and turn on Beethoven. The Baby Rocker required a different approach, Bob would blast Led Zepplin!

“Don’t be a crybaby” is buried deep in my amygdala. It must be a primal holdover, after all if you’re fleeing a predator you don’t want a baby to signal your whereabouts. The tribe depended on your ability to keep your baby healthy and happy! There is no sound more distressing to me than a crying baby; unless it’s a whining, crying adult.

I just finished my morning coffee with an article in the Washington Post titled “Trumpist masculinity reaches its high water mark with the riot,” by Monica Hesse. It caught my eye because its subject was the Nashville bartender who was recently arrested for jumping over a balustrade like a ninja with zip ties, aka the Zip Tie Guy. He’s a handsome, white, ex-honky tonk employee, a 30 year old who was seen in previous footage with his mother! They were caught leaving their hotel with coffee last Wednesday, before storming the Capitol that afternoon.

“A whole taxonomy of Trumpist right-wing manhood could be developed from the Internet investigations, wanted posters and arrest affidavits now trickling out in the wake of last week’s riot at the Capitol. En masse, the photos show a conglomeration of weird beards, ammo and camo, and a very specific brand of looks-like-somebody-got-a-Bass-Pro-gift-card-for-Christmas raging White masculinity.”

https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/style/capitol-riot-zip-tie-guy-men-trump-masculinity/2021/01/12/486a516e-5447-11eb-a08b-f1381ef3d207_story.html

It seems the Cville khakis and white shirts have been replaced by strange costumes. Between Viking chic and lumberjack plaid, toxic masculinity was on full display. Like any good feminist, I taught my son that it’s alright to cry, even though every other cultural interaction he ever had told him the opposite. And likewise, I told my daughter NOT to cry in public. Not very gender neutral, I know.

But the GOP has become a party of crybabies.

When Mr T told his followers last week not to show “weakness” it hit me. He was a high school cadet playing dress-up at a military academy before the Vietnam War. Mr T developed “bone spurs” then and today he watches TV or plays golf; never getting his hands dirty. What we are witnessing this morning is incredulous. Enraged Republican legislators bemoaning the installation of metal detectors at the Capitol. Why should they have their bags searched and not be able to carry their sidearm into chambers? The audacity of Congress to want to protect legislators of both parties!

And why should they be fined for refusing to wear masks while hunkered down during the insurrection last week? Isn’t it their God-given, natural right to infect anybody they so please?

The sheer cloying white selfishness, entitlement, and privilege is appalling.

And they called us snowflakes! But hark! A second impeachment is about to happen, just as we are being told that these home-grown terrorists are planning another seditious attempt at insurrection. Closing down their absurd conspiracy websites and banning Mr T from his social platforms is just the first step. Weeding white supremacists out of the police and military is essential. In just one week we shall have a new President; a Scranton guy who has the capacity for empathy and compassion.

I just hope Biden has the determination of a bulldog!

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Sleep has been eluding me lately because these days are hard to fathom. Mr T used his soapbox to preach conspiracy falsehoods and push an angry mob to desecrate our Nation’s Capitol. More and more video has surfaced since Wednesday. An Air Force veteran came from California, a QAnon believer, only to be shot in the neck. A Capitol policeman was bludgeoned to death with a fire extinguisher. Another was crushed between doors. Blood was shed.

And blood is on the hands of every single Republican who ever supported this mad president, and thought it might be a good idea to stage an insurrection last week.

Usually reading before bed is a calming ritual. “The Cold Millions,” by Jess Walter has been my escape from our current political dystopia. The book was delivered to my front door, like most things these days, human contact unnecessary. The author’s previous novel, “Beautiful Ruins,” is a favorite so I couldn’t wait to dig in; instead of flirting with the good ‘ole days of Hollywood, Walter aimed his pen at the wild west – Spokane, Washington in 1909. It was a formative time for labor unions.

I like to think my Great Great Grandmother hosted many a union organizing dinner in her Scranton, Pennsylvania dining room. Grandma Mullen was born in Ireland in 1844 and raised 23 children! She lost a few husbands along the way to the coal mines. Over the years, I’d heard that she ran a boardinghouse for miners, and she would feed them IF they would read her the newspaper. I wonder if my ancestor, on the Flapper’s side, could have imagined the future me, writing for newspapers?

In “the Cold Millions,” two dirt poor brothers, Ryan and Gig, are pitted against the emerging upper class of industrial/publishing/judicial elites. And because they stand on a soapbox in the middle of a union rally for the “Industrial Workers of the World,” they are hauled off to jail. It’s not hard to think of a juvenile in an adult jail, our country still manages to make such arrangements.

But peaceful rallying in the street is nothing new. Walter’s fictional characters are based on real life union organizers at the beginning of the last century sick of being swindled by job brokers, their heads beaten with clubs. Over the years, our family has been known to take to the streets. Bob protested the Vietnam War in Washington. I’ve traveled to DC a few times to rally for Reproductive Rights. I was in DC at the 2017 Women’s March and passed many buses filled with our National Guard at the ready… just in case.

Where were they last Wednesday? And why were they late to arrive after Pence and Pelosi summoned them?

All of the action in the book takes place before and after a free speech rally. And this morning I find myself wondering about free speech, feeling self-righteous because I believe in the freedom of the press and glad that Twitter has finally silenced the Toddler-in-Chief. Don’t get me wrong, our liberty hinges on this First Amendment right, but I never thought our government should be run by Tweets! Mr T has been coddled and allowed to spew his lies long enough, I’m just sorry it took so long to silence him.

Yes, sometimes peaceful protests can turn violent when night falls. But these Capitol rioters were signaled by Mr T to turn their anger against the very people who are our legislators. They were chanting “Hang Mike Pence” because our VP refused to overturn an election. The very same people who were carrying “Blue Lives Matter” flags were raging against the police. The same mind-set that led some to attend Black Lives Matter protests, to supposedly protect federal property, were destroying our nation’s artifacts.

In the midst of a worldwide pandemic, the Capitol mob had the trappings of a war they had been deluded into following. Men wore body armor, some carried weapons. Free speech is fine and dandy, so long as no one gets hurt. Facebook and Twitter give everyone a soapbox, but can their algorithms keep us safe from this fire?

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This is today’s headline on https://www.bbc.com/news ,along with a picture of a man carrying the Confederate flag, and others dressed like Vikings in war paint. They were taking selfies with Capitol police, they were scaling walls and prancing around the Rotunda swinging metal stanchions. This is where we are, and if you say we’re better than this, I’m not so sure anymore.

I’m honestly lost for words, and that rarely happens. They were trying to take down the American flag and replace it with a Trump flag? It’s time to put away foolish things like red hats. It’s time to stop believing in conspiracies and “alternative truths.” Mr T is a lier, a psychopathic, clear and present danger – does it matter if he actually believes these delusions of voter fraud and machine tampering, or if he’s playing us for another get rich quick scheme? Should he be committed or arrested?

T has been blocked from Twitter, yet he still has all of the power of an American President. This is untenable. VP Pence is already in charge, he and Speaker Pelosi called for the National Guard yesterday. I just heard Facebook has finally blocked T – where is his Cabinet and the GOP? Why haven’t they invoked the 25th Amendment?

This is domestic terrorism fueled by the words of a psychopathic liar, our president. Over half of House Republicans backed the effort to reject the votes of the American people. Even after the riot, in the small hours of the morning, “….these are the senators who voted to object to some of the results of the election (and the states they objected to:

Texas Sen. Ted Cruz (Arizona, Pennsylvania)

Missouri Sen. Josh Hawley (Arizona, Pennsylvania)

Kansas Sen. Roger Marshall (Arizona, Pennsylvania)

Alabama Sen. Tommy Tuberville (Arizona, Pennsylvania)

Mississippi Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith (Arizona, Pennsylvania)

Louisiana Sen. John Kennedy (Arizona)

Florida Sen. Rick Scott (Pennsylvania)

Wyoming Sen. Cynthia Lummis (Pennsylvania)

https://edition.cnn.com/politics/live-news/washington-dc-election-riots/h_102b6c46f9c4776e2eb4541bc97a106e

Remember those names.

A peaceful transfer of power will not make this go away. Racism and hate run deep in our country, one rioter sported a tee shirt that said “Camp Auschwitz.” We must stop calling these people militia, or protesters – this is white nationalism, domestic terrorism and they must be accountable. Every act of vandalism at the Nation’s Capitol must be prosecuted to the fullest. Don’t look away.

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When my Son-in-Law came down with Covid this summer, a friend sent him a tee shirt. I could read the date 2020 on the front, but had to get a little too close to understand the imagery. He happily told me, “It’s a picture of a dumpster fire!”

He is a Critical Care doctor, and his friend is an ER doctor.

No one was prepared for a worldwide pandemic; I thought we should stock up on a two week supply of canned goods. Then the weeks just rolled on, like a snowball becoming an avalanche with millions infected. And in order to care for one another, we were told to wear a mask and stay home.

My husband Bob, the grandson of a tailor, converted a corner of our living room into a mask making operation. My kitchen island became a cutting station. We tore up tee shirts and ordered fun fabrics online – a Star Wars mask for our grandson, and a Scrabble mask for his sister.

Then he offered free masks to all our neighbors on Next Door. Kind friends donated fabric to the cause and we met new neighbors. He made special masks for children and masks to cover special hospital masks. Then a funny thing started happening.

Chris dropped off two ingenious mask holders to keep around our necks that her sister had made.

MaryAnn started a rotating book club, and later a traveling cocktail hour – in gardens, all socially distanced.

Ellen brought us peaches.

Linda hosted an Oktoberfest under her carport.

Sheila gave me a beautiful floral mask, Skip brought us cake, and Yoko baked us bread.

Berdelle hand delivered the most beautiful white iris when we lost Ada. It had  bloomed for a second time in her winter garden.

In the midst of a seemingly endless semi-quarantine, the words of my Nana came back to me: “Throw your bread out on the water and it will come back with jelly on it.” I didn’t know that one small act of kindness would come back with honey and maple cream too.

And because Time, this year, has had a way of meandering, slowing us down, chiseling away at our essence, I’ve come to believe that there is no such thing as a small act of kindness. Every single deliberate act – every loaf of sourdough bread, every delivery of a meal to an overwhelmed Covid ICU, or pizzas to the Bride’s ER, anytime we stop to talk to a neighbor walking her dog – becomes multiplied exponentially.

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