Archive for January, 2022

There aren’t too many streaming shows that Bob and I can agree to watch together.

The one exception is After Life on Netflix with Ricky Gervais. Funny while also being poignant, Gervais’ character tries to get on with his work as a small town newspaper reporter after his wife’s untimely death from cancer. I guess all deaths might be considered “untimely,” still he tries therapy to help him dig out of his depression. The only problem here is with the therapist.

Played by Paul Kaye, he is a self-involved, pathetic, know-it-all. While glancing at his cell to keep track of some Twitter feed, the therapist tells Gervais to “… just stop being sad.” Future psychologists take note – watch this show only to find out how not be a therapist.

While Zooming with Dr Jim, my psychologist brother, we laughed about the show. Of course, not all therapists are bumbling idiots. Jim told me he’s reading a book by a psychotherapist who has combined his Buddhist beliefs with his approach to analysis – it’s called The Zen of Therapy, Uncovering a Hidden Kindness in Life.

“…freedom lies ultimately not in understanding what happened to us, but in loosening our grip on it all, so that “things that feel fixed, set, permanent and unchanging” can start to shift. The goal, in a refreshing counterpoint to the excesses of a certain way of thinking about therapy, isn’t to reach the state of feeling glowingly positive about yourself and your life. It’s to become less entangled with that whole question, so that you get to spend your time on more meaningful things instead.”


In other words, let down your hair and get untangled.

Our Mother the Flapper was very Zen in her old age. She surrounded herself with Buddhas the way Grandma Ada (who was a practicing marriage therapist into her 90s) did with glass bluebirds. The Bride is also Zen-centric in her approach to life, becoming a Yoga teacher a few years back. I’m pretty sure her Yoga practice helped save her during the worst of this pandemic.

“What are you clinging to?” Jim asked me.

One might assume it is my grandchildren, but that is not true. I hope they find me interesting for awhile, and I love them immensely. But I’m not clinging to that love. When I look back at my life, my fundamental issue was not that I didn’t feel loved, if anything I felt an abundance of unconditional love.

Because of our Year of Living Dangerously, I would often suffer from a feeling of not belonging – I was shuttled between two mothers, two states, two entirely different worlds for the first 12 years. Today, I am a Jersey Girl in a Southern state; but over the years, I’ve made my peace with not belonging. In fact, I’ve come to accept it as a way of life moving forward. Besides, I married a gypsy who liked my pink hair.

That reminds me of Bob teaching a third year medical student how to suture a wound last week. I made vegetable soup for lunch, and with masks up, they started practicing their stitches on the kitchen island. The first stitch must realign the skin and not be too tight, Bob said. I continued knitting my scarf since I was practicing the cable stitch and thinking about tension on my needles.

And wondering if the postman will marry the sex worker.

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Yes, I just made up a word, take note Merriam Webster. Curricularity is a noun – a state of mind expressing “… extreme amusement” of any school board member that has been criticized, harassed or generally polarized by parents wishing to be partners in their child’s education.

When I sat on a school board in NJ, I learned quite a lot about the Business of Education.

I got a crash course on marketing when the superintendent wanted to upgrade the track that ran around the football field. I learned more about the composite materials of running tracks than I ever wanted to know. It seems the age-old clay and ash track (or was it asphalt and rubber?) didn’t cut it with the coaches and football parents; we needed to allocate multiple thousands of dollars for a new age synthetic track.

In this country, “… building a 400 meter polyurethane track from scratch typically costs around $1 million. Resurfacing an existing track usually costs about $300 thousand.” https://www.quora.com/How-much-does-it-cost-to-build-a-400-meter-track

We needed the other tax-paying-parents to buy in to the scheme, and we needed to convince the Borough Council it was necessary. As a newspaper reporter, I knew the economics of any new building project for a public school meant the money had to come out of some other fund, or you had to get a loan in the form of a bond. It was basic “Guns and Butter.” And most of a school’s budget is spent on… can you guess?

Teacher and Administrator salaries.

In an ideal world, public school board members should not be politically biased. Their mission should be to want only the best for their students; but in reality, many states have members that are elected and bring their own unique overt or covert bias right along with them. Unfortunately for TN, we are in the news AGAIN, for all the wrong reasons!

Parents yelling at and threatening public school board members in Franklin was bad enough. Now in a vote of 10-0, McMinn County members voted to ban an 8th Grade book on the Holocaust … on Holocaust Remembrance Day. But at least we’re not alone in our book banning.

GOP politicians across the country have sought to emulate Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s successful campaign focus last year on “parental control” of education, which revived calls to ban Toni Morrison’s Nobel Prize-winning “Beloved.” In November, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) ordered a statewide probe of potential “criminal activity” into “pornography” in schools after two LGBTQ memoirs were pulled from some districts in his state. Around the same time in Kansas, a school board near Wichita announced it was removing 29 books from circulation, including Morrison’s “The Bluest Eye” and “They Called Themselves the K.K.K.,” a history of the white supremacist group.”


The Rocker was in 8th Grade when he wrote a compelling essay on censorship. Thirteen year olds are smarter than we think, and in NJ, teaching middle-schoolers about the Holocaust is a requirement in the curriculum. Like teaching Math, there are actually right and wrong answers and parents mostly left that up to the teachers. I was never asked to opine about books that were purchased at my son’s school, not as a parent or a board member.

The banning of books in our public schools sets a dangerous precedent. At its best, It’s unfortunate that todays’ conservatives think it’s better not to discomfort our children; didn’t they accuse us of being soft, snowflakes? There is nothing humorous about what’s going on in certain states.

I’m going to buy the Pulitzer Prize winning book Maus, and donate it to our local free library so children can read it. Maybe we can start something? https://www.parnassusbooks.net/book/9780394747231

The Rocker’s 8th grade school picture on my desk

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I was so relieved when Biden was elected, and breathed a big sigh of relief when he appointed his new Press Secretary, Jen Psaki. Finally, someone intelligent, who could untangle a president’s bumblings. She seemed to be having fun up there, dueling with the media en masse. Here was someone who showed up, and didn’t antagonize the press room. Plus, she’s a redhead at that!

Being born with red hair can be a comfort or a curse. When I was little, I always wanted black hair. I even prayed for my hair color to change so that I wouldn’t feel so different, so that I wouldn’t stand out. The Flapper once told me she used to rub lemons all over her face to get rid of her freckles; that wasn’t much help. But eventually, I learned to love my strawberry locks.

I was a chameleon, my head of hair turning more of a copper red in the winter months, and almost platinum blonde in the summer. Even as I grew older, I felt like my white streaks were highlights and not grey. So I was rooting for Ms Psaki, as if she were a part of my tribe. But Jen, you did us a disservice this week. Kickboxing?

In an interview on The View, she commiserated with Democrats’ despair over the Senate not passing the biggest voting rights bill in a generation by telling us:

“My advice to everyone out there who’s frustrated, sad, angry, pissed off: feel those emotions, go to a kickboxing class, have a margarita, do whatever you need to do this weekend and then wake up on Monday morning, we gotta keep fighting.”


Unfortunately, that just created a firestorm on Twitter. People were saying she was out of touch, that they can’t afford a kickboxing class that costs more than therapy. It even costs more than my drag queen haircut! Her advice for us to keep fighting, while the senators do nothing, was indelicate at best.

Bob and I did our Zoom Pilates class yesterday and took a power walk around the neighborhood. Luckily, Bob had some amazing football games to watch too, since we didn’t have the ingredients for a margarita. Our anger at our dysfunctional government only intensified…

This Monday morning I’ve only heard about Russia and Ukraine, while Tennessee is one of the top FIVE states in the country for Covid per capita. Woop WOO! Voting rights is old news. The very foundation of our democracy continues to be fodder for Mr T’s antics. His judges and legislators want to bend and contort the rule of law to fit their antiquated racist ideology.

So why would we consider defending democracy in Eastern Europe when we can barely defend our own house? When we’ve learned how close we came to the military seizing our voting machines for Mr T? Why are Republicans so afraid of letting every American vote?

And never mess with a redhead. Especially not one in need of some tequila, or gorilla glue.

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We all know that person. The one who thinks the rules don’t apply to him; the unvaccinated star tennis player who was finally evicted from Australia ; the NFL player who brazenly lied about his vaccination status.

“How is lying – let’s call what Rodgers did for what it is – about being vaccinated against a disease that has killed more than 5 million people worldwide, almost 750,000 in the United States alone, representing the team the right way? How is exposing friends and teammates to COVID, as he might have done over the weekend, showing care for the well-being of those around him?”


They must believe their wealth and fame would shield them from any major catastrophe. They pay the thousands of dollars in fines, sit one or two games out, and then get right back into the game clutching their multiple million dollar contracts.

But here’s the thing – in the stratosphere of elite sports, it’s still a man’s world. Take tennis for instance. After nearly dying while giving birth, Serena Williams chose to wear a black catsuit at the French Open in 2018. With her history of blood clots, she was not making a fashion statement. Still, her outfit caused quite a stir among the older, whiter French Tennis Federation rule-makers. They chose to BAN Le Catsuit!

To be fair, making a choice not to wear a frilly, white tennis skirt cannot be compared to risking the lives of your teammates and their families by lying about your vaccination status.

Which is why the sheer patriarchal audacity of the SCOTUS last week is so infuriating. Did you know why Justice Sotomayor has had to WFH (work from home) lately? Well, it turns out she has diabetes, a known risk factor for Covid, and Justice Gorsuch has chosen NOT to wear a mask during arguments. He is the only unmasked judge on the Supreme Court. It seems that Sotomayor had told Justice Roberts, the big kahuna, that since the Omicron variant hit, she was “… not comfortable sitting next to members who are not masked.”

My immediate reaction was why isn’t Gursuch working remotely?

Bob said, they should all be working remotely! Strangely enough, the highest court does not currently have any Covid rules in place, which may explain their latest ruling about workplace hazards and vaccination requirements. Still, I wonder, if Justice Sotomayor had been a man, let’s say a conservative man, would Roberts ask HIM to work remotely?

This singular display, of male over female, of a conservative leaning court over the liberal, is a metaphor for our time. The Right wants the freedom to do as they please – to buy as many guns as they want and strap them on without a permit, without a thought of the young lives lost to suicide and accidents partially because an unlocked gun was within reach at a vulnerable time. They would like to tell women what to do with our bodies. They’ve been passing laws at state levels for years making it harder and harder for a woman to access an abortion provider. Even though Roe is established law.

Their latest attack on voting rights is the last straw. I get that we have two recalcitrant Democratic senators. But we couldn’t find two Republicans?

Like privileged, petulant teenagers, the GOP only follows the rules if they made them. Here are some countries we are trying to emulate, places in the world where it is also difficult to vote: Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Uganda, Kenya, Oman, Qatar, Egypt, Nigeria, Papa New Guinea, and Zanzibar. Our country still operates a piecemeal, state by state approach to this fundamental right.

“In the United States, voting laws vary drastically from state to state. While Minnesota, for example, has same-day voter registration and no picture ID laws, other states, like Tennessee, require voters to register a month ahead of time and present a picture ID when they get to the polls.”


Would you believe Estonia has instituted Online Voting, and absolutely every citizen in this Baltic country has the right to vote remotely! Since we also rank 138 out of 172 countries in voter turnout, one would think we’d try to make the right to vote easier. What does it say about a party that subverts and bends the rules to strip us of of our basic human rights? What does it say about an athlete, or a Supreme Court Justice?

Can 2022 have a do over?

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Netflix has my number. They know that I like film noir, thrillers of the John Grisham type – not too much violence with a psychological twist. A good old-fashioned intellectual mystery like Murder on the Orient Express is my jam. And since reading The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, there’s no place I like my intrigue better than a snowy Scandinavian country.

Enter The Girl From Oslo. I had finished with Succession, and had about all I could handle with Emily in Paris. We were between snow storms in Nashville, the pantry and fridge were full to bursting. The electrician was still working at the new/old house and Bob wasn’t feeling so good. I had the remote all to myself, when Netflix suggested https://www.netflix.com/title/81147725

It was easy enough to watch, short episodes filmed in Israel, Gaza and Norway. A young Norwegian girl is kidnapped by ISIS while traveling with a brother and sister from Israel. The acting was almost soap operaish, but the action kept me intrigued. So much pain and violence ‘in the name of God’ would normally not interest me, but I had to see how it ended. It is one of the top five streaming shows on Netflix worldwide.

Bob interrupted this reverie one night to tell me we had to pick a paint color! It was time to pick the off-white wall color for our remodeled kitchen with dark blue cabinets. Do we want lavender or yellow undertones? Who knew there are a million off white colors, not to mention the pale grays. The Bride had turned me onto Havenly, https://havenly.com/ for some help, a website trying to democratize design. Their algorithm said my style was somewhere between Boho and Transitional.

I was wondering why my style wasn’t Scandinavian, when I returned reluctantly to reality and let Ms Bean out in the garden.

She jumped off the porch and right onto a possum! They tussled for a bit, then the possum ambled slowly under the house. I thanked Ms Bean for keeping us safe at her elderly age and went to charge my phone before bed. That was when I read about the synagogue in Texas.

My fictional Netflix evening about Middle East terrorism turned into a real time terrorist news event. A Palestinian was holding four people captive after shabbat services, including a rabbi, and demanding the release of his ‘sister’ who was serving 86 years nearby for shooting at soldiers and FBI agents in Afghanistan. The terrorist was an Arab British citizen who had entered the US legally and then bought a gun, legally.

Needless to say, I was no longer sleepy. I forgot to mention that Bob had been running a fever and felt like he’d been hit by a truck. His rapid at home test was negative for Covid, but the Bride wanted us to drive through a Metro testing site to get a more reliable PCR done. We still didn’t know the result. But ever since the holidays, Bob has been so careful and deliberate, wearing an N95 if we venture into a grocery store, that I thought if HE can get this Omicron variant, we might as well all give up and toss our masks and cares to the wind.

This morning I’m grateful that all the Jewish hostages survived. But since the L’il Pumpkin will be joining his sister in Hebrew School this year, my gratitude in tinged with concern. Why are we still fighting over ancient, Biblical conflicts? Why have anti-Semitic attacks in the US reached a historic high in 2021?

Mehnaz Afridi:
I think for anyone antisemitism should be an important topic and subject. If it’s going on in Pakistan it should be important to someone living in Kansas City. We are a connected global community.


Bob’s PCR is negative, YIPPEE, so we may venture out to a paint store for some samples. Wish us luck on our choice of “colours.” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qtJRJVdUFx4

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I remember when Bob was in high school, he scored a summer job at our local munitions factory, ironically named Hercules Powder Company. The pay was ten times better than anything else around because it was considered “hazardous duty.” After all, make the wrong move and the whole place could blow up.

When we lived in the Berkshires, and the AIDs crisis hit, it occurred to me that he was also at risk when he went to work. If a nurse or tech could not find a vein in an HIV patient, they would fetch my husband. Needle sticks were a fairly common way healthcare workers contracted communicable diseases like hepatitis.

Today’s healthcare workers are at risk each and every day, but not from a Blood Born virus, from the Coronavirus. We all know how it’s transmitted. There are no mosquitoes or fleas or rodents involved, and sexual transmission was never an issue. No, this novel virus likes to just hang out in the air we breathe. And with this new Omicron variant, it’s absolutely everywhere.

I’m bringing this up in light of the latest stupid decision our right-leaning SCOTUS made yesterday – that the risk of contracting Covid is “not a work-related danger.” Therefore businesses (of 100 or more employees) do not have the right to require vaccinations for their employees… even though an individual could opt out by being masked and tested weekly. This decision affects 84 million workers.

“In the end, Joe Biden’s vaccine mandates stood or fell based on judicial interpretations of federal statute, not principles of individual liberty or appeals to the greater good. According to a majority of the Supreme Court, Mr Biden had the law on his side when ordering healthcare workers to get vaccinated, but using a 51-year-old workplace safety statute to implement a vaccine-or-test requirement on all large employers was a bridge too far.”


So, the government can order vaccinations for government-funded healthcare workers, new armed forces recruits, and so far, for public schoolchildren, but not for private businesses. The reasoning?: “Although Covid-19 is a risk that occurs in many workplaces, it is not an occupational hazard in most.”

I disagree… IT’S IN THE AIR PEOPLE. It’s unavoidable – where ever you are – if you are a living breathing sentient being.. That’s why most of us have been limiting our indoor activities to a select few people, and not dining indoors, and not going to concerts or bars. If we venture into a Walgreens, we mask up!

Now this may be a jump too far, but I’m worried about how this thinking will play out when SCOTUS rules on the “All or Nothing” Mississippi abortion fight in the spring. One could argue that getting pregnant is an occupational risk if one is female. And pregnancy can indeed be hazardous – it can give you gestational diabetes, it can produce high blood pressure, anemia, pre-term labor, preeclampsia, infection, and like the Bride, you may end up needing surgery because the baby is upside down!

And surgery for a breech birth is not easy, let me tell you.

So I’m wondering how the government thinks that interfering with a woman’s Constitutional right to choose what she does with her own body is OK? Do you think it’s fine for old/White/mostly/male mostly Christian legislators to pass laws forcing women to carry a pregnancy to term, despite her wishes and her doctor’s recommendations? Isn’t this flying too close to a dystopian Margaret Atwood novel?

Let’s not forget, you can always leave your newborn at a firehouse.

In the middle of a two year pandemic, that has outwitted us largely because of the GOP’s strategy of misinformation and lies, our highest court has decided to bend to the pressure of big business. There was a time, early on, when the Groom’s ICU was filled with chicken factory workers. There was also a time when it was filled with pregnant women, who lost their much wanted babies.

If your work includes leaving your home to mix and mingle with co-workers, I’d argue that it is hazardous; whether it means in an office or on a factory floor.

I’m glad Bob has retired and doesn’t have to suit up in PPE just to see patients in an ER. The Bride is seeing so many people for stomach problems, bleeding and any random injury you could think of, and most are testing positive for Covid… as an aside, as an incremental finding. One of our friends was scheduled for knee replacement surgery, and her pre-operative blood work came back positive for Covid. She had no symptoms, but she was twice vaccinated and boosted.

Living can be risky. So be careful out there.

Keeping Calm and Carrying On

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This week, Nashville finally succumbed to a real winter snowfall – over SIX inches! That’s like getting two feet of snow in the Berkshires, only there are not as many plows in the South. Also… maybe, there’s not enough salt in the South? So everything shut down for two days. Bob was walking around the house muttering, “I f-ing HATE the winter.” While I busied myself doing the usual – laundry, cooking comfort food, and painting.

I know, I know, I’m not the painter in the family. The Flapper, Aunt Kay and the Bride are the artistic ones. In high school, my daughter’s AP Art class was the highlight of her day. I’d never picked up a paintbrush because, why even try? Besides, I told myself I was painting a picture with words each time I sat down to write. But lately I’ve been feeling creative, and trying something new is good for your brain.

On the second snow day, we brushed the snow off our car, and found the main roads were mostly clear. There was simply NO traffic. According to Gmail, our new/old cottage had received a package, and I wanted to make sure it wasn’t buried in the snow… or abducted by a porch pirate! Luckily our electrician was at the house and had brought the crystal chandelier inside. Tim is a man born and raised here, he loves the snow, and his Jeep. We discussed the placement of new canh lights and then headed straight to the Bride’s house.

The Groom was working from home, and my daughter was practicing yoga and baking bread! Where were the children? The house was eerily quiet. Turns out the Love Bug was sledding with friends, then suddenly the Pumpkin jumped into the room. We sat down for a heart to heart.

Me: Which do you like better, Zoom school or real school?

Pumpkin: Real school, of course.

Me: Is there anything you like about Zoom school?

Pumpkin: I can mute myself!

Ah yes, I bet we would all like to mute ourselves, or someone else from time to time. I’d like to mute my inner critic, the one who wants to know why I think I should be painting when the world is falling apart. The Ukraine is a powder keg, a cliff falls on tourists in boats in Brazil, and the Omicron variant has teamed up with Delta to create the DELTACRON in Cyprus. https://www.cnbc.com/2022/01/08/cyprus-reportedly-discovers-a-covid-variant-that-combines-omicron-and-delta.html

Today a petulant, unvaccinated tennis star is allowed to enter Australia.

Australia – the land where anyone who comes of age can vote; they don’t even have to register.… and if they choose NOT to vote, they must pay a fine.

But hey, the TN Titans are in the playoffs, and luckily the Grands’ school has resumed indoors for now. We should have sheetrock going up today, and thanks to a rainy weekend, the snow has disappeared. Anyone else counting their blessings today?

The Bride in the Berkshires

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When I bought a chunk of land in Virginia, before Bob even got a chance to see it, friends thought I was crazy. But we’d been looking for a house for over a year and had finally decided to build our own Big/Little Home; so I trudged through a small forest at the edge of Albemarle County to see the Blue Ridge Mountains appear magically through the trees. I knew this was it. This was the place my dreams would come true.

When I brought Great Grandma Ada to see the 14 acres of wilderness her daughter-in-law had talked her son into buying, she kept looking down. She was picking up rocks and pointing out the flora. I had to coax her to look up and out at the mountains. She never really understood why we left NJ, and frankly I’m not sure either.

But with the grace of time, I realize now she was focused on the ground because she just didn’t want to fall. I look down a lot these days too.

Bob and I spent New Year’s Eve on the couch watching “Don’t Look Up!” on Netflix. I had no idea what it was about, and at first was pissed that Meryl Streep was smoking cigarettes as POTUS. I know she’s one of kind, but really? Slowly its true meaning became clear… the world is about to end, from (name your catastrophic event, a virus maybe, or climate change, or a meteor) and nobody cares. Politicians care about their polls, and the rest of us? We just ignore the inevitable and watch stupid animal videos. It’s an accurate allegory for our distracted, divided times.

“Two astronomers go on a media tour to warn humankind of a planet-killing comet hurtling toward Earth. The response from a distracted world: Meh.”


Now for the backstory. We’d just finished watching the Grands while the Bride and Groom went into battle every day at their hospitals in full PPE gear. Covid was back with a vengeance thanks to a surge of Omicron variant. Every night I watched as my daughter returned home, not to hugs and kisses, not before she showered and washed her hair. I could feel her pain, her exhaustion. I never saw the Groom, he was gone from 6 am to 9 at night, and then taking calls through the wee hours.

And I’d just finished reading Hillary Clinton and Louise Penny’s new book, “State of Terror.” It was their first collaboration and I hope it won’t be their last. Let’s just say the ex-president in State of Terror bears a striking resemblance to a certain twice-impeached Palm Beach resident. And yes, this book is fictional, but the geo-political thriller is a little too close for comfort. When I closed the final chapter, I couldn’t close my eyes.

We threw open our garden door on New Year’s Eve to hear country music float up from the Bicentennial Mall where the Nashville note would drop. People were standing shoulder to shoulder, unmasked, as if they were living in an alternate universe. Bars were open. A friend texted me – her hairdresser is moving to TN from NY, why? Because she wants to get away from Covid restrictions.

Needless to say, this was NOT an auspicious start to 2022. Comedians do riffs on toilet paper cozies and nobody seems to mind. Children have gone back to remote learning, leaving me to wonder how our mental health system will cope with these future teenagers. I’m thinking about strapping a sign board on myself with these words, “THE END IS NEAR” and walking down Broadway. Really.

Whatever you do, DO look up!

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