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Archive for May, 2022

Just when we thought it was safe to appear mask-less at certain public venues, like the Nashville Ballet this past weekend, Covid numbers are starting to rise. In TN, the average daily number of new cases last week rose by 58%!

“Health officials believe the virus has killed more people than state totals indicate, especially early in the pandemic before testing and effective treatments were widely available. A rise in deaths usually follows a rise in new cases by about a month. For example, after the delta variant caused a surge of new cases beginning in July 2021, the death toll began to climb in August.”

https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/2020/national/coronavirus-us-cases-deaths/?itid=hp_habit-bar-morning&state=US

The Bride is seeing more cases of the virus, and one by one each Grand reports another student absent from class. Of course this is the last week of school. But I was just beginning to feel like the worst was behind us; like this summer might be especially sweet in our new/old Crystal Cottage. Bob has been replacing ceiling fans and adjusting doors – yesterday he and the Groom switched out a dead foundation shrub for a gorgeous flowering, snowball Viburnum.

Then I noticed a Tweet last week by Bill Hanage, a professor at the Harvard School of Public Health. It seems there are clusters of “monkeypox” in the UK, Portugal, Spain and Canada!

It is v plausible that transmission has been happening for some time unnoticed because folks don’t expect to see monkeypox and so don’t diagnose it. You hear hoofbeats you expect horses, not unicorns. You see lesions, you don’t expect monkeypox and assume it is something else.”

The good news here is that if you happen to be of a certain age, your smallpox vaccine should protect you; the bad news is the same cannot be said for young people. Smallpox was a dangerous, contagious disease for over 3,000 years and was considered eradicated in 1980. Our children and grandchildren were never vaccinated.

Bob and I did our own Covid/monkeypox research at the ballet. He wore a mask and I didn’t. We’d received a text saying the symphony would not be playing live because of an outbreak of Covid among the musicians. But the ballet would be accompanied by the taped rehearsal music, complete with directions at times. I dream about this very thing! The last time I saw a ballet recital was in Saratoga with Balanchine. We could have exchanged our tickets, but I was there to see the dancers after all.

Some people must have opted out because the theatre was only a third full.

The Schermerhorn Symphony Center is like a beautiful cathedral to the arts, its ceiling rising over 40 ft. I figured I’d be safe without a mask, Bob wasn’t taking any chances. On Wednesday, we figured we’d do an at-home Covid test.

But this morning I awoke to two jars of Jiffy peanut butter on the kitchen island. My dear husband, who’d been feeling queasy last night, informed me that PB jars with our lot numbers were being recalled because of salmonella! So in the end, it may be a rotten jar of bacteria that you can’t see, taste or smell that finally brings us down, or I should say ‘him.’ He ate a PB&J sandwich, not me. I’m more of a lox and cream cheese type for lunch.

I made him take his mask off for this ballet selfie

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On the day my sister Kay woke from her coma and left the hospital – the same hospital still holding her mother and grandmother captive – the movie “Lost Weekend” was playing at the local Scranton movie theatre. I can see her now, in the back seat of a car, looking at the marquee and thinking to herself, “I lost a whole month.”

The Flapper’s automobile accident had been on the Fourth of July, and Kay was unconscious for a whole month. She’d “lost” the first month of summer picnics and ballgames. It’s a humbling feeling I’m sure to wake up and discover the world went on without you; dogs were fed, gardens watered and someone took care of the baby. No child at fourteen should have to care for her younger brothers, her crippled mother, and a ten month old baby sister. But that was her misfortune, her karma, our Year of Living Dangerously.

This week, the first hazy, hot and humid day of the summer, our air conditioner died and I felt like I lost a whole day.

Bob and I went out to run some errands and returned to a very hot house. The HVAC people who had installed a tankless water heater just a few months earlier, were booked solid. Temps would hover near 90, but they said they could come “tomorrow.” The Bride kindly offered us dinner in her freezing cold house, and of course we accepted. She wanted us to stay in her garage apartment overnight, but we said no thanks.

That night, we opened windows, found a fan, and attempted to sleep. After all, we are both stoic. We grew up without air conditioning, and we never needed it while we lived in the Berkshires.

The next day a young technician arrived and spent four hours troubleshooting our combo gas furnace and electric air conditioner. It was installed in 2015. Would I sound like an old codger if I complained about planned obsolescence? It does seem like major appliances used to get “fixed” when we were first married, and now more often than not, something needs to be “replaced.” Lucky for us, we only needed a new capacitor.

Still, our crooked crystal cottage could hold the heat in her walls. It took many hours for our unit to cool the whole house to a comfortable temperature. I don’t remember much of that day – trying to plant outside in the shade, refilling Ms Bean’s water bowl and checking her breathing to see if she was still alive. Animals are smart about the weather, she switched into hibernation mode immediately.

The 1945 movie Lost Weekend was about an alcoholic. Ray Milland plays a writer who goes on a “four day bender.” I’ve never experienced a blackout while drinking, I was always told I’m a lightweight. But these last few weeks of men debating a woman’s sovereignty over her own body have made me want to pop open a wine bottle again. And over this past weekend, our country experienced FOUR mass shootings…

I’m exhausted and tired of this fight, in a country where barely 1/3 of the population gets to impose their rules and religious beliefs on the rest of us . They want the freedom to carry guns, without a permit, like it’s the wild west. They want to legislate our wombs.

The problem with overdoing alcohol is the next day you pay. I heard Jane Fonda say she doesn’t have many days left in this life, and if she drank a martini tonight she would lose the next day. So I’ll pop open a Pellegrino and keep writing. I’ll try to stay grateful for all the little things in this life, like the Love Bug graduating from elementary school.

I don’t want to lose another day.

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For Mother’s Day, I went to the local garden store and bought nine small pots of French lavender. I’m planning to plant a purple hedge along the house side of our dilapidated garage, so whenever I look out the family room window, I’ll feel like I’m in the South of France.

I don’t have to plant lilacs for my foster mother Nell, I already have two glorious plants outside my snug’s window; and just like my maternal history, they are two different species of shrub. They sit side by side and both bloom at the same time, but one is a pale purpley/pink lilac and the other is a deeper violet.

“Lilac bushes set buds on old wood, so prune and shape them right after they finish blooming. Otherwise, said Tyler, you risk cutting off next year’s flowers.”

https://flowermag.com/lilac-bushes/

The lilacs have finished blooming, thank goodness I have a new pruning shear! Lately, my opulent magenta peonies have been exploding. If you asked me to dream up a perfect Mother’s Day, yesterday would have been it – we were only missing the Rocker and Aunt Kiki. I spent most of the day digging in the dirt. Then we set up a badminton net in the backyard for the Grands. The Bride had to work in the ER, but the Groom surprised her with dinner and dessert for us all! They made a pineapple upside down cake.

It was 73 and sunny, no bugs and no humidity, almost like California!

Ah, California, the state that is proposing an amendment to their constitution that would enshrine the Right to Choice! Thank you Senator Toni Atkins and Speaker Anthony Rendon.

Still, the leaked SCOTUS draft decision taking us back to the 1950s put a damper on my Mom Day. The juxtaposition of Naomi Judd’s suicide next to a possible Roe v Wade ban brought up old feelings of dread. Judd was part of my generation of women who went to hospitals with belly pain and were told we were pregnant. Before Roe became the Law of the Land, nurses and doctors looked at us with pity, and tried to explain why they couldn’t help us.

At least she wasn’t sent away in disgrace, to give up her baby in a different state, like so many teenage moms. At least she didn’t go to a back alley abortionist and become septic, and die. Or maybe worse, become infertile. Her family didn’t have the means to send her to Mexico or Cuba for a legal abortion. Judd had to grow up fast. Here is a part of her daughter Ashley’s tribute:

But motherhood happened to her without her consent. She experienced an unintended pregnancy at age 17, and that led her down a road familiar to so many adolescent mothers, including poverty and gender-based violence.

“Forgive me if my grief isn’t tidy. When I think about my mother, I am awash in the painful specifics. It’s a little easier, this Mother’s Day, to think about mothers in the collective, to wonder whether we value them. Every day, more than 800 women die in pregnancy and childbirth from causes for which solutions are affordable and achievable,” she wrote before sharing her 2018 experience with women in South Sudan “whose bodies were mangled from childbirth.”

https://americansongwriter.com/ashley-judd-writes-heartfelt-letter-about-mom-naomi-judd-ahead-of-mothers-day-forgive-me-if-my-grief-isnt-tidy/

If our country really valued mothers in the collective, we would send nurses to the homes of new moms. We’d supply free diapers and formula. We would give new moms a year of paid leave, and we’d provide affordable child care in every single state. Every child would be wanted. European countries have managed to do this, to value women. But we, we Americans just pretend to value women and babies.

I’m glad that the Flapper, who was born in 1908, came around to a Pro Choice stand. It wasn’t easy for her, she had six children herself, and our Irish ancestors had double and sometimes triple that number. But she was smart and slightly Buddhist in her old age. She had her first child at 17, and became pregnant at the age of 40 with me, her last child, to give my dying father a reason to live. Her doctor had no idea he would die of a brain tumor when I was seven months old.

I brought the Bride to march for Choice many times over the years. I never thought this day would actually come, silly me. I didn’t think she would ever have to look a young woman in the eyes and tell her there is nothing more she can do to help her. I didn’t think she’d possibly end up seeing septic young women bleed out in her ER. I thought we were better than this.

My family of doctors

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Yesterday’s Zoom with siblings was fun. My sister Kay and I enlightened our brother Dr Jim about the powerful, witchy ways of women. Particularly in courtship rituals – Jim always thought it was the man who usually chose his mate. Being a scientist, he saw reproduction in Darwinian terms. In fact, women have been helping women pick and choose their ‘forever after’ since Biblical times.

For instance, there was a friend of the Bride’s who was ready to settle down with her long-term boyfriend, but there was no ring in sight. Enter my single response to her plight – he says he “thinks” he loves me.

“In love there is no THINK. You either do or you don’t love someone. Move on.”

They were engaged within three months. Kay told one of her friends in an extra long relationship to buy a ticket home to South Africa. That ticket was the catalyst to a long, happy marriage. When ambiguity is a state of mind and living with uncertainty is untenable, give back what you’re receiving. Bend like the willow.

So when I read an article about the US policy regarding Ukraine this morning, I was intrigued. Written by a Rumson man I had interviewed at the Miller Center, Eric Edelman urges the State Department to abandon its “Strategic Ambiguity” policy. He is looking ahead to Taiwan, to the Peoples Republic of China, and urges us to plan accordingly by reinforcing their military capacity now. IF…

“…we are not prepared to see a thriving, prosperous democratic society swallowed up by a brutal autocratic regime led by a messianic zealot, there are a series of steps the United States must take—and soon.. .Deterrence ahead of time could very well be the stitch that saves nine.”

https://www.thebulwark.com/the-lessons-of-ukraine-for-taiwan-and-the-u-s/

Most of you know I am very much a pacifist. If only the women of the world could somehow convince men not to rattle their sabers. But after our collective experience with Mr T and a pandemic that killed millions of people, continuing an ambiguous strategy does not feel right at this time in history. Being Switzerland is NOT an option.

IF in fact, we want to save our democracy and defend fledgling democracies around the world, being proactive makes perfect sense. What do you value? Free speech? Let’s not worry about Twitter. A woman journalist for Radio Free Europe was killed by a Russian bomb in Ukraine last month. https://www.rferl.org/a/rfe-rl-president-pays-tribute-to-journalist-killed-in-her-home-in-russian-missile-strike-on-kyiv/31827576.html.

It was beautiful to see the night sky in NYC ablaze with blue and yellow buildings. But wearing the colors of Ukraine can only do so much.

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