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Archive for January, 2023

Every morning I languish a little in bed. I listen to the birds who are calling for Spring. I listen to Bob making coffee in the kitchen. I try to remember yesterday’s Wordle. Then I stretch, just a little, like Ms Bean would do after getting up from her comfy bed. I take note of my pain – my neck is blessedly quiet, how is the right hip, how far can I bend the knees? I expected that my bones would ache in the morning with age, and improve as I moved through the day. Instead, it’s the opposite. My body is at its best when I awake, and as the day wears on, the osteoarthritis kicks in.

Lately though, my first thought is about my sister.

My sister Kay is the oldest one of us still living. The glamorous, Lipstick Feminist Stewardess of the 50s and early 60s. My sister, who at 15 carried me to my foster parents after our Year of Living Dangerously, and left me in Victory Gardens, never to forget me. The working, single mom on the Upper East Side of New York who was a template for Holly Golightly. Audrey Hepburn’s character and Kay both survived a traumatic childhood, and navigated rocky romantic relationships. I always looked up to her; I envied her ability to draw and paint like a Dutch Master. She had a way of being in the world that was easy and full of confidence. Kay is an artist and charismatic still, and only slightly directive like a big sister.

Last week Kay took it upon herself to clean the top of the refrigerator. You may ask why would an 88 year old decide to climb a step stool? I know I did. I’m also pretty sure I’ve never cleaned the top of my refrigerator. .. ever. That being said, she fell and broke her other hip. The good hip. Her surgery was just four days ago and her daughter, with help from local family members, is helping to manage her transition to acute care rehab. Living alone, for most us, will prove too hard eventually. We Boomers need to plan for continuing care long before we need it, before a medical crisis. I guess it’s just too hard to look our mortality in the face.

About three years ago, Kay told us that her hospital was starting a new Geriatric program for its medical students. Maybe it was a response to the pandemic, but my sister was asked if she’d like to participate. My brother Dr Jim and I encouraged her, and since she had already mastered Zoom for our Sunday sibling sessions, we thought she’d enjoy chatting with a young person. And of course, she loved it! So much so, that Kay has now met the young medical student, Esha’s, friends and gone out to dinner with her a number of times. And although this is the season for exploring residency programs all over the country, thankfully Esha has been at her bedside and helping us connect with her orthopedic team.

I remember my stylish sister: having cherries jubilee set ablaze at the Rainbow Room; walking to the Metropolitan Museum and the Whitney and the Guggenheim; my niece’s wedding at the Convent of the Sacred Heart; going to the Big Apple Circus in Lincoln Center; walking to the Madison Deli for our favorite sandwiches; meeting Dr Jim at an outdoor cafe when he returned from Vietnam. I was drinking Grand Marnier and the smell of oranges always brings me back to that moment, waiting with my sister.

Bob has started up the elliptical. And Ms Bean is roaming around the house wondering if it’s time for a walk. Our senior pup is deaf and mostly blind, but she can still smell like a trooper and insists on her daily walks around the neighborhood. Wouldn’t you if you had 100 million sense receptors in your nose? I’ve heard her slow sniffing is like reading the gossip column every day. Still, in January, I find myself wishing that Bean would get on with it. After all, walking is a big part of my recovery.

The Bride has loaned me a book by Katherine May, “Wintering: the Power of Rest and Retreat in Difficult Times.”

“By winter, she means not just the cold season, but “a fallow period in life when you’re cut off from the world, feeling rejected, sidelined, blocked from progress, or cast into the role of an outsider.” In Wintering, May writes beautifully of her own recent bout with a personal winter, a period when she felt low and overwhelmed, out of sorts and “out of sync with everyday life.” 

https://www.npr.org/2020/11/10/933008027/in-wintering-katherine-may-encourages-the-active-acceptance-of-sadness

I guess my winter started early last year, in the midst of summer actually. I was told by multiple doctors to, “shut it down.” No traipsing off to Italy. No more walking! I had to rely on Bob for everything and he was my rock. And now that the pelvis has healed, I must be “careful” for the next few months and build back my strength. I’ve graduated from water PT to land PT.

Yesterday I asked Bob to deliver some of my homemade soup to a neighbor who is experiencing her own winter, caring for her husband. We are, all of us, buffeted by seasons of joy and sorrow. My sister is strong, and smart and willing to walk again. I’m beginning to see the signs of Spring.

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While I was sitting in my Snug the other day, I could hear an HVAC guy maneuvering his weight through our crawl space beneath me, while Bob was setting up a squirrel trap above me in the attic. Not to worry, no squirrels were found or harmed in the Havahart trap since we fixed their entrance hole under an eave. And by that I mean the proverbial “we” because Bob is always my handy/fix/it/go/to guy. He also managed to perfume the attic with certain squirrel repellant smells like peppermint oil. But to the point – while squirrels scampered across our roof wondering where their winter home had gone, writing time in my Snug has been scarce lately.

I do however have my Physical Therapy marching orders. There is a list of upper body and lower body things I MUST DO every other day if I want to continue ambulating without a walker. In our family room, I push the small table back into the couch and roll out my yoga mat. I assemble the various props – foam roller, bands and weights. And then about 45 minutes later, I put everything away and ice what hurts. Bob also has his PT routines, but along with his exercises he has decided to show our new/old house some love.

He had a floor guy give us an estimate on fixing and refinishing our original, red oak floors. My handy husband ordered the lumber for rebuilding a set of outside stairs to the family room. And he is currently researching the whole air quality, HVAC systems for residential housing. We are enamored with a new PBS show called “Home Diagnosis.” It’s very informative and a well done synthesis of science and building with shows like “Healing Your Home Chemistry,” and “Keeping the Cold at Bay.” In fact, Bob has scheduled a Zoom consultation with one of the show’s hosts! https://www.pbs.org/show/home-diagnosis/

“Keep an eye out for the Home Depot truck,” he just called out to me as he was heading out the door with Ms Bean for her daily constitutional.

It seems we’re expecting a delivery of insulation for the attic! What if we pad up our insulation, replace the old windows and repair and clean the ducts? You know, those ducts in the crawl space that have hosted a few possum parties over the years. Maybe we wouldn’t need a whole new HVAC system! And why does every single local TN technician absolutely hate heat pumps?? We had one in VA; it’s a greener way to condition your air. We may even get a rebate if we go that route.

If we don’t plunge into a real recession, our plan for the Spring is to move the big elliptical machine and our various PT/Pilates-like things into a newly refurbished garage. A Mitsubishi mini-split would nicely meet the heating and cooling needs in our free standing home gym. I might even pitch the idea of a fireplace!

Of course the more projects Bob has taken on, the more tools seem to be accumulating in the garage. Since it also happens to double as a fun place for the Pumpkin to do some building and repair work with his grandfather, I’d be happy to see a small workshop in the garage as well. Storage area, maybe? And let’s not forget the possibility of a pool in the backyard! The garage may one day have to turn into a cabana… It will become a serious multipurpose, year round space.

For my part, I’ve been perusing wallpaper. I’d like to paper one wall in the guest bath, myself. This is called sticking your toe gently into the DIY universe. Granted I’ve never tried wallpapering, but they are now peel and stick so how hard could it be? And don’t worry, I’ll let Bob climb the ladder. I’ve got my colors down, a mix of French blue and the current Kitten Whiskers paint color which is a dusty lilac. The hard part is picking something out – floral or animals, small prints or large? We have an abundance of rabbits in our yard, so I’m leaning toward a rabbit and fox motif, but I don’t want it to look like a nursery. Then again a jungle full of parrots might be uplifting.

The Grands dropped by a few times over the weekend. They love to traipse after Bob and help him with his projects. Here they are taking a much needed checkers break. When I was informed that the Bride gave them the “NO Screens” edict, I replied, “Your Mother is not my dictator!”

“She kinda is ours,” the Pumpkin said decisively.

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Before my first cup of coffee, Bob said, “Have you seen your texts?”

California is at risk of floating away from a series of heavy storms, so my first thought was, “Are the kids evacuating?” Most of the rain is in Northern California but you never know.

Bob assured me everything was alright, while I looked at him incredulously. After an early morning series of text messages with the Bride, he couldn’t wait for me to read the news. While scrolling through the New York Times it seems the Bride came upon a familiar face – her brother! Yes, the very one who lives above a canyon in LA! We had failed to tell her he’d been interviewed during the summer about his work, but in fairness he wasn’t sure when the article, or even IF the article would be published.

I always thought the Rocker’s face would be on the cover of Rolling Stone someday, but for an old-fashioned news reporter, landing in the Grey Lady is the epitome of greatness! I sipped my coffee as I read the essay about the latest trend in trailer music and my son’s specific contributions.

While we were in Malibu I knew something had changed. One day I heard the Rocker laughing with his sister while the Groom was looking at his phone. My adult children know that TikTok is a bridge too far for me to cross, so they did their best to explain what had happened with my son’s latest trailer for the new Black Panther: Wakanda Forever movie. Someone on TikTok connected the dots back to his company, Totem, and was giddy over the musical re-mix.

“The way it goes from No Woman No Cry into Alright and then how the music just goes into another gear at that 1:45 mark…,” another fan on Twitter said. And right before our eyes, Totem was blowing up on YouTube. I think that’s the right terminology.

When the Rocker was in high school, along with playing guitar in his band, he would always write his own music and play around with the oldies that our generation loved. His Fender Strat never left his hands. Since we had wonderful neighbors in the land between two rivers, the drum set stayed in our garage. Playing at the iconic Stone Pony in Asbury Park was just one highpoint of years and years of practice.

But to be honest, it wasn’t an easy trajectory. He left college to tour the world with The Parlor Mob; sleeping in vans and getting signed by one major record label only to be dropped and picked up by another. Some booking agents were better than others and of course they had to sell merchandise. He never complained. The accommodations improved, and the bar food was getting tastier as they worked their way up the ranks, but the entire music industry was changing around the boys in the band. Making a cohesive album of songs turned into 99 cent singles on your cell, or hearing your anthem play at an NHL arena.

He started off as a young boy listening to vinyl LPs in our living room, went straight into the teenage mixed cassette tape era crammed into his car’s windshield visor, and wound up with streaming music everywhere. Now he’s in the NYTimes! This is Eric Ducker’s intro:

“He’s played a crucial role in some of pop culture’s biggest recent moments. But few people outside of the space where the entertainment and marketing industries overlap know his name. As a composer, Rosen is at the forefront of the trailerization movement: He’s in demand for his ability to rework existing songs to maximize their impact in trailers for films and TV shows.He married vocals and motifs from Kate Bush’s “Running Up That Hill” to a thunderous version of the “Stranger Things” theme in the lead-up to the second volume of the show’s fourth season. He intertwined the Nigerian singer Tems’s cover of “No Woman No Cry” with Kendrick Lamar’s “Alright” in the teaser for “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever,” symbolizing the meeting of the franchise’s future and its legacy.” 

https://www.nytimes.com/2023/01/06/arts/music/trailer-music-trailerization.html

Granted Ducker’s essay included other trailer houses, but it led with Totem and a close-up of my son’s face. What I love, besides that punim, is how the Rocker took a song from the 80s, and introduced it to a new generation. Kate Bush, who recorded Running Up That Hill when the Rocker was a newborn, has now made over 2 Million dollars in royalties since its debut in Stranger Things. https://www.digitalmusicnews.com/2022/07/08/kate-bush-stranger-things-how-much-did-she-earn/

That’s a nice retirement package!

What I really really love about the Rocker is his humble heart. His wife Kiki, or his sister have to tell me when he’s received an award or is working with a famous director. He would never brag about his accomplishments and would always be the first to offer a friend a couch to sleep on. He’s even helped other East Coast artists adapt to the West Coast vibe. When he needed children to sing a lullaby, he turned to our little California cousins. And most importantly, the Rocker never stopped hugging me in public, even in Middle School.

While 90% of California is currently on flood watch due to atmospheric rivers of rain, we’ve been interviewing contractors about our HVAC system. It can barely keep up with the swing in Nashville temperatures. And I can barely keep up with technology. But the wind has always been at my son’s back.

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I was reading one of those “end of the year” screeds about the cultural turning points for a new year. One of the writer’s admonitions rang true for me – there shall be no more offering up of a cell phone in someone’s face to prove a point! Or even to simply show a picture of your cat/dog/baby to anyone. Definitely. I’m guilty of this myself on occasion. We’ve all been a bit constricted by Covid in the past, but let’s keep those cell phones in our pockets, shall we?

And speaking of pockets, I will not buy another pair of pants without pockets, and I don’t care how “slimming” they might be. Even yoga pants have little side pockets for your phone. In fact, I shall do less shopping in general, online and otherwise. I will sift through my beautiful walk-in closet and delete the pants without pockets. There’s no need for any vintage shopping either since my closet is a veritable treasure trove of antiques. I’ve already sent Aunt Kiki some 60s sweaters so I’m well on the way to improving fashion industry’s waste.

The Bride was working on New Year’s Day, so I cooked up some of my famous Jerusalem chicken and had the Groom and Grands over for dinner. Of course I also spent the day soaking and creating a black-eyed pea concoction that was met with only some disdain by the Littles, but guaranteed to bring us Good Luck in 2023! And boy, do I need some of that luck this year. I asked the table what they had learned in the past year, and we all agreed to try very hard NOT to play the Blame Game this year – or as the Rocker likes to put it, you play the hand you get. You get Covid, you don’t get Covid, get over yourself!

Did you know the most searched word on Google last year was “Wordle?” I have to admit, Bob and I enjoy playing Wordle almost every morning. It’s short, fast and in an ER doc’s wheelhouse. I usually start at my desk, with alternating words; if you must know I use ADORE and PAINT don’t ask me why. Then I yell, “Help” plaintively. Bob will stop what’s he’s doing and come to the rescue. After all, I have to keep him busy since he retired. I’m pretty sure we will continue playing, but I shall stop posting my Wordle results to Twitter. I realize nobody on social media cares about my score – and in the dead of night I wonder if anyone on Twitter cares about me at all. The jury is still out about leaving Twitter since Elon Musk took over – check back with me in a few months.

The love/hate relationship with Facebook continues into 2023. I love hearing from old friends about their lives and this blog, but I hate the black hole of time it sucks out of my day. It shall remain only on my desktop computer… with all notifications turned off. So there!

Last year I wanted to be brave and chop off all my hair, but then my little falling incident happened. And because I was wheelchair-bound, I stopped visiting my fabulous Drag Queen Hair Stylist. My inner pixie is best left in last year. Ditto the whole bangs idea. Think Frances McDermott, not Goldie Hawn. Not that I have anything against Goldie, after all she started a foundation to help kids deal with anxiety: “Remembering my own childhood anxiety, I longed to show children everywhere how to rediscover their natural joy, understand the value of their emotions, and learn to feel empathy for others,” Hawn wrote in her book. https://www.cnn.com/2022/07/06/health/mindfulness-kids-goldie-hawn-life-itself-wellness/index.html

Now the locks are longer and of course Bob loves it. The longer the better! So I’m giving up my “after a certain age” rule of requesting only a predictable, short bob cut, and letting things go. And believe me, when Nashville froze over last week, I was happy to have some hairs on my neck.

Thankfully, the year of Real Butter is behind us. I never understood the whole charcouterie board of butter anyway. One of our small indulgences during the pandemic has been buying only Irish butter! Oh the color, the taste. But both Bob and I are trending upwards toward dangerous cholesterol levels, so we’ll be quite mindful this year about our eating habits. More fish, less red meat… and less butter. And the same goes for drinking. Last year’s dry January, has turned into 11 months of only the occasional glass of wine or canned cocktail.

Letting go of the devil may care, we’re all on the Titanic anyway, so why not just indulge days of the pandemic feels right. And in no way does this feel constricting; the opposite in fact. My mind and heart are opening to new ways of navigating this life – the road blocks, the speed bumps, the parallel parking. My dashboard light is getting brighter as I type.

Finally, I’ll keep some holiday decorations up all year long if I want. For instance, I strung some stuffed, felt letters across my Snug that spell out the Deck the Hall lyrics “F-A-L-A-L-A” in lots of different colors and every time I look at them I think Falafel, which makes me smile. But it also makes me hungry, so there’s that. Here is my secret recipe for Jerusalem spice: mix equal parts of salt, pepper, cinnamon, turmeric, coriander, and allspice. Happy New Year Everyone!

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