Archive for May, 2023

Last week I was helping the Bug study for a science test on human reproduction.

She was learning about puberty, menstruation, and sex. There was not an ounce of self-consciousness or body shaming in my beautiful granddaughter, who is only one inch shorter than I am. I can vaguely remember my big sister Kay filling me in on such things. It was certainly not in my Catholic school’s 5th, 6th, 7th, or 8th grade curriculum. However, the Bride was taught about reproduction in her public school, albeit mostly about anatomy and to fear AIDs as the latest STD. I’m happy to say my Grands are the children of doctors, who never shied away from difficult questions.

Then the Pumpkin who hears everything, asked how old you have to be to have a baby?

And I immediately thought about an Ob-Gyn who did her best with a patient, and her state medical board reprimanded her. They fined her $3,000 – for saving a patient’s life. They came very close to taking her license away. Would you think this doctor must live in a developing country? Wrong; this courageous woman physician lives in Indiana where there is a Republican AG, and she had the audacity to perform an abortion on her 10 year old patient.

The board cleared Bernard on two other counts, determining that she did not improperly report child abuse and that she is fit to practice medicine.


We tried to answer the Pumpkin’s question, but honestly we were stumped. Sure once menstruation starts, the uterus is signaling its ability to carry a fetus, but when is it advisable? Certainly not in the teenage years, right?

Dr Caitlyn Bernard followed protocol. She reported the procedure involving a minor in the time frame required – three days. This speedy reporting process has been determined to help police find and prosecute a rapist, a child rapist – which they eventually did. What exactly did this doctor do wrong? She spoke to the press about it. She spoke in generalized terms to a reporter about her patient’s age and the consequential influx of young girls to Indiana from Ohio after the Dobbs decision. Even the Chair of the Board called Bernard a “good doctor.”

There was no HIPAA violation, all docs talk in general terms about their interesting patients. So long as a patient isn’t named, or identified, doctors have freedom to speak. But telling a reporter that a child had to cross state lines in order to receive life-saving care is a bridge too far?

Dr Bernard’s patient is the same age as our Bug. She aced her science test on the last day of school, and will be turning 11 this summer. Of course I didn’t bring up the Indiana court case while studying human reproduction. I didn’t talk about an extreme Christian anti-woman agenda in our home state. Instead I suggested we all go to the movies!

It was my first time back to a movie theatre since the pandemic. Three generations of girls / women sat through all the ads and trailers, I told the Bug how it used to be full-length cartoons before a movie in my day… and I immediately feel ten times older every time I say something like that. Note to Self – “When I was a girl…” must be eliminated from my vocabulary! Then the movie started, and the thrill of being surrounded by strangers in a dark cavern returned.

“Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret” unfolded in classic pre-teen angst. A rising 6th grader (just like the Bug) must leave her grandmother, Kathy Bates who was channeling Grandma Ada to a T, her friends and her NYC apartment and move to the suburbs. The actress playing Margaret, Abby Ryder Fortson, even resembles the Love Bug with her piercing dark eyes. Her first prayer is pretty concise – “Please don’t let New Jersey be too horrible” and we laughed though southerners didn’t get the joke. Bras and menstrual periods were discussed willy nilly. Margaret has decided she must choose a religion, Judaism or Christianity? And she learns how to navigate new friendships.

If only our country could learn how to keep religion out of politics.

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While reading the Washington Post this morning, I discovered that ADUs are all the rage in LA. What’s an ADU you might ask? I’ve always called them DADUs – Detached Accessory Dwelling Units – but I guess California thinks “detached” is a given. Due to the sky high prices of real estate in Southern California, and recent loosening of zoning requirements, more and more young people are adding two-story ADUs of around 800 sq ft to their property. For some single home owners, they move into their ADU and rent out the “big” house. Others are more community minded; charging an affordable rent for the ADU as a kind of public service.

I guess the phrase “Granny Cottage” isn’t sexy enough?

Our Altamont Street house in Cville was our retirement plan – a two bed/foursquare brick beauty just a block from the Historic Downtown Mall. It was a duplex, with a whole one bedroom apartment in the basement. Over the years we rented it out to medical and graduate students at a reduced rate and planned on moving in when we could no longer drive. If you’ve been following me for awhile, you know I don’t love being a landlord and our plans to grow roots in the Blue Ridge Mountains changed when the Bride and Groom decided to stay in Nashville.

So here I sit, looking differently at our detached garage. Our first inclination was to tear it down, but the building inspector told us it was structurally sound. Then I got it into my head that we needed to build a lap pool, while I was confined to aquatic physical therapy, and voila, the garage would become our cabana! Looking back at my glory days on the Jersey Shore, it seemed fitting to recreate our beachy-style in this land-locked state. But in light of a looming recession, my pretty pool dream has come to be just that, a dream.

“What about a home gym,” my post-pandemic brain reasoned. I’ve got my Snug, so there’s no way the garage was becoming a She Shed. It should serve both our purposes, right? We could demolish the insides of it in a weekend with some help from friends and family. Heck, Bob has become a handyman extraordinaire in his retirement. And there would be no need for a permit because we’re not adding on any square footage.

But IF we’re thinking long-term, the idea of a DADU makes sense – for out-of-towners, and you’d be surprised how many people like to visit Nashville. We could rent it out and also have it available for family and friends. Bonus points for having a ready-made caretaker’s cottage for help in the future. That would mean adding a small kitchen and a full bath which would also mean permits… I’m not so sure Nashville is as excited about tiny houses as LA. but it’s worth looking into.

As with any building project, you start with a purpose, and like most Google searches I found my way from construction goals to finding my purpose in life. Pretty heavy lifting for a Monday morning. Usually, I’m not one to worry about such things. I tend to just get on with a day unfolding as it will. I don’t believe that everything happens for a reason; I don’t believe that children are gunned down in our schools to serve some higher purpose. I guess this is where religion may help, but I’m OK being in the thin place between practical and spiritual.

That’s why I march and vote and donate for gun reform and I don’t pray. But if you DO pray, all the better. Let’s throw all we can at the problem until it’s fixed. I guess I was just born lucky, or maybe unlucky, to two mothers and a dying father. Knowing my purpose in life was as elemental as breathing air – to write and love with a capital L, to grow loving, creative children into adulthood and later to make sure that all our children are wanted and get to live long, happy lives. The “Dorothy Strategy” from the Wizard of OZ feels about right to me:

“If I ever go looking for my heart’s desire again, I won’t look any further than my own backyard; because if it isn’t there, I never really lost it to begin with.”

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This morning I opened the door for Ms Bean to go out and was instantly hit with a blast of warm, humid air. I looked up at the mama robin and rolled my eyes, spring in the south is an oxymoron. It comes in the form of rain, interspersed with dry, 70 degree days for a week, maybe two. Then the hot, sticky summer rolls in complete with mosquitoes and melting temperatures. Yesterday it hit 88 degrees. Our Mother’s Day celebration sushi dinner happened inside the Bride’s house, in the air conditioned air.

This past weekend had me reminiscing about mothers’ days over the years. Since I had two mothers growing up, you’d think I’d remember a few details, but those early years are blank. Maybe we didn’t mark the occasion so much, or maybe all that was required was a nice Mother’s Day card? My fondest and earliest memory as a new mom in New England is of a barbeque with my BFF Lee; Bob and Al grilled outside, in our bird sanctuary backyard. Spring in the Berkshires was made only more magnificent because of its winters.

Spring cleaning has adapted itself to spring organizing since I am still working with only one hand. I’ve been doing a deep dive into the Snug, aka my office. With Bob’s help I’ve moved a plant from the window to a bookshelf by the window. I’ve condensed all my bead-making and knitting supplies into one cabinet. All my books are happily visible in two bookcases, no longer in piles. And I’ve spent hours reading over my old poetry and prose, some of it good and some…

I found a list I made 20 years ago – “I WISH”

It’s pretty funny reading it, knowing now what I wish I knew then! Number ONE on the list, “I wish I was more organized!” And number 25 on the list? “I wish it was Spring!” And all the other 23 wishes, believe it or not, I’ve accomplished or I simply don’t care to accomplish – like being fluent in French, or having a cook, or playing the cello. I was prompted to think BIG. Maybe I still wish I could live in a cottage by the sea in Ireland. But the very first things on my Wish List had to do with the Bride and the Rocker (no Grands yet) and Bob, and those wishes have actually come true. TA DA

I remember Ada saying she didn’t want to be an old lady who only talked about her maladies. I get it. I have to fight against becoming an old lady who only thinks about her regrets, like not buying that second home. I could easily make a list of regrets – but to what purpose? Yes I wish I hadn’t wrapped the bulldog’s leash around my right hand; yes I wish I hadn’t climbed the bunk bed ladder. But I cannot, or will not live in the past.

Moving forward, Bob and I attended a garden fundraiser last week for our mayoral candidate, Freddie O’Connell. We stood in the heat with strawberries and with sweat dripping down my back. We saw old friends who asked about my splinted arm, I laughed it off, as if it was nothing but an inconvenience. We listened to Freddie, a no nonsense guy who we call a friend, and a neighbor. The only city council member to vote against funding a ridiculous NFL stadium. The one guy who grew up here in Nashville, on the West side, and wants to grow our city more humanely and less for tourists and destination bridesmaid parties. He wants to build a transit system, and plant trees, build sidewalks, and house the homeless.

There are incentives we can offer Davidson County residents where it’s a privilege to live here not a burden. A key part of that is making technology available, affordable and useful to residents. There’s no one more prepared to leverage technology to move our city forward.


But he doesn’t have a million dollars of his own to run his campaign, like another candidate who is buying up ad time on TV like candy. Still I like betting on the under dog, that was something my foster mom Nell drilled into me. The special election will take place this summer, in the sweltering 90+ degree dog days of August. We’ve ordered our Freddie yard sign, we’ve become people with yard signs on our corner lot. The sign there now says,

“Hate has no place in our neighborhood.”

Here a few old pix I found in a box of high schoolers you may know.

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We are in the midst of a battle with squirrels.

No, it’s not that they are attacking our bird feeder; although, we once had a nifty squirrel-proof feeder that gave them the ride of their lives while twirling them off into the lawn. It was hysterical! The problem with our urban species of rodent is that our soffits, attic space and walls have become home base to an extended family. The previous owner of this new/old house planted a gorgeous redbud tree outside Bob’s office, and it serves as the perfect launching pad for the little, grey critters.

Yes, while Bob was insulating the attic, he tried a Havaheart trap and spread peppermint oil around suspected points of entry. We never caught one, but it did seem to cut down on the noise above our heads. Until one day last week, I was making the bed and heard this scratching in the closet wall. Maybe one fell down and couldn’t get back up? That was the tipping point for Bob, he called in the big guns.

By “big guns” I mean two guys and a truck who wrangle squirrels, raccoons and anything else that wants to set up shop in your home. I told Bob I wanted nothing to do with their methods. Then I made the big mistake of walking out the front door.

You see, a mama robin is sitting on her nest in the corner of our porch ceiling. She used to fly away every time we opened the front door, which wasn’t much since we normally use a side door near the garage. But now she’s either gotten used to us or this is a critical point in egg development; she’s staying put! The front of our house faces south, so I’m sure the robin likes her warm, shady corner. I do see her perching on the side of her nest and moving the eggs around.

Y’all know how I feel about birds. Catching a glimpse of the Great Blue Heron who swooped over our garage in Rumson every morning to fish in the river; the woodpeckers gliding around our Cville property; even the doves lined up at our Germantown farmhouse brought me out of whatever doldrums I might be in that day.

“Oh no ma’am, our traps won’t bother that bird,” the young man said. He proceeded to spill a yarn about how they capture squirrels in the city and relocate them out in the country. They have to learn how to live in the wild, he told me, no more garbage cans and easy city pickins. It sounded vaguely like sending a cat to a “farm.” Then the older wrangler chimed in, he assured me that squirrels can chew through wires and actually cause a house fire!

Between rabbits eating wires in our HVAC unit, I thought maybe Mother Nature was out to get us. I mean I loved watching a flying squirrel take up residence in one of Hudson’s bluebird boxes, and I didn’t complain when we had to have SO MUCH honey and bees removed from our chimney in Pittsfield. The beekeeper simply relocated the queen bee. But I draw the line with a rodent who wants to move inside our house, I mean it’s Spring! Why not pick a tree for a nest like all the other squirrels?

I didn’t feel sick until the ice cream truck started winding its way down our street, playing a catchy tune. This is not your mama’s Good Humor truck, it’s a white van like every white van you’ve ever seen in kidnapping documentaries (even though the Bride assures me he’s been around for years and is harmless). As the young guy placed traps on the roof, his partner said, “I wouldn’t let my kids buy ice cream from him.” And before long, I learned that he used to be a cop, and he’s seen a lot, and the only answer he could find to why there is soooo much evil in the world was THE DEVIL.

And he meant it.

So while the robin was bringing new life to our yard, the squirrels were destined for a different fate. To everything there is a season, and my season of discontent, I hope, is over. The splint on my hand should come off next week. Like a race horse, I’m entering the homestretch. Here is our little devil on guard!

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On our walk to the Farmer’s Market this weekend, I asked the Bug if she knew what a group of giraffes is called? You already know that I’m a collector of fascinating words and phrases, and I particularly love the terms for groups of animals – the collective nouns. Like a “murder” of crows, or a “flamboyance” of flamingoes. But did you know our family has a thing for giraffes?

I’m not sure why, is it because they have the longest necks or the biggest hearts of all land mammals?

When I was a child, my foster sister took me to the circus. I was too young to remember much, but I would look at that fading black and white picture of me, in my ‘circus’ ie fancy shoes, all the time. I looked so happy. Maybe that was the first time I ever saw a real giraffe. I made sure to take my children to the Big Apple Circus every single year. And now I head straight for the giraffes when we accompany our Grands to the Nashville Zoo. My fantasy safari trip is to the Giraffe Manor, where I could feed a giraffe from my breakfast table!

Then there was this book: “Tall Blondes” https://www.pbs.org/wnet/nature/tall-blondes-introduction/2253/

And I was hooked. Because I thought my daughter was a tall blonde who seemed to float on her field hockey team. She had such long legs as a pre-teen, very similar to the Bug, and she would always take the balcony view of things. Mature beyond her age. And because she had volunteered with Planned Parenthood during high school, in her days at Duke she became the unofficial reproductive health dorm advisor. The Bride is a feminist raised by a feminist whose motto was “Our Bodies Ourselves.”

Also having a sex therapist for a grandmother didn’t hurt.

Speaking of sex, or rape actually, I’ve been keeping a watchful eye on the E Jean Carroll rape trial against our twice impeached insurrectionist ex-president. She was a relationship columnist in NY at about the same time I was writing a column for a newspaper in NJ. We are approximately the same age, in our 70s. The Bride was mid-teens in the mid-90s. And this morning I read that Carroll called herself a member of the “silent generation.”

“I am a member of the silent generation … Women like me were taught and trained to keep our chins up and to not complain.” Carroll testified last week that Trump’s attack caused a decades-long trauma in her life. 


And she’s right. We were taught to make jokes. to smile, to shrug off a man’s advances. If you complained about workplace harassment you would lose your job. This is why I believed Anita Hill. When the new car salesman came on to me in my early 20s, I just looked at his wedding ring and said frankly NO, but thanks anyway. After all, it was just us all alone taking a test ride in a car he wanted to sell and I wanted to buy; I knew enough not to make him mad. Otherwise, I might have become a Dateline statistic.

I didn’t report his advances to the car dealership.

This silent generation of women was a group of humans I didn’t think I was a part of, after all I attended consciousness raising groups. I started a new moon women’s group at temple and invented my own menopause ritual. But back then, when Trump raped Carroll, we women thought we had to be as tough as the guys. There was no crying at work, or in baseball. And I can certainly imagine a rape taking place at Bergdorfs, in a very fancy dressing room, and the woman not wanting to call attention to her assault at the time. Especially if it was a powerful man, wielding his power with his (insert appropriate appendage). Because we were also told it’s his recollection against ours – and his always wins.

Mr T’s lawyers didn’t count on the fact that Carroll DID tell some of her friends. She even kept the dress. So she wasn’t so silent after all. Oh how I wish I could be a fly on that court room wall today.

And just in case you thought giraffes were silent creatures, you’d be wrong. They seem silent to our human ears, but they communicate via a low infrasound. How else could they hide their babies while they forage for leaves? How could they move towards a watering hole en masse without communicating? And although some like to call a group of them a herd…

I prefer a TOWER of giraffes! Here I am in my happy place.

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