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It was almost 2 am, my mind was a jumble of raw nerve endings. I tried to concentrate on my breath, to meditate my way back to sleep, but I ended up instead tracing the alphabet with my feet. Ankle exercises can be comforting. Then it suddenly got very dark. tomb-like-dark. And it was quiet, no house humming quiet. I wondered if it was just that Bob’s phone stopped lighting up. He had returned from a trip to FL, visiting his brother. But the alarm clock was black; our power was out.

Today it’s supposed to creep up toward 100 degrees, one of the hottest days of the year.

So what did I do? I woke Bob of course, after all maybe it was just a fuse that needed to switch. But it was the whole street, all the street lamps were out, thousands of people without power.

Are you a midnight wanderer? Do you raid the refrigerator at night, or watch TV when you can’t sleep? I’m a Reader with a capital R. So after 2 hours of mingling our feet and talking by flashlight, commiserating about our old whole house generator in the mountains, when the power finally came back on I picked up a National Geographic magazine about Migration.

It was like a crash course in “How Not to be a White Supremacist!” Because 1) tracing DNA has become so affordable, and 2) some tiny, miniscule bone in our inner ear that is the most dense bone in our body has been storing all of our primitive ancestors’ secrets since the Ice Age, therefore 3) anthropologists have been able to trace the Three Great Human Migrations!

“Who Were the First Europeans?” by Andrew Curry is in this month’s issue A WORLD ON THE MOVE. “Europeans living today, in whatever country, are a varying mix of ancient bloodlines hailing from Africa, the Middle East, and the Russian Steppe.” In other words neo-Nazis, get over yourselves and your replacement theory. https://www.nationalgeographic.com/culture/2019/07/first-europeans-immigrants-genetic-testing-feature/

We are all descendants of farmers who tolerated nomads (hunter/gatherers) and then rode horses across continents as plague almost decimated our species. That’s a pretty small nutshell, but some people were dark with green eyes, and some were light with brown eyes and somehow we managed to survive, together. Last night:

I was worrying about the Love Bug who starts 2nd Grade today. We spent the afternoon together and she had a fever, an ear infection, would her parents send her to school?

I was worrying about Great Grandma Ada, because she worries about me all the time so I thought I’d return the favor.

I was worrying about children separated from their parents because I was separated from my Mother the Flapper when I was 10 months old.

This morning I was surprised by how low the Trump administration could go, though I really shouldn’t have been. He is changing the rules and regulations for LEGAL immigrants to obtain a green card, making it more difficult to obtain visas or become citizens. Why you may ask? If a person has relied on any form of public assistance for more than ONE year, they will be invited to leave! The article was hiding inside the BBC News website. https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-49323610

This bears repeating – LEGAL Immigrants who do not meet the GOP’s rules of “self-sufficiency” will be deported. So legal immigrants working part-time at Walmart will have to go if they rely on food aid or public housing….

I didn’t go to this year’s East Nashville Tomato Festival because Bob wasn’t here, but also because I’m becoming afraid of crowds. What keeps you up in the middle of the night?

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It doesn’t matter who designs a border: Russia divided Berlin; the British carved up the Middle East and India; and we Americans decided that Texas would not become part of Mexico. Imperial powers have drawn lines based on ethnicity and/or religion for centuries, and bloodshed is the usual outcome. This past weekend, as we caught up with post-Thanksgiving errands and pre-Holiday shopping, migrants were tear gassed on our California border.

My immediate thought was “Kent State.”

And inbetween cyber-shopping with a bad head cold, I read that Russia thought this would be the perfect time to seize three Ukrainian ships! It seems that the ships were headed down the Kerch Strait, minding their own business, near the Russian-annexed waters of Crimea…ie Moscow crossed that border awhile ago. Vlad figures Nikki Haley has one foot out the door at the United Nations, and Mr T has his hands full with his paranoia and his “caravan,” so why not now?

I will often turn to poetry when the world is too much with me, and right now “The Waking” by Theodore Roethke fills the bill:

“I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.   
I feel my fate in what I cannot fear.   
I learn by going where I have to go.”

And I look at the travel section of the BBC and dream about a great escape. My whole family would like to visit Iceland and I’m not sure why; certainly the stark, brilliant scenery is one thing, but like traveling itself, it’s the people who can delight and inspire you.

There is a certain philosophy in Iceland that is similar to Great Grandma Ada’s mantra, “It will all press out.” Of course you must say this in Yiddish, and since her father was a tailor from Minsk, it makes sense. Icelanders call this , “Betta Reddast” which means basically that everything will work out alright in the end! For a very cold nation, they are an optimistic bunch. http://www.bbc.com/travel/story/20180603-the-unexpected-philosophy-icelanders-live-by

And although Iceland is not likely to start a war over a borderline, they do have a natural, geographical phenomenon that is pushing the country apart ever so slowly. Climate change is threatening to submerse major cities around the world, but the good news is that Iceland is growing… if you don’t mind a little earthquake here and there.

The country sits on the rift between the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates, and those plates are slowly moving apart, widening Iceland by about 3cm per year and causing an average of 500 small earthquakes every week.

Our beautiful new niece and her family crossed the North Carolina border to visit us Thanksgiving weekend, and I’m hoping my virus didn’t return the favor when they traveled back over the mountains. Can you see the Bat Building in the reflection?

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Remember when the Dowager Maggie Smith on Downton Abbey asked her grand daughter, “What’s a weekend?” Well, this past weekend was jam-packed between our new niece’s getaway with girlfriends, to birthday parties. Bob and I took a deep breath and dove right in! You see the Bride was working in the ER and the Groom was in the Medical ICU, so we were prepared to have some super grandparenting Fun.

But first, we went out to dinner with friends. The City House is just around the corner and it’s famous for its pork belly pizza with an egg on top. I know how that sounds, but believe me it tastes divine. This particular stretch of our neighborhood is one of Ms Bean’s favorite spots; and it became our go-to morning walk once I discovered the fig tree behind the restaurant!

Turkish food was next up on Friday when our newly discovered niece rolled into town with her friends. Tamara has a joie de vivre, her smile is infectious. She told me her youngest son is playing the guitar and he can’t wait to meet the Rocker. I told her I’d meet her in the morning at the Mother Church of Country Music for a backstage tour.

Honky Tonk Row was bustling; New Englanders were in town for a game against the Titans. Veteran’s Day became almost an after thought… since I was thinking about the latest mass shooting in California at a country western bar in Thousand Oaks.

The young white man, the killer, was a Marine Vet, and one of the men he shot was also a Marine Vet.

Our newly elected (R) senator from TN responds by saying we “must” protect the 2nd Amendment…

12 people dead, and the NRA tells physicians to “…stay in their lane?” And that became the rallying cry on social media for trauma surgeons and ER docs: #ThisisMyLane.

My lane is a pregnant woman shot in a moment of rage by her partner. She survived because the baby stopped the bullet. Have you ever had to deliver a shattered baby? . What’s yours?

Gun violence is our own personal hell, our beautiful American patriotic duty to defend –  while guns send an average of 8,300 children to hospitals each and every year! https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-46186510

I thanked my brothers and my Father-in-Law for their service in Vietnam and during WWII on Facebook after picking up the Love Bug from Hebrew School. I had to pass an armed guard to enter the Temple, I had to go through a metal detector to enter the Ryman the day before. Someone searched my bag. I wonder when my grandchildren will start practicing “active shooter” drills.

The Pumpkin told me he loved the weekend. But he’s conflicted because on the one hand you get to play, but also you have to clean the house! I know what you mean little guy.

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Since the weather has decided to oblige, Bob and I thought a Fall outing would be just the ticket for the Great Grands. First we drove to Cheekwood, a gorgeous botanical garden, but they were closed due to a private event. So we hemmed and hawed because anything worth doing would have to supply wheelchairs, and guess what? The Nashville Zoo has not only wheelchairs available, but electric scooters!

We only lost Great Grandpa Hudson once, near the flamboyance of flamingoes. But the normally elusive animals were putting on quite a show – gibbons flew through the air, baby meerkats frolicked next to our feet, and the Andean bears had decided it was time for a swim. Great Grandma Ada thought we should cap off our adventure with a visit to a food truck, and luckily for us Google came to the rescue.

Unfortunately, the Grilled Cheeserie truck was also at a private event, but we found the Cousins lobster roll truck in mere minutes!

It was a perfect outing. Needing a break from the non-stop coverage of Kavanaugh’s “righteous” anger, we also  needed to separate from social media maladies like supposed evangelical “Christians” becoming indignant about smearing a “good” man’s name. After all, patriarchy runs deep, it’s biblical. Remember Mary Magdalene?

“In one age after another her image was reinvented, from prostitute to sibyl to mystic to celibate nun to passive helpmate to feminist icon to the matriarch of divinity’s secret dynasty. How the past is remembered, how sexual desire is domesticated, how men and women negotiate their separate impulses; how power inevitably seeks sanctification, how tradition becomes authoritative, how revolutions are co-opted; how fallibility is reckoned with, and how sweet devotion can be made to serve violent domination—all these cultural questions helped shape the story of the woman who befriended Jesus of Nazareth.”
Read more: https://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/who-was-mary-magdalene-119565482/#A1kBRpgIwYOqJUGc.99

In looking back, it turns out that this Jewish woman was NOT in fact a repentant prostitute, which was what I’d been told back in Sacred Heart School. In fact, there were many Marys alive during the time of Jesus. But Mary Magdalene was there at the crucifixion, and she was there at the apparent resurrection from the tomb. She was in fact an important disciple, someone who was loved and respected by all accounts. What would Jesus do today with Dr Christine Blasey Ford?

Jumping around in time like a WOMAN Time Lord in a souped-up TARDIS is taking the balcony view. You take a deep breath and look out over the crowded multitudes, summing up the past and trying to predict the future. Misogyny has had its place in history, and I believe we are about to rewrite the next chapter from a human point of view. Great Grandma Ada has always talked about her mother being alive when we mere humans first took flight on a North Carolina beach, and also seeing our first small steps on the Moon!

On the ride home last night, Ada mentioned friends of a friend who both had PhDs and quit their jobs to open an Egyptian food truck! I was trying to figure out how Egyptian food differs from Jewish food (pretty much not at all) while listening to the astonishment in Ada’s voice; like we women won the vote and Title IV and the ability to play Dr Who and now we want to cook…in a truck?

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April showers are nourishing all the perennials we just planted, but if you are a migratory bird looking to nest in Florida, you’d be plain out of luck. Wading birds like egrets and herons depend on fresh, clean water from rivers meeting the sea in estuaries on our coasts for their food supply, and scientists have been putting on waders to count their nests this time of year. Considering Mr T’s deep cuts to the EPA, this Audubon report is troubling:

The latest South Florida Wading Bird Report, which was published last week, offers signs of trouble for the birds and the places they live. During this nesting season, which ran from December 2015 to July 2016, surveyors were disappointed to find 26,676 nests total. That’s just one-third the number of nests tallied during 2009, one of the best nesting years in decades, and the lowest nest census since the 2007-2008 season. Of the indicator species, only two (Great Egrets and White Ibises) met their nest recovery goals. The only bird to show an above-average nesting season last year was the Roseate Spoonbill. http://www.audubon.org/news/floridas-wading-birds-had-terrible-breeding-season-last-year

We had a Great Blue Heron swoop over our Rumson garage every morning to fish in the Shrewsbury River. When you live so close to the ocean, you begin to notice the rise and fall of tidewater by the line of black silt on your Corgis’ short legs, which would sometimes cover their bellies. “Swamp Dogs” was our affectionate term for Toots and Blaze. My sister Kay was kind enough to immortalize that mother/son duo in a 1993 watercolor.

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But it’s the long, stilt-like legs of Great Egrets that are helping them navigate the rising seawater levels due to Climate Change.

And now we have a circus/barker/climate/denier as the Leader of the Free World who would like to dismantle and disrupt the federal government, and return power to “the states.” I’ve always wondered why Republicans even pursue public service when they hate it so much! If any of you are still wondering about the loss of Arctic ice or if keeping that house your aunt left you on the Jersey Shore is a good idea, take a look at Leonardo diCaprio’s interactive global temperature map. It looks like there may be a quarter of Rumson left after the flood. Seriously.

“Every fraction of a degree of global warming sets in motion sea level rise that will profoundly threaten coastal cities across the world,” explains Dr. Benjamin Strauss from Climate Central. “[Our map] shows the incredible stakes and urgency of our climate choices.”

https://www.beforetheflood.com/explore/the-crisis/sea-level-rise/

Now that you’ve put in your city, and the visual has sunk in and maybe you’ve “woke up” think about these cuts to the federal budget. Keep calling your legislators people, dig out your Wellies (English for waders or rain boots), and start looking for higher ground while planning your retirement

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Months ago, a friend’s daughter mentioned that she had stopped taking Adderal, a drug that was prescribed years earlier for Attention Deficit (ADD). She was proud of weaning herself off this stimulant and started looking at the world, and her career differently. I was happy for her, since as y’all know I am NOT a pill person – well except for vitamins – and I recommended she read this book, “Thinking Fast and Slow,” by Daniel Kahneman who won the Nobel Prize in 2002 for Economics, even though he is a psychologist.

A therapist friend recommended this book to me, and Bob just finished reading it on our Kindle App, so now it’s my turn. It’s easy enough to say that men are from Mars, but this non-fiction book doesn’t try to explain male vs female minds. In fact, gender has nothing to with it. Instead we find out that our instinctual, fast assessment of any situation is the hero of our cognitive world, and the slower, analytical mind is rather lazy!

System 2, in Kahneman’s scheme, is our slow, deliberate, analytical and consciously effortful mode of reasoning about the world. System 1, by contrast, is our fast, automatic, intuitive and largely unconscious mode. It is System 1 that detects hostility in a voice and effortlessly completes the phrase “bread and. . . . ” It is System 2 that swings into action when we have to fill out a tax form or park a car in a narrow space. (As Kahneman and others have found, there is an easy way to tell how engaged a person’s System 2 is during a task: just look into his or her eyes and note how dilated the pupils are.)  http://www.nytimes.com/2011/11/27/books/review/thinking-fast-and-slow-by-daniel-kahneman-book-review.html

When we speak about the “tone” of a conversation, as we have been doing about Mr T’s recent attempts at a Press Conference, we are engaging System 1. It is the nuanced way we communicate with others, the reason we may meet someone and feel an immediate kinship. I was actually thinking that System 1 may be a higher evolutionary adaptation to an increasingly complex and interconnected technological world. Making a diagnosis of ADD more of a plus, than a minus.

Now Bob’s opinion of an ADD diagnosis is that your environment isn’t sufficiently stimulating. As the student who sat in front of him in French class in the 60s, I know this to be true – his legs were always moving behind my desk, so much so that I felt as if I was on a Disney ride. I am positive he would have been medicated as a child. And our son had a similar level of energy in high school, similar to a race horse in the gate, one very hard to contain in a “normal” classroom. I can already see this fast level of relating to the world in the Love Bug. I can almost see her mind racing to keep up with us; at the age of two she was asking us to teach her how to read!

So the inner-linguist-in-me was delighted to read this morning that in fact, our thoughts may have been shaped by the kind of crops our ancestors grew! http://www.bbc.com/future/story/20170118-how-east-and-west-think-in-profoundly-different-ways

 

Growing rice requires far greater cooperation: it is labour-intensive and requires complex irrigation systems spanning many different farms. Wheat farming, by contrast, takes about half the amount of work and depends on rainfall rather than irrigation, meaning that farmers don’t need to collaborate with their neighbours and can focus on tending their own crops.

This BBC article explains how so many social science experiments are biased toward the Western world, more specifically American graduate students who participate in these studies. The idea of Western thought being more frontier in nature, valuing the individual, John Wayne, self-directed approach, as differentiated from Eastern thought which values the whole, group achievement, socialist model over the individual is a narrative based in reality, and not alternative facts.  “…our social environment moulds our minds. From the broad differences between East and West, to subtle variation between US states, it is becoming increasingly clear that history, geography and culture can change how we all think in subtle and surprising ways – right down to our visual perception.”

And I would add Red and Blue states to this mix. I once asked a group of women knitting together in a room if in fact every US citizen didn’t deserve to have health care. This was early on, when President Obama was being blocked by every single Republican legislator from passing health insurance reform. And the one Republican knitter in the room said very defiantly “Absolutely not!” She was thinking like a pioneer, and not like someone on the Titanic.

The Flapper loved everything Eastern, including Buddhism, and believed in mindfulness before it was ever trending. Since I received the results of my Ancestry DNA, I realize that my cells are all Irish, with unfortunately no Asian influence. But ever since I was a girl, wearing my Catholic school uniform, my environment taught me to share and think collectively…and maybe now we need to think faster than ever. We need to be the first Jedi.

“All that we are is the result of what we have thought. The mind is everything. What we think we become.”

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Today a great teacher, writer and survivor of the Holocaust Elie Wiesel has died. He was 87 years old  and will be remembered as a beacon of peace by leaders all over the world. When he accepted the Nobel Peace Prize in 1987 he said,

“Whenever and wherever human beings endure suffering and humiliation, take sides…Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.”         http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-36696420

Silence and indifference is the constant evil for every culture. Remember this if you are thinking of not voting in November – and remember what a certain GOP candidate had to say about John McCain, being captured, in another war.

I didn’t know Wiesel was just 15 when his family was torn from their home in Romania (now Hungary) and shipped to Auschwitz. But after our Danube tour, I must confess I was torn between the Baroque beauty of the countries we visited, and the underlying horror of WWII. http://www.nytimes.com/2015/03/15/travel/tracing-jewish-heritage-along-the-danube.html?_r=0

As we walked over the pebbled courtyard into the majestic Benedictine Abbey in Melk, Austria, I thought about the Jewish people being herded through this very same entryway in transit to death camps. I thought how my children would have been treated, my husband, my family. Me. The sound of our 21st Century shoes crunching on the stones made me close my eyes to the blinding sun.

We began our tour with Sixty Shoes in Budapest, and we ended in the beautiful city of Prague. But at Melk, we learned that the abbey was saved under Emperor Joseph II in the 1700s because it was a flourishing school. A student of the Enlightenment, Joseph tried to limit the influence of the church over the state, shuttering and demolishing many mansions and abbeys, and ushered in an era of peace where all religions were accepted: “Joseph’s reforms included abolishing serfdom, ending press censorship and limiting the power of the Catholic Church. And with his Edict of Toleration, Joseph gave minority religions, such as Protestants, Greek Orthodox and Jews, the ability to live and worship more freely. “

Imagine that, an Era of Enlightenment (1685-1815) was happening in Europe while our new country was evolving, grappling with its native inhabitants, a constitution and slavery.

Today students are still studying at the Abbey amid majestic artwork and architecture. But we must never forget what Elie Wiesel has taught us, and his words from his first book, “Night.”

“Never shall I forget that night that first night in camp that turned my life into one long night. Never shall I forget the small faces of the children whose bodies I saw transformed into smoke under a silent sky. Never shall I forget those flames that consumed my faith forever, those moments that murdered my god and my soul and turned my dreams to ashes. Never.”  

This is the second largest synagogue in the world, and it is in Budapest.

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