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Archive for the ‘Books, Journaling, Wedding, Country’ Category

Friends and family were positively giddy on Inauguration Day. Happy tears were shed over our new VP Kamala Harris in her sorority pearls, and a most graceful young Poet Laureate, Amanda Gorman. We were transfixed throughout the day as Tom Hanks displayed our Hollywood talent to the world. Why go back to a bunch of Washington mega-donor inaugural balls?

This celebration, those fireworks, were for The People!

Then Twitter exploded with, of all things, Bernie Sanders. I guess he came to the Capitol Mall on his own; I’d heard that legislators could only invite one guest to the swearing in ceremony. Many didn’t want to bring a spouse because they had small children; imagine that kind of fear, in our country. So there he sat, Wednesday with Bernie, sitting all alone on a bleacher, legs crossed trying to stay warm and awake, like any other grandfather. Except that he is the Independent senator from Vermont, and he was wearing hand knit mittens!

Turns out, one of his constituents gave him those mittens five years ago. Her name is Jen Ellis and she used to sell her wares at arts and craft shows, but today she’s a teacher with a small child and she doesn’t have time to knit. Little did she know her mittens would become a meme sensation

“Ellis, who has sold her mittens — which she calls “swittens,” a portmanteau of sweater and mittens — online and at craft fairs. “I’m flattered that they want them, but there are lots of people on Etsy who sell them and hopefully people will get some business from them,” she said. “But I’m not going to quit my day job. I am a second grade teacher, and I’m a mom, and all that keeps me really busy.”

“There’s no possible way I could make 6,000 pairs of mittens, and every time I go into my email, another several hundred people have emailed me,” Ellis added. “I hate to disappoint people, but the mittens, they’re one-of-a-kind and they’re unique and sometimes in this world, you just can’t get everything you want.”

https://jewishinsider.com/2021/01/jen-ellis-bernie-sanders-mittens/

She sounds just like any other New England mom, you can’t always get what you want! And every mom knows that mittens keep your hands warmer than gloves, it’s a fact. My Berkshire roots are showing because I love, love, love the casual predictability of Bernie along with the pragmatism of his independent followers. One of my favorite tee shirts from our Pittsfield, MA era had a picture of American Gothic on its front emblazoned with, “Welcome to Dalton, now go home!”

On Wednesday there was no cow jumping over the moon, or three little bears sitting on chairs. But Bernie was there in all his everyman glory, with a manila envelope containing the inaugural tickets and a very unique pair of mittens. I’m not sure what all the fuss was about, but it was fun for the younger generation to blow off four years of pain and suffering under a demagogue by flooding social media with Bernie memes.

And we are all glad they did! Here are just a few.

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Do you feel as if your limbic system is on constant high alert?

In a nutshell, the limbic system is a part of the brain that is in charge of the “fight or flight” reflex; run away from the lion or fall in love with the lion tamer. It’s a bunch of cortical cells responsible for our very survival.

“These nuclei serve several functions, however most have to do with control of functions necessary for self preservation and species preservation. They regulate autonomic and endocrine function, particularly in response to emotional stimuli. They set the level of arousal and are involved in motivation and reinforcing behaviors. Additionally, many of these areas are critical to particular types of memory. Some of these regions are closely connected to the olfactory system, since this system is critical to survival of many species.”

https://www.dartmouth.edu/~rswenson/NeuroSci/chapter_9.html

Smelling danger is one thing, but feeling as though a casual walk during this pandemic might endanger your life is another. It’s become almost normal for us to second guess and debate every decision. Should we go to the Walgreens early in the morning, is it safe? Can’t the Bride come inside our house now that she has been vaccinated twice? What about the Grands? I must admit to feeling much better since my daughter and the Groom have received their second Covid vaccines, but according to the CDC the next peak of deaths is expected in mid February. Don’t let your guard down!

After all, you don’t want to be the last person to die of this virus before the vaccines are completely distributed.

And speaking of distribution, state governors are reporting that the promised vaccines kept in reserve by the federal government don’t exist. That along with the BIG LIE about the election, we’ve been served another BIG LIE about vaccine distribution. I didn’t find this surprising, because Mr T has shown his true colors time and time again. Expecting him to be something he is not would drive anybody’s limbic system crazy.

We are a nation on guard. Barricades have gone up around Nashville’s Capitol building. State capitols around the country are on “High Alert” this inaugural week – DC is teeming with our National Guard, looking more like Paris during the Jewish high holidays. I remember when the Paris police almost didn’t allow the Bride to enter a synagogue, because she “didn’t look Jewish.”

The rest of Europe cannot believe America has come to this. Today, Germans wonder if Americans ever heard of the word Volksverhetzung, in English “incitement to hatred.” This is a crime in Germany, as it should be all over the world. Unfortunately, parents continue to teach their children to hate. Racist, anti-semitic tropes were never gone, they have only just been allowed to grow through social media. In my wildest dreams, I never thought I would see a confederate flag in the Capitol; Nazi slogans and swastikas flying along with Trump flags last week.

Jewish families know we must never allow silence and indifference to win, we must always be ready to flee a mob of red shirts or red hats. This will be my last post before Joe Biden becomes our 46th president. He has an ambitious agenda ahead of him. First and foremost, attacking this pandemic. After many unanswered phone calls, and rebooting of websites, to try and obtain a Covid vaccine, we got lucky. By the end of this month, Bob and I will be fully vaccinated. It wasn’t easy. Obtaining a vaccine for a population not totally familiar with technology has proven nearly impossible.

“It feels like I’m trying to get a Beyonce ticket!” a daughter said while trying to help her mother navigate vaccine portals.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/health/2021/01/16/covid-vaccine-hunt/?

Bob heard through the medical grapevine about a public health facility giving drive-thru vaccines. The Bride told us to get in our car and take a chance. And because he is an ER physician, on call for Covid emergencies and willing to put shots in arms should the need arise, and because we showed up at the break of dawn, we’re halfway to Covid immunity.

I could finally breathe. My limbic system however, will take awhile to calm down.

Ada’s favorite quote

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Crybabies

Taking care of babies is my jam. Human babies, animal babies and puppies in particular. I love it when the Love Bug’s four month old French Bulldog starts to wind down, big eyes drooping and legs wobbling. He fights naps so hard! But once you hear that distinctive snore – part purr, part outboard motor – you can cuddle him up, no problem. And later, because Bob and I are just the occasional granddog sitters, we get to give him back.

Human babies, otoh, take a bit more work. Bob always had a way to soothe our crying babies. With the baby Bride, he would bundle her in the car seat for a ride and turn on Beethoven. The Baby Rocker required a different approach, Bob would blast Led Zepplin!

“Don’t be a crybaby” is buried deep in my amygdala. It must be a primal holdover, after all if you’re fleeing a predator you don’t want a baby to signal your whereabouts. The tribe depended on your ability to keep your baby healthy and happy! There is no sound more distressing to me than a crying baby; unless it’s a whining, crying adult.

I just finished my morning coffee with an article in the Washington Post titled “Trumpist masculinity reaches its high water mark with the riot,” by Monica Hesse. It caught my eye because its subject was the Nashville bartender who was recently arrested for jumping over a balustrade like a ninja with zip ties, aka the Zip Tie Guy. He’s a handsome, white, ex-honky tonk employee, a 30 year old who was seen in previous footage with his mother! They were caught leaving their hotel with coffee last Wednesday, before storming the Capitol that afternoon.

“A whole taxonomy of Trumpist right-wing manhood could be developed from the Internet investigations, wanted posters and arrest affidavits now trickling out in the wake of last week’s riot at the Capitol. En masse, the photos show a conglomeration of weird beards, ammo and camo, and a very specific brand of looks-like-somebody-got-a-Bass-Pro-gift-card-for-Christmas raging White masculinity.”

https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/style/capitol-riot-zip-tie-guy-men-trump-masculinity/2021/01/12/486a516e-5447-11eb-a08b-f1381ef3d207_story.html

It seems the Cville khakis and white shirts have been replaced by strange costumes. Between Viking chic and lumberjack plaid, toxic masculinity was on full display. Like any good feminist, I taught my son that it’s alright to cry, even though every other cultural interaction he ever had told him the opposite. And likewise, I told my daughter NOT to cry in public. Not very gender neutral, I know.

But the GOP has become a party of crybabies.

When Mr T told his followers last week not to show “weakness” it hit me. He was a high school cadet playing dress-up at a military academy before the Vietnam War. Mr T developed “bone spurs” then and today he watches TV or plays golf; never getting his hands dirty. What we are witnessing this morning is incredulous. Enraged Republican legislators bemoaning the installation of metal detectors at the Capitol. Why should they have their bags searched and not be able to carry their sidearm into chambers? The audacity of Congress to want to protect legislators of both parties!

And why should they be fined for refusing to wear masks while hunkered down during the insurrection last week? Isn’t it their God-given, natural right to infect anybody they so please?

The sheer cloying white selfishness, entitlement, and privilege is appalling.

And they called us snowflakes! But hark! A second impeachment is about to happen, just as we are being told that these home-grown terrorists are planning another seditious attempt at insurrection. Closing down their absurd conspiracy websites and banning Mr T from his social platforms is just the first step. Weeding white supremacists out of the police and military is essential. In just one week we shall have a new President; a Scranton guy who has the capacity for empathy and compassion.

I just hope Biden has the determination of a bulldog!

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Sleep has been eluding me lately because these days are hard to fathom. Mr T used his soapbox to preach conspiracy falsehoods and push an angry mob to desecrate our Nation’s Capitol. More and more video has surfaced since Wednesday. An Air Force veteran came from California, a QAnon believer, only to be shot in the neck. A Capitol policeman was bludgeoned to death with a fire extinguisher. Another was crushed between doors. Blood was shed.

And blood is on the hands of every single Republican who ever supported this mad president, and thought it might be a good idea to stage an insurrection last week.

Usually reading before bed is a calming ritual. “The Cold Millions,” by Jess Walter has been my escape from our current political dystopia. The book was delivered to my front door, like most things these days, human contact unnecessary. The author’s previous novel, “Beautiful Ruins,” is a favorite so I couldn’t wait to dig in; instead of flirting with the good ‘ole days of Hollywood, Walter aimed his pen at the wild west – Spokane, Washington in 1909. It was a formative time for labor unions.

I like to think my Great Great Grandmother hosted many a union organizing dinner in her Scranton, Pennsylvania dining room. Grandma Mullen was born in Ireland in 1844 and raised 23 children! She lost a few husbands along the way to the coal mines. Over the years, I’d heard that she ran a boardinghouse for miners, and she would feed them IF they would read her the newspaper. I wonder if my ancestor, on the Flapper’s side, could have imagined the future me, writing for newspapers?

In “the Cold Millions,” two dirt poor brothers, Ryan and Gig, are pitted against the emerging upper class of industrial/publishing/judicial elites. And because they stand on a soapbox in the middle of a union rally for the “Industrial Workers of the World,” they are hauled off to jail. It’s not hard to think of a juvenile in an adult jail, our country still manages to make such arrangements.

But peaceful rallying in the street is nothing new. Walter’s fictional characters are based on real life union organizers at the beginning of the last century sick of being swindled by job brokers, their heads beaten with clubs. Over the years, our family has been known to take to the streets. Bob protested the Vietnam War in Washington. I’ve traveled to DC a few times to rally for Reproductive Rights. I was in DC at the 2017 Women’s March and passed many buses filled with our National Guard at the ready… just in case.

Where were they last Wednesday? And why were they late to arrive after Pence and Pelosi summoned them?

All of the action in the book takes place before and after a free speech rally. And this morning I find myself wondering about free speech, feeling self-righteous because I believe in the freedom of the press and glad that Twitter has finally silenced the Toddler-in-Chief. Don’t get me wrong, our liberty hinges on this First Amendment right, but I never thought our government should be run by Tweets! Mr T has been coddled and allowed to spew his lies long enough, I’m just sorry it took so long to silence him.

Yes, sometimes peaceful protests can turn violent when night falls. But these Capitol rioters were signaled by Mr T to turn their anger against the very people who are our legislators. They were chanting “Hang Mike Pence” because our VP refused to overturn an election. The very same people who were carrying “Blue Lives Matter” flags were raging against the police. The same mind-set that led some to attend Black Lives Matter protests, to supposedly protect federal property, were destroying our nation’s artifacts.

In the midst of a worldwide pandemic, the Capitol mob had the trappings of a war they had been deluded into following. Men wore body armor, some carried weapons. Free speech is fine and dandy, so long as no one gets hurt. Facebook and Twitter give everyone a soapbox, but can their algorithms keep us safe from this fire?

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This is today’s headline on https://www.bbc.com/news ,along with a picture of a man carrying the Confederate flag, and others dressed like Vikings in war paint. They were taking selfies with Capitol police, they were scaling walls and prancing around the Rotunda swinging metal stanchions. This is where we are, and if you say we’re better than this, I’m not so sure anymore.

I’m honestly lost for words, and that rarely happens. They were trying to take down the American flag and replace it with a Trump flag? It’s time to put away foolish things like red hats. It’s time to stop believing in conspiracies and “alternative truths.” Mr T is a lier, a psychopathic, clear and present danger – does it matter if he actually believes these delusions of voter fraud and machine tampering, or if he’s playing us for another get rich quick scheme? Should he be committed or arrested?

T has been blocked from Twitter, yet he still has all of the power of an American President. This is untenable. VP Pence is already in charge, he and Speaker Pelosi called for the National Guard yesterday. I just heard Facebook has finally blocked T – where is his Cabinet and the GOP? Why haven’t they invoked the 25th Amendment?

This is domestic terrorism fueled by the words of a psychopathic liar, our president. Over half of House Republicans backed the effort to reject the votes of the American people. Even after the riot, in the small hours of the morning, “….these are the senators who voted to object to some of the results of the election (and the states they objected to:

Texas Sen. Ted Cruz (Arizona, Pennsylvania)

Missouri Sen. Josh Hawley (Arizona, Pennsylvania)

Kansas Sen. Roger Marshall (Arizona, Pennsylvania)

Alabama Sen. Tommy Tuberville (Arizona, Pennsylvania)

Mississippi Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith (Arizona, Pennsylvania)

Louisiana Sen. John Kennedy (Arizona)

Florida Sen. Rick Scott (Pennsylvania)

Wyoming Sen. Cynthia Lummis (Pennsylvania)

https://edition.cnn.com/politics/live-news/washington-dc-election-riots/h_102b6c46f9c4776e2eb4541bc97a106e

Remember those names.

A peaceful transfer of power will not make this go away. Racism and hate run deep in our country, one rioter sported a tee shirt that said “Camp Auschwitz.” We must stop calling these people militia, or protesters – this is white nationalism, domestic terrorism and they must be accountable. Every act of vandalism at the Nation’s Capitol must be prosecuted to the fullest. Don’t look away.

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When my Son-in-Law came down with Covid this summer, a friend sent him a tee shirt. I could read the date 2020 on the front, but had to get a little too close to understand the imagery. He happily told me, “It’s a picture of a dumpster fire!”

He is a Critical Care doctor, and his friend is an ER doctor.

No one was prepared for a worldwide pandemic; I thought we should stock up on a two week supply of canned goods. Then the weeks just rolled on, like a snowball becoming an avalanche with millions infected. And in order to care for one another, we were told to wear a mask and stay home.

My husband Bob, the grandson of a tailor, converted a corner of our living room into a mask making operation. My kitchen island became a cutting station. We tore up tee shirts and ordered fun fabrics online – a Star Wars mask for our grandson, and a Scrabble mask for his sister.

Then he offered free masks to all our neighbors on Next Door. Kind friends donated fabric to the cause and we met new neighbors. He made special masks for children and masks to cover special hospital masks. Then a funny thing started happening.

Chris dropped off two ingenious mask holders to keep around our necks that her sister had made.

MaryAnn started a rotating book club, and later a traveling cocktail hour – in gardens, all socially distanced.

Ellen brought us peaches.

Linda hosted an Oktoberfest under her carport.

Sheila gave me a beautiful floral mask, Skip brought us cake, and Yoko baked us bread.

Berdelle hand delivered the most beautiful white iris when we lost Ada. It had  bloomed for a second time in her winter garden.

In the midst of a seemingly endless semi-quarantine, the words of my Nana came back to me: “Throw your bread out on the water and it will come back with jelly on it.” I didn’t know that one small act of kindness would come back with honey and maple cream too.

And because Time, this year, has had a way of meandering, slowing us down, chiseling away at our essence, I’ve come to believe that there is no such thing as a small act of kindness. Every single deliberate act – every loaf of sourdough bread, every delivery of a meal to an overwhelmed Covid ICU, or pizzas to the Bride’s ER, anytime we stop to talk to a neighbor walking her dog – becomes multiplied exponentially.

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It’s been raining here in Nashville. Not a soft rain, but windy downpours that make dogs cower in doorways. Ms Bean never liked walking in the rain, and since she received a new LL Bean orthopedic dog bed for Hanukkah this year, she’d rather curl up into her burrito pose and snooze. That familiar pup snore immediately makes me want a nap, so things are getting off to a slow start here for 2021.

We lost our AT&T internet for three days after the Christmas Day bombing that wasn’t an act of terrorism. I’m still not so sure about that, but y’all know I love a good linguistic fight. If that man from Antioch had been a Muslim, it would have been labeled terrorism. If he had been Black? Well then BLM would have been assumed to be his ideology, and it would have been labeled terrorism. But he was a 62 year old White guy, a native Nasvillian, and believe me there are not many natives left who can afford to live here anymore.

The bomber seems to have been concocting this scheme for over a year. His girlfriend reported him to the police last August, but you know she was deemed suicidal, not credible, and he never opened his door to the police who tried to investigate. Dead end. Here’s a good question: where does our individual right to privacy intersect with the public’s right to safety? Again, IF he had been a person of color, and the police were told he was building bombs in his RV, would a judge have issued a search warrant last year? You betcha!

We stayed home on Christmas day because we had no idea if there was another bomber. We didn’t know it was a suicide. People called and texted, and luckily our cell service is Verizon, we weren’t entirely cut off from the world. Then, just as Bob and I were getting caught up on the news, when our TV started working and I could open my laptop and fire up the newspapers, I heard a CNN news commentator discussing the motivation of the bomber. It seems this guy believed in some “conspiracy theory.” With a perfectly straight face, the anchor said:

“He believed that politicians and Hollywood celebrities were reptilian aliens trying to take over the country!”

This was CNN, not FOX!

Well isn’t that a fitting end to the year we’d all like to forget? I threw up my hands in disbelief and started yelling at Bob, “He was crazy!” Honestly, poor Ms Bean came running in full protection mode. But I was beside myself. When a trusted news outlet like CNN airs a piece about a suicide bomber in Nashville believing in conspiracy theories (well maybe Marcia Blackburn is slightly lizard-like) with the same amount of interest and intensity as he may have said Mrs So and So won the pie contest at the county fair, our country is in trouble.

Because words DO matter. Conspiracy theories have been around since we first learned to write on stones. But now, with social media, they can spread exponentially. A guy can walk into a pizza parlor in DC with a gun. And Mr T can say that Q is concerned about pedophilia with a straight face. In fact, we’ve elected two Q-believing representatives.

“What started three years ago as a conspiracy theory born on the internet’s dark fringes has moved into the mainstream with candidates like Greene espousing and promoting QAnon theories and phrases as they seek political office on a major party ticket. QAnon’s main theories claim that dozens of politicians and A-list celebrities work in tandem with governments around the globe to engage in child sex abuse. Followers also believe there is a “deep state” effort to thwart President Donald Trump. Another QAnon theory is that Trump will arrest all his wrongdoers like Hillary Clinton and send them to Guantanamo Bay. There is no evidence for these claims.”

https://www.cnn.com/2020/08/12/politics/qanon-congressional-candidates/index.html

During this pandemic year, when we are all semi-isolated and stuck in our homes, conspiracy theories are ripe to infect vulnerable minds; ridiculous aka CRAZY notions are bound to take root. We’ve had four years of governing by presidential Tweet, and reTweeting of false narratives. Now, the coronavirus has a new, mutant highly contagious strain. President-Elect Biden has a hard road ahead of him. I’d like to suggest we start by calling out these conspiracy theories as lies and delusions.

I’d like to think this weather is like the wind before a storm of political credibility and sane public health policy. Happy New Year!

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When Bob and I were newly married, his mother Ada would invariably be the first to call me on Christmas morning. She knew her son would be working in the ER, like all other non-Christian emergency doctors, and that I would be left home alone. We lived in the Berkshire Mountains then, and she admitted she would worry about me.

If you knew Ada, you would know that she needed to worry about someone almost all the time. Worrying was her business, it was her calling card for a career in marriage and family counseling. I would tell her she didn’t have to worry about me, that I came from strong Irish stock, that I didn’t mind being alone on Christmas because I was raised an “only” child. She would listen, and worry anyway.

Memories are always elusive. I remember being dressed up pretty in plaid, with saddle shoes and bows. I don’t have a lot of Christmas morning pictures. In one, I’m wheeling around a kitchen on my first tricycle. In another, I’m looking bleary eyed in a new chenille robe. Look at me in front of the tree, holding up yet another half-slip from an elderly aunt in Washington!

I’m pretty sure my holidays were spent going back and forth across the Delaware Water Gap to visit my family of origin. I was lucky, I had two trees and two Christmases!  

By the time I married Bob, I was a lapsed Catholic. I wasn’t even recovering because I’d converted to Judaism. I wanted any future children to have a strong, faith-based education – none of this ‘pick what you want as an adult’ business. But during my year of three miscarriages in1983, I longed for the pomp and prayers of the Catholic faith. If I couldn’t count on my body anymore, where was my faith? Where was God when I needed her/him most?

Ada must have sensed my suffering. Everyone said I’d have another baby, don’t worry about it, try again. But I became fearful of driving and stayed home with the Love Bug. If I couldn’t trust my own body, why should I trust anyone else? Every Christmas morning all I could hear were guns in the woods – deer poachers.

Yesterday morning my sister Kay was the first to call bright and early She’d been drinking her coffee and listening to the radio and wanted to make sure we were OK -the Nashville explosion was all over the news. We didn’t know very much but it woke me up out of a dead sleep around 6:30 am. Our city farmhouse is just a mile north of downtown.

I’ve watched the smoke from the Twin Towers billow down the shipping lanes, now we could smell the fire from a bomb that was detonated in an RV outside of the AT&T building. It was “intentional”, Mayor Cooper said, when we could still watch the news, before we lost our (AT&T) internet. All connectivity is gone in our socially distanced and isolated world. It’s been eerily quiet, too quiet today.

Who would do something like this on the holiest day of the Christian calendar?

At least I wasn’t alone. Since Bob has retired I’m no longer flying solo on Christmas. And this year, Ada isn’t here to call me. She can’t worry about the terrorist bombing, or her granddaughter being exposed to Covid whenever she puts on her ER doctor’s coat. Losing Ada this year, of all years, was devastating. No funeral, only a graveside service with no more than 20. The grief just simmering beneath the surface, available to any moment.   

My Mother-in-Law Ada was my last mother. My Foster Mother, Nell died suddenly when I was pregnant with the Bride. The Flapper died when the Bride was in high school. Love and loss inextricably bound.

Sending virtual hugs to everyone who lost a loved one this year, and wishing all my friends, and family of readers a healthy and peaceful New Year. Hoping you know that we are never really alone.

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This is the dawning of the end of coronavirus! The Moderna vaccine has been approved and is being distributed, plus today the Groom will receive his Pfizer shot in the arm. Nobody deserves it more than our tireless healthcare workers; I’ve loved watching pictures pop up in my social media feed of all the Bride and Groom’s colleagues rolling up their sleeves. Just as the great state of Tennessee has lurched into first place in one “key pandemic metric:”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Tennessee is first for average daily cases per 100,000 people over the past seven days… Tennessee sits at an average of 129.4. Oklahoma is ranked at a distant second with an average of 98. That national average is 64.8.”

Bob estimates that one out of every 30 people walking around TN is currently contagious with coronavirus! Yikes! After spending 40 weeks in virtual quarantine, we’d all like to get out and about right now, but we need to hold on for a bit longer. I, for one, do not want to be the last person to contract this disease right before it is eradicated.

So I am not heading out to the mall for any last minute shopping. We are not eating on heated and tented restaurant patios, because what’s the point of that? The flow of air would be the same as if we were inside a restaurant. I just may do curbside pick-up of Thai food for Christmas! Our family balletic tradition had to be altered slightly this year; the Nashville Ballet’s Nutcracker was almost as beautiful on TV this past weekend, as it was over the years at the TN Performing Arts Center. Although we couldn’t feel the snow.

But we all can safely witness a spectacular celestial event by just walking outside our doors tonight at sundown and gazing into the southwestern sky. Tonight is the Winter Solstice, marking the longest night of the year – or as I like to call it, the beginning of longer daylight hours! And if the clouds stay away, we should be able to see the “Great Conjunction” of Jupiter and Saturn, coming so close to each other that they resemble one giant Christmas star.

“It’s been nearly 400 years since the planets passed this close to each other in the sky, and nearly 800 years since the alignment of Saturn and Jupiter occurred at night, as it will for 2020, allowing nearly everyone around the world to witness this “great conjunction.”

The closest alignment will appear just a tenth of a degree apart and last for a few days. On the 21st, they will appear so close that a pinkie finger at arm’s length will easily cover both planets in the sky. The planets will be easy to see with the unaided eye by looking toward the southwest just after sunset.”

https://www.nasa.gov/feature/the-great-conjunction-of-jupiter-and-saturn

While some people think this may have been what happened in Bethlehem, when wise men were led to a certain manger, this is not actually Matthew’s Star from that Gospel. Scholars can’t pinpoint the actual birth of Jesus Christ – our late December date may be off by six years! Also astronomical events can happen frequently, so who knows how the stars were aligned in the first century.

Still, tonight’s the night! Two planets will shine as one giant star, and we are turning a corner in this pandemic. We have just one month before a rational, sane man will assume the Office of the Presidency. Things are looking up!

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Tonight is the last night of Hanukkah. and since the Grands are on the road for a well-needed weekend getaway, we’ll probably have a quiet evening with the Crown on Netflix. Later, I’ll light up all eight candles in our kitschy, electric Menorah, an artifact of the 70s. Steven Fine, an author and director of the Yeshiva University Center for Israel Studies, has a special interest in the symbolism of menorahs:

Becoming not only Judaism’s oldest symbol, but also the Western world’s oldest continuously used religious symbol, the menorah once stood in the Holy Temple of Jerusalem. The seven-branched candelabrum (nine-branched for Hanukkah) has been a source of fascination and illumination for Jews, Samaritans, Christians and also Freemasons for three millennia.

I love menorahs and I love light and I love objects and I love text, and they all have to go together to get me really excited. And when they do, its really almost a moment of revelation.

https://www.timesofisrael.com/7-facts-about-menorahs-the-most-enduring-symbol-of-the-jewish-people/

I love my menorah too! Yes, there are nine branches and only eight nights, but that’s because one special, usually taller candle is used to light all the others – called the “shamash;” I remember because when pronounced a bit differently, it means James in Irish!

Our holiday cards are in the mail and we’re all masked up! In fact, the Groom is in his Covid ICU space suit. In a year of dramatic differences, I’ve noticed my friends are all doing the holiday season a little differently. Some have opted not to put up a Christmas tree at all, or they’ve replaced the big one for a smaller version. Others have gone all out with outside lights and blow-up snowmen. I used to find a small fir tree at Whole Foods for the Groom to put up, since my daughter always worked that day like her Dad, and I knew he’d need a little Christmas when the Grands were babies.

Last weekend, he and the Bug picked out a similar, smaller tree and decorated it with many of those original tiny, wooden, non-denominational ornaments, but she has put in her order for a bigger conifer next year! So, this is their last baby tree I guess.

It’s almost a “laissez faire” kind of holiday season. It’s as if we’ve all adopted a communal policy of non-interference in private conduct and individual freedom – and/or governmental affairs. It literally means to “allow to act,” or if laissez faire were a song, “Let It Be” would come to mind. Some people think the virus is a hoax so they refuse to wear masks, well I refuse to hold onto my anger anymore. If they want to go to Costco showing their face, great, I’ll get a Shipt order. Or, Mr T is still ranting and raving about a rigged election? That’s nice, it doesn’t bother me.

You’re not baking a bunch of cookies this year? That’s just fine, you do you! I made almost 50 mini-pumpkin muffins yesterday simply because the Love Bug gave me a bottle of pumpkin spice blend! Maybe I’m just tired of the political and personal chaos. I feel that whatever gets us through this year is good; I never actually Marie Kondoed my closets… even though every day I woke up thinking, “This will be the day!”

Today was the day I wanted to call Great Grandma Ada. The Bride got her first shot of the Pfizer vaccine this afternoon! She found out she received a placebo in the Moderna study. Yesterday her shift in the ER was filled with Covid patients. I wanted to cry, with happiness, with relief. I can see the light in the darkness, I can believe in miracles. The Groom will receive his vaccine at Vandy on Monday. Better it couldn’t be.

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