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

It’s pumpkin patch fever in Nashville. The Farmer’s Market is filled with mums of every color and you can walk through an actual pumpkin house at Cheekwood Gardens. Tomorrow they will host the Halloween Pooch Parade! But yesterday, since Great Grandma Ada is visiting with cousin Nancy, we loaded up the grandkids and a wheelchair to stroll along the serpentine path of unique scarecrows as the sun descended through cypress trees. https://cheekwood.org

One scarecrow was dressed entirely in plastic water bottles, another was dressed like William Shakespeare covered with some of his famous quotes! One had a skirt made from crayons, and next to it stood an imposing black crow. One urged us to be the change we wanted to see in the world!

Civic organizations throughout the county sponsored each art installation, and I could imagine an Impressionist painter capturing the afternoon scene of families weaving through scarecrows in dappled light.

Late last night I foolishly wanted to catch up with the news I’d been missing since my travels to Minnesota. General Kelly’s speech, in defense of Mr T, was front and center and actually made my stomach churn. Making calls to Gold Star families is not something presidents should be doing. And why on earth would Congresswoman Frederica Wilson listen in on such a conversation? He was blaming the messenger, calling this Black woman who is a friend of the family, an “empty barrel.” We heard nothing about Niger and why these brave soldiers died in the first place. http://www.newsweek.com/niger-trumps-benghazi-four-us-soldiers-died-and-it-took-him-12-days-respond-688082

The soldiers killed in Niger were part of a 12-man team of Green Berets, training Nigerian soldiers in a remote part of the country. These soldiers belonged to the Third Special Forces group based out of Fort Bragg, North Carolina.

As they were leaving a meeting with local community leaders on October 4, they were ambushed by roughly 50 fighters believed to be linked to ISIS (Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, or AQIM, is also active in the surrounding region).

The soldiers were driving unarmored pickup trucks and immediately returned fire. The firefight reportedly lasted roughly 30 minutes. It was eventually broken up via French air support and the soldiers were evacuated with helicopters.

At first only three soldiers were reported killed in action. One was separated from the group and found two days after the ambush by Nigerian forces. The Pentagon isn’t talking about this, the talk is all about how Mr T frames his Twitter feed. How he points his little finger at President Obama. How these soldiers knew what they were signing up for….

Sometimes I feel like I am walking through a nightmare of scarecrows, only they are real men, dressed in suits and trotted out to defend the indefensible.

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I was going to write about my trip to Minnesota. I was going to write about feeling like a kid again with my big brother and sister. I was going to write about minimalism…https://www.netflix.com/title/80114460

“People dedicated to rejecting the American ideal that things bring happiness are interviewed in this documentary showing the virtues of less is more.”

But because of the latest Hollywood scandal involving Harvey Weinstein, my Facebook feed yesterday became a communal confession from friends and family. Women I know and love proclaiming that they too, at one or maybe more times in their lives, had been sexually assaulted. I was sitting in the MN airport at my Nashville gate, feeling the love and courage of these women, and so I typed into my smart phone #MeToo

The first time when I was playing alone in the woods across the street from Nell and Jim’s Victory Garden’s home. I had jerry-rigged a seesaw with a tree trunk and a rock when I looked down the hill to a car that was slowing down. The man had his pants down around his ankles, we locked eyes and he sped off. I used to think that maybe I’d imagined it, because I was too young to understand it.

The second time I was about ten years old. My brother’s friend offered to take me horseback riding. My brother is 7 years older, so he was either 16 0r 17. He picked me up at our house, and I was sitting in front of him on the saddle. I’m literally shaking right now typing this. He exposed himself to me. When I got home I told the Flapper what had happened, she called the police and we went to his house to confront him with his parents sitting there, in the living room.

I think they sent him away because I never saw him again. Thinking back, I learned about courage and honesty from my Mother. I knew something was wrong, I was sobbing. She believed me.

The third time I was a teenager sleeping at a friend’s house, when a guy crawled into the bed. I woke up and asked him what the hell he thought he was doing. He left.

The fourth time I was going for a test ride with a car salesman to buy my very first new car in Jersey City. I was 21, a pre-school teacher in the Fremont Street projects.

I could keep going, but you get the drift. I was never raped, but my innocence was taken away. I was never hit on by a boss, most likely because I worked as a teacher and so my supervisors were always women back in the day. And I credit my beautiful big sister Kay, who was an airline “stewardess,”  for teaching me how to handle touchy-feely guys – you tell them you are flattered, but you’ve (insert the best excuse here for why you don’t want anything to do with them). I learned early to use humor and to flatter a man’s ego, in order to keep his hands off of you.

This Weinstein story, coming on the heels of Bill Cosby, may be the tipping point for this all too common phenomenon. I believe our generation taught our sons to do better, to BE better. To respect women, and honor their wishes.

It’s ironic that I remember walking through an airport, this time in Memphis, while watching Anita Hill testify on TV monitors scattered through the gates. I felt so helpless, like a lone woman in a sea of people who couldn’t care less about her experience. Today we women hold up half the sky, and men are listening.

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Oktoberfest ended with a little rain and a lot of dachshunds! And since our friend Eli was visiting with her son Leo, we all met the Bride’s family for the Annual Dachshund Derby in Germantown. Leo decided that Nashville should be renamed “Dogland,” since dogs of every variety strolled through the park with their beer drinking masters in lederhosen. Still, watching those wiener dogs race was hilarious. http://thenashvilleoktoberfest.com/dogtoberfest/

Ms Bean was delighted to sit on the front porch and watch the canine parade go by  behind the cover of a maple tree. She has staked out her territory thankfully, and the sidewalk is safe for most breeds. Corgi puppies and Great Danes stroll right by without looking up to see her eyeing them suspiciously. After all, she is a rescue mutt, origins unknown, and she’s proud of it! She doesn’t need some set of AKC papers to know she is a prey-driven lover girl!

Unlike certain people, who require validation in order to feel good about themselves. It’s not enough to be a professional for some, your pedigree must include only “The Best” schools, “The Finest” clerkships or residencies. These are the silent judges in our midst; constantly ranking others according to some inner calculation, one they are only slightly aware of and would never admit. It’s still a Dog and Pony Show world it would seem, no matter where you go.

You can usually sniff them out, the pretentious co-mingling of class and money. It’s a primal thing I suppose, as territorial as Ms Bean and my friendly mailman. Great Grandma Ada would call this person a “Noodge.” ie Someone who is a pest, an annoying critic of your every move. It’s exactly what we are currently trying to teach the Love Bug’s toddler brother to avoid – not to whine! “You’re not whining are you?” I’ll ask him. The etymology is probably Slavic, and:

likely from Yiddish נודיען nudyen ‘to bore, pester’, נודניק nudnik ‘bore, pest’, influenced by English “nudge”  http://www.jewish-languages.org/jewish-english-lexicon/words/417

Some people become lifetime complainers; their shoulders are burdened by a ton of self-generated worry. I’m sure Freud would tell us they got stuck at that two year old developmental stage, but the latest winner of the Nobel Prize for Economics may have a different answer. Richard Thaler started applying smaller psychological theories of human behavior to influence larger changes in public policy with his “Nudge Theory!”

How do we get someone to make good decisions? Bob explained Thaler’s theory to me this way – if his company offered employees the opportunity to sign up for a 401K, he would get a small minority signing up. BUT if he automatically signed everyone up for a 401K, and told them they would have to opt out if they didn’t want to save for retirement, the large majority would participate! I guess the human species is just lazy and we all need a little “nudge” in the right direction, to avoid being a “noodge!”

As for us, the rain dampened the number of people walking into lamp posts and spilling their steins of beer. Bob only had to pick up an occasional St Pauli Girl can every morning off our stoop. Things are getting back to normal in Germantown.

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Just the other day I was talking with my brother Dr Jim and my sister Kay. We like to conference call between the Minnie Apple and the Big Apple and now the Music City. Dr Jim told us, in cleaning out a closet, he’d found the original book titled “101 Poems” that the Flapper used to read to them while they were doing chores around the house, after our Father died. There was no TV or internet, the radio was it for entertainment; that, and the human voice.

I told them how I’d recite “The Owl and The Pussycat” for the Love Bug and her brother while they climbed into a box and pretend to sail off to sea in a ‘beautiful pea green boat!’ They would look at me with wonder as the lilting, melodious words tripped off my tongue from some region in my brain that has to be reptilian. I must have loved that poem as a child, and I can imagine the Flapper after our car accident, lying on a couch with her legs post-surgery straight out in front of her, reading it to me over and over again.

Today I awoke to the memory of yesterday, to all the emotions of another terrorist act on our soil, at a country music concert. And because the gun man is white, without an apparent motive, gun nuts would like to chalk this one up to mental illness. But maybe, just maybe, this time our Congress might see through the lies of an NRA lobby, and have some bit of courage they couldn’t summon after Sandy Hook. There is NO need for our citizens to carry assault weapons that can spray death from the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay resort. NONE.

For my morning meditation I turned to poetry. Like music, words always help me cope with the unimaginable. And I found this couplet from a 1961 poem by Philip Larkin, “Ambulances”:

Sense the solving emptiness

That lies just under all we do,

And for a second get it whole

So permanent and blank and true.

If poetry is your prescription for pain, you may enjoy an anthology by William Sieghart of 56 different poems, an Rx to help process the curve balls life can throw our way titled  “The Poetry Pharmacy.” He actually tells the reader which poem to read for which ailment – anxiety or the loss of a loved one? Or do you just need to get motivated? Maybe you’re approaching the end of life, and you wonder what it’s all about…Alfie.  http://www.bbc.com/culture/story/20170927-the-words-that-can-make-us-calmer

Thoughts and prayers just don’t do it for me. I’d rather read a poem and then call Congress!

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It’s an unbelievably beautiful morning in Nashville. Crisp, Fall air has arrived along with the sunshine for my birthday. Last night we celebrated under the stars with a Nutella Napoli pizza. I was surrounded by family and everything seemed right with the world.

After all, earlier in the day Bob and I attended a River Talk at the Bridge building. It was hosted by The Cumberland River Compact; for twenty years this non-profit organization has been dedicated to the health and restoration of the river basin, “To enhance the health and enjoyment of the Cumberland River and its tributaries through education, collaboration, and action.”  https://cumberlandrivercompact.org

This particular River Talk was about their latest approach to maintaining the permeable invasive and native plants on the levee. When the Compact took over this job from the Army Corps of Engineers it was pretty wild and had been neglected. After trying a couple of conventional and expensive solutions, they’ve settled on a herd of sheep! A loyal Border Collie named Duggie, slept by his shepherd Zach as we learned all about his sustainable method of property management.

“Sheep are an especially attractive option when clearing steep, rough, swampy or otherwise difficult lots that would pose big obstacles and hazards to human crews with herbicides or motorized equipment.”  http://www.nashvillechewcrew.com

Now y’all know what an animal lover I am, so I was delighted to learn something new about the natural world and how public and private funding can work together in such a beautiful setting. Bob had already met Zach and his sheep on one of his bike rides around town, he spent almost half an hour talking with him and watching Duggie work. Later he told me that I’d love it, that “…it’s an excellent solution to the need!”

Still, when I fired up Twitter this morning after Ms Bean’s walk, I learned that the USNavy Hospital Ship Comfort is still docked in port while less than half of the people in Puerto Rico have potable water. President Clinton had to urge Mr T to deploy the ship, as if he’d forgotten how to govern while Tweeting about footballers #TakingaKnee.

Since then, the call for the Comfort has come to symbolize something larger: A call for the Pentagon to send more.

More food. More water. More generators. More aircraft.

More everything.

My heart goes out to our our friend’s son whose medical education in St Martin has been postponed, to our friends in the French West Indies, and all the people of the British and American Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico. To our dear friends in Houston and Florida. This is the exact right time to talk about Climate Change! Our stewardship of the land, sea and air is responsible for such frequent Category 5 hurricanes, and our leader seems to care less about science and more about ratings.

My birthday wish this year is simple. May our grandchildren inherit a healthier planet. Here is the view from the Bridge Building.

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Yesterday I wore a political tee shirt to the gym. I rode the bike, did some free weights and band stretching, a couple of machines and topped it all off with a T’ai Chi class. I’d forget what I was wearing until someone would smile at me, say they agreed with me, or just outright ask me where I got my shirt! I have never in my life put a bumper sticker on my car, but I walked around all day with this emblazoned on my chest:

My dog is smarter than the President

And it felt great. I even tagged my friend’s store in Nashville, “Come, Sit, Stay,” on Instagram cause I like to give credit where credit is due! And to her credit, Ms Bean is adapting to her city environment. Even though she’s a senior dog, she is learning to walk on a leash, avoid aggressive, yappy dogs, and only bark at the mail carrier, Craig, who has the audacity to come up on our front porch and make a clanging noise, every single day except Sunday, right next to the door.

Yesterday I tried introducing Bean to Craig but she was having none of it. Was it his shorts? The big bag he was carrying? Or that can of pepper spray in his pocket? Her ruff was up and her growl was low.

Our President, however, has learned nothing over his 70+ years of life. He’s become a national embarrassment. Remember when I told you Mr T wanted to buy an NFL team back in the 80s? You may find this interesting: http://www.newsweek.com/trumps-nfl-fight-dates-back-failed-usfl-experiment-80s-jeff-pearlman-670843

“They (NFL team owners) just saw him as this scumbag huckster,” Pearlman told Newsweek. “He was this New York, fast-talking, kind of con-man.”

All this nonsense about disrespecting the flag. Since when are “we the people” not allowed to protest peacefully? I went to a few NFL games back in the 80s, and no players were standing at attention during the anthem. Well, I take that back. My brother Mike would point out to me that the Vikings always stood at attention, while the other teams sat, or talked or stretched.

You don’t take on football in this country, even if you are the President, a guy who holds a grudge. You don’t call anyone’s mom the word for a female dog.

You don’t address the United Nations like a 12 year old school boy, calling countries “losers” and Kim Jong-un “Rocket Man!” Kim Jong-un called his speech a  “dog’s bark.”

You don’t threaten Iran and North Korea via Twitter like some ancient neo-con.

Lately I’ve been wondering if we should still be searching for a beach house, or building a bunker.

And I wonder how Buddha would have dealt with our mail carrier Craig. No, I know what he would have done. He would bark a couple of times, and eventually figure out he wasn’t a threat to his territory. Buddha would get himself up, walk over to the door, and watch the whole transaction very carefully.

But dogs are smart like that. They know when to bark and who to bite.

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When I was young, and didn’t want to eat something the Flapper served at the dinner table, she would happily chirp, “Good! All the more for us!” She was all about the Freudian theory of opposites, and she thought if she just played up how great a new dish was, my defense would fold and I’d give in to her exceptional strategy. Sometimes it worked!

Which is why I was intrigued with an essay written by Andrew Wilkinson on his tactic of reversing his To-Do-List at work; he applied the theory of opposites by turning his goals upside down and became immeasurably happier. “He wanted to figure out how to improve his day and make it more enjoyable. So, he followed the lead of Charlie Munger, right-hand man of famed investor Warren Buffet, and a proponent of ‘inversion’ – a strategy that looks at problems in reverse, focusing on minimising the negatives instead of maximising the positives.” http://www.bbc.com/capital/story/20170919-the-power-of-a-not-to-do-list

Last night, as I was explaining simply what the Jewish New Year meant to me while the 5 and “almost” 3 year old partially listened, it dawned on me that I wanted to start off the year 5778 with a new angle. I promised myself I’d try and look for the silver lining when things go south, I’d apply my Pippy Longstocking pigtails to every new challenge. I’d learn something new.

Just imagine making your New Year resolutions, only this time God has his Book open and he’s writing down everything you’re putting on your To-Do-List, making Rosh Hashana a kind of spiritual reckoning that ends at Yom Kippur and you better have confessed all your sins by that time.

“What’s a sin?” the Love Bug asked. I mumbled something about not listening…

So I thought about changing my resolutions, my intention to “do Better” infers that I haven’t been doing enough, right? What if I chose to make this the year I employ some “Anti-Goals?” Like Wilkinson, who stopped meeting with people he didn’t like, stopped holding morning meetings altogether, and never scheduled more than 2 hours of his workday, I might just say “No” now and then. I wonder how he dealt with his emails?

Let’s all try and reverse our thinking for a day, a week or maybe even a year. Let’s just put the wrong shoe on the right foot for once and walk around like a toddler not caring one iota! What will bring you more joy in the New Year? Let’s all make our very own “Not-To-Do-List!”

Happy Birthday to the World and I promise never to stop fighting for climate science education, because otherwise our great-grandchildren will have to populate another planet and start over. And I’m not so sure God would start out with “Let there be Light” again, since we didn’t listen the first time.

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