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A disaster happened when Bob and I first went to Vegas. It was December 10, 1992. I remember thinking I wanted to see the big rodeo that was happening right outside of town. I loved riding horses in summer camp and didn’t really gamble, and Bob doesn’t drink, so what’s to do? Plus, the big shows were mostly still in development. I had tagged along last minute for a 4 day medical conference and we had arranged for Bob’s secretary to mind the kids back home on the Jersey Shore.

When we woke up the next morning to a reporter on TV standing in floodwaters above his knees in Sea Bright, NJ, I started to panic. Our home was in Rumson, right across the drawbridge from that sand spit scattered with beach clubs and bars. The Shore was being pounded by a so-called “No Name Storm” because nobody saw it coming. We got through to the babysitter. She told us the painters had left? We had a group of Irish guys still painting the finished kitchen renovation and family room… we had just moved into the MidCentury Modern house in September.

“…the strong northeast portion of the nor’easter affected New Jersey for several days,[5] producing strong winds and record high tides.[14] Wind gusts reached 80 mph (130 km/h) in Cape May, which were the strongest winds in association with the storm. Sustained winds were around 30 mph (48 km/h) in the region.[2] High winds in Atlantic City destroyed the windows of storefronts.[15] Along the Jersey coast, the nor’easter produced waves of up to 25 ft (7.6 m) in height.[2] About 25 mi (40 km) offshore Long Branch, waves reached heights of 44 ft (13 m).[“

But it wasn’t the waves that worried us, it was the high tide that came right into our house from the Shrewsbury River. This was the 100 year flood our realtor had told us about and luckily we had flood insurance. But I wasn’t worrying about the house, I wanted to get back to my children, the Bride was 13 and the Rocker was 8. All of the NY Metro area airports were closed.

You can see why I have mixed feelings about Vegas. Most of you know the rest of this story – the fireman friend who rescued the kids, the reunion a few days later when flights started up again. We returned to Vegas once, after the kids were grown, and I still felt slightly disoriented. The fake Eiffel Tower. The huge Cirque du Soleil shows. We managed to stay at Mandalay Bay where you could sit on a fake beach. My only respite was booking a Canyon Ranch spa day.

I was thinking about the Mandalay Bay during the disastrous Democratic debate this week in Vegas. It sits at the far end of the Strip, and was the epicenter of one of the worst mass shootings in our country’s history; 58 people killed and 850 injured at a country music festival. In September of 2017, JUST 3 YEARS AGO, a 64 year old maniac checked into that hotel with a garrison of weapons (23 guns and thousands of rounds of ammunition) and because he was such a good customer, the hotel gave him his room for free. https://www.businessinsider.com/timeline-shows-exactly-how-the-las-vegas-massacre-unfolded-2018-9

One of the candidates mentioned, in an aside, that Bernie had been protecting gun manufacturers, but it was immediately glossed over. Was it Biden? Why didn’t the moderators manage to bring up this public health epidemic that kills 100 people a day in this country…how can you talk about healthcare and NOT go there?

Soon we will know what Nevada thinks about the front-runners. Did Elizabeth resurrect her campaign by going after the Trump stand-in (Bloomberg)? Is Mayor Pete actually relatable and not an automaton? Do you think Bernie, an angry, old man, can beat Trump? And did Amy seal her fate by trying to speak in Spanish? I don’t have to have a beer with somebody to know if they’re authentic, smart and competent.

When flood waters rush in, I only have to know if you’ll be there with sand bags, and hot chocolate.  IMG_7182

 

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This morning I came across an article about the old Mid-Life Crisis, for our kids’ generation. It’s not what Boomers would consider a crisis – you don’t leave your wife and children, lose 20 pounds and buy a Porsche. It’s a more nuanced place, when today’s 40-50 year old couple hits the pinnacle of their careers, they have two kids and two dogs and maybe a Peloton in the family room. But they wake up one morning wondering if they could have had more, or done something differently.

Taffy Brodesser-Akner writes eloquently about today’s rough patch in her book Fleishman is in Trouble.  https://forge.medium.com/welcome-to-the-new-midlife-crisis-6ad07840a503

“First, the people who reported having an age-related crisis in their forties or fifties were also highly likely to have reported dissatisfaction or anxiety in their younger years as well. If you are besieged with self-doubt at midlife, in other words, it is most likely not your first existential rodeo.

And second, the stereotypical midlife crisis is a luxury. No more than 10% to 20% of middle-aged people go through one,… It takes privilege to chuck everything and start anew.”

I always told Bob he’s not allowed to have a Mid-Life Crisis because he went to Woodstock, and really, enough is enough. We’ve weathered lots of storms, moves to different states, rebellious teens, Bob’s back, shoulder and neck surgeries, and even my bout with West Nile. Talk about an existential crisis.

I had to smile the other night when John Meacham asked a group of scholars “What keeps you up at night?”

“Viruses,” Carl Zimmer said!

Zimmer was the most entertaining panelist, a journalist who writes about science and even has a tapeworm named after him! He has written many books and currently writes the column, “MATTER” for the New York Times.

Bob reminded me, in that Vanderbilt auditorium surrounded by really old people and really, really young students (presumably because mid-lifers were home putting their kids to bed), that Zimmer was the son of a former Representative from our old district in NJ. “Carl Zimmer’s father is Dick Zimmer, a Republican politician from New Jersey, who was a member of the U.S. House of Representatives from 1991 to 1997.”

I thought about our home in Rumson, NJ, about living on a tributary with a tide ebbing and flowing into our backyard, and mosquitoes. Lots and lots of mosquitoes.

I was writing for The Two River Times then, I was Forty-Something. And if you’ve been following me for awhile you know where this is going.  I like to think my tiny column for the paper helped to unseat the elder Zimmer after he voted to allow the Assault Weapon Ban to expire. I asked my readers how he could look at himself in the mirror every morning.

The Vanderbilt Chancellor’s Lecture Series was addressing, “2020 and Beyond: Tackling Global Issues in the Decades to Come.”  Most of the conversation onstage was about Climate Change. Meacham began with, “Are facts out of fashion?” The other two academics pointed out that OUR very own EPA Climate Change web page has been erased! If you search for it you’ll find a notice that says, “The information you are looking for is not here” and you are directed to the archives!!

How can we address Climate Change or viruses when we have a Climate Denier in the White House? How can we possibly reduce global greenhouse gases by 50% in 15 years?

2020 will be a “Rough Patch” for our country. But I believe in good journalism and our Constitution. Facts are funny things that will take down Republicans seen lying on TV, lying and obfuscating all week at the Impeachment Hearings – “Clouding real facts with a miasma of falsity,” the Vandy Writer-in-Residence said.

George Washington helped us forge this great nation, and Abraham Lincoln helped heal our still seeping wound of slavery. A Leader will appear to guide us through this collective Mid-Life Crisis. I have to believe as Brodesser-Akner said about mid-life:

“To mature is to accept one’s role as both a person with pain and one with strength to endure it. It is the ability to say to oneself or to those we love: I see you. I hear you. I will sit here with you until it passes, as all things must.

The view out my kitchen window of our hawk in the city.

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The birds are disappearing!

North America has lost a quarter of its bird population in the last 50 years! That’s a loss of nearly 3 Billion birds in just half a century, and according to the National Audubon study, it’s not the exotic types that are vanishing:

“…the most ubiquitous birds have been the hardest hit. “The common wisdom was that we’d see the rare and threatened species disappearing and the common, human-adapted ones taking over,” Rosenberg says. Instead, his team found that 90 percent of the missing birds came from just 12 families, and that they were all familiar, perchy, cheepy things such as sparrows, warblers, blackbirds, finches, larks, starlings, and swallows… It’s as if all birds are canaries, and the entire world their coal mine.”  https://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2019/09/america-has-lost-quarter-its-birds-fifty-years/598318/

Now most of you know that I love birds. I used to feed them all the time until we moved to the mountains of Virginia and decided they had enough food in the wild and I didn’t need to attract bears to my backyard.

I’ve recently hung a hummingbird feeder on the urban farmhouse porch without much success, but I’ve been told by a friend they are currently migrating and I might have better luck luring those tiny, iridescent, super fast babies in the Spring. For now, we listen to mourning doves coo to each other in our garden.

When we lived in the Berkshire Mountains, and the kids were little, I’d have wild guinea hens under my feeder, and whole families of cardinals would romp around our home on the edge of an actual bird sanctuary. While Grandma Ada was collecting blue birds in all shapes and sizes, I started collecting glass cardinals as my lucky, totem bird.

Grandpa Hudson carved a cardinal into the top of our family totem pole when we moved back to New Jersey. And though I could hear them foraging in the early morning hours, I became a fan of the abundant shore birds I saw migrating over our swamp wetlands. Herons and egrets sailed like ships across our low-slung Rumson ranch house out to the river at daybreak and dusk.

Woodpeckers performed like precision drillers across our Virginia valley when we built a small house with a view of the Blue Ridge. Their rat-a-tat noise would ricochet between the ridges as they searched for food. One day I sat in my car for an hour watching two pileated woodpeckers attack a log in the driveway. We knew them by the singular way they would fly, as if their substantial heft made them descend a little bit with every wing stroke. They skipped across the sky.

I would never keep a bird in the house, in a cage. Don’t judge me, I just couldn’t.

Today, if you are walking out of school or work to protest our climate crisis I salute you! Because it’s a world-wide problem that is calling for some extraordinary solutions.

It’s not just about carbon – though we must address that. We are living comfortably with just one car, walking more isn’t just healthy for us, it’s helping the environment. But deforestation causes 11% of global greenhouse gas emissions, equal to vehicular emissions. https://www.conservation.org/stories/11-climate-change-facts-you-need-to-know

It’s not just about the sea rising and glaciers melting – a significant reason for human migration. Where will Miami be in 10 years, or Sea Bright, NJ for that matter? In our Southern city, government has decided to pay property owners to move out of flood zones! Which is good, cause my grand dogs were swimming in their flooded basement when the Bride and Groom first moved here in 2010. https://www.nytimes.com/2019/07/06/climate/nashville-floods-buybacks.html

And it’s not just about the birds and the bees!

Thank you to Greta Thunberg, a 16 year old Swedish climate activist who saw what Parkland students did to mobilize gun reform after a massacre at their school. They started a revolution because gun violence in our country is an URGENT problem. And just look what they have started with AR-15 manufacturers, Colt suspended rifle production for civilians! : https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-49766257

We also need to sign the Paris Agreement now. Greta asks us to listen to the scientists, because Climate Change should be a global, URGENT priority!

Republican tactics of denial, delay, and disinformation will no longer be tolerated. But don’t just walk out of school this morning – after your #ClimateStrike today students, register to vote if you will turn 18 by next November. Our birds and our fish and our future are depending on you.

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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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Slapping a 25% tariff on American made motorcycles and pigs is just one repercussion of China’s knee-jerk reaction to the Clown Rodeo we call Mr T’s government. When are all his lawyers going to jump out of a tiny Smart Car and yell, “We’re fired!” at the top of their lungs?

Iowa, Michigan and Florida have some heavy thinking to do after POTUS’s latest missteps. Because it’s not just Harleys, but our auto industry and our delectable orange crop that may be impacted! But hey, the Market was sinking today, so maybe somebody is paying attention? Which is why I’d rather talk about The Year of the Bird! And in particular, one of my favorites, the Owl!

Some nights in VA, Bob and I would wake up to the sound of two owls hooting at each other from opposite ends of our property. The sound is like nothing you’ve ever heard, it’s not really a “hoot,” it’s more like a shrill announcement, “Look at me! I have the best tree available in the forest!” And it sounds more like “Who cooks for you?” I guess the way to a man’s heart is really through his…. http://www.audubon.org/news/learn-identify-five-owls-their-calls

If you’ve noticed these sounds at night this month, it’s because raptors (of which owls are a part) have been nesting early due to Climate Change. It’s so incredible to think of all the slight, small changes we have come to believe are the “New Normal.” Our semantics helps us devalue the incredible changes we’ve been experiencing…there are climate “deniers,” not delusional Republicans who value their shareholders more than they value their future progeny.

It takes a long time to raise a baby hawk or owl to the size at which it can fend for itself. Even though both parents are hunting for and feeding them, such large birds grow slowly. So by beginning to nest early, the hawks and owls fledge their young by the time spring arrives. This is just about the time young rodents and rabbits are leaving their nests in great numbers. The young birds, ‘though inexperienced in catching their own meals, have a lot of potential prey to make their hunting a bit easier and their survival more likely. 

But what about our young? Will our Great Grands have to learn to live in an entirely different climate? Or maybe a different planet? Will seasons disappear from certain continents? Will redheads become extinct because of the inevitable heat? My only hope is that the Blue Wave will actually wash ashore this November. I’ve done my best to register voters in TN, and I think the younger generation has figured out the shell game commonly known as politics.

While the Northeast braces for more snow, we here in Nashville are experimenting with a rather “normal” Spring. It’s been cold and rainy for days, which is wonderful when we think about those many days of 90+ degrees to come. We may need a Super Hero to save the day! As my L’il Pumpkin says, “I like it cold!” So do I baby, so do I.

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Is this the Year of the Dog, or the Year of the Bird? Last night, a gorgeous picture of a Boykin Spaniel popped up on my Instagram. Liver colored, with soulful eyes, droopy ears and curly fur, it looked just like my very first dog. She was the sweetest, most lovable creature ever, although maybe everyone’s first love takes on a special significance over time.

The Boykin’s photo was courtesy of a National Geographic photographer I’m following who is shooting a series called the #yearofthedogs. His name is Vincent J Musi, “…a trusted friend to animals everywhere.” He doesn’t just capture their distinct personalities, he tells you a little bit about his encounter – like how much the dog may have drooled, while noting that he’s also drooled back in the day. It’s a witty and wonderful start (or end) to any day!

Meanwhile, in the middle of my Monday, I found myself at the Animal Hospital with the Bride and Groom’s older dog, the much loved G-man. I just happened to be playing super heroes with our L’il Pumpkin when I noticed Mr G really digging into one of his paws. Upon closer inspection there was blood on his dew claw; so without further adieu, we headed to the Vet. At that point the Love Bug came home from school and wanted to keep us company.

Her level of empathy is amazing for a 5 year old.

I’ll dispense with the gory details, Mr G is now wearing the cone of shame to keep him from tearing off his bandaged leg. The hardest part will be keeping the new puppy from trying to attack him, um play with him. Maybe I should visit our friend Robin’s pet store, “Come, Sit, Stay” to find Mr G a special treat?

What is it about dogs? Almost every picture I have of me as a child has me standing next to, or holding a dog. The Flapper’s first child, my half-sister Shirley, the one I never knew, used to raise Welsh Corgis. Of all the dogs in the AKC, I too chose Corgis to adore when my children were little, never knowing that Shirley felt the same way. German Shepherd dogs hold a special place in my heart, and let’s face it, ANY and ALL rescues, like Ms Bean and G-Man.

My niece Lynn breeds the regal Scottish Deerhound, a breed known for their sweet temperament. She’s in that category of Best in Show dogs, traveling the country with a plethora of hounds in the back seats. Come to think of it, Shirley’s daughter Karen loves to travel with her canine companions too! Hmm, now that’s a children’s book!

Every other dog you meet in Nashville is a Frenchie! I loved Musi’s photo of a French Bulldog named Larry, who is friendly in a “take over the world” kind of way. Y’all know my Francophile ways, so a Frenchie might just fit with us whenever and where ever the wind blows. Having one pup in a city townhouse is enough for now.

But I digress, because I was wondering about 2018 now that we are 3 months in, and it seems that this isn’t the Year of the Dog, even though I’m a dog addict. It’s the “Year of the Bird!”

“National Geographic, National Audubon Society, Cornell Lab of Ornithology, BirdLife International, and more than 100 organizations join forces for 12 months of storytelling and science to examine how our changing environment is impacting birds around the globe.”

However, I wasn’t entirely wrong because according to the Chinese calendar 2018 is the Year of the Dog! Loosely translated we should all have “prosperous wealth.” I’m OK with that, because a house isn’t a home until it’s covered in fur. Maybe my next post will be about birds, and the way Ms Bean just plucked one out of the air!? Happy Birding everyone!

Awwww poor G-Man.

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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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