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The other day I took my first Barre class at the local YMCA. There was no actual ballet bar in this oasis of a yoga-type studio, surrounded by intense gym dudes lifting weights to blaring music. But we did have mats and discs and tiny yoga balls, plus an amazing teacher who told us it was her 47th birthday, although I could have sworn she was 27! It was the hardest exercise class I’ve ever done, hands (and knees) down, and that’s saying alot; still, I persisted!

And today I can almost walk without pain.

What is it about approaching a big birthday number that makes us want to turn back time just a little? Before my 60th birthday I started dyeing my hair red. Thankfully, I gave up on that one. Now as the big seven OH is approaching, I thought I might address my wrinkles. I didn’t mind those pesky lines when they were only horizontal, but the vertical intersections make me look mad all the time.

No, no knife work thank you, still I’d heard about this thing called Retin A cream, the kind you need a prescription for, so in the Fall I made an appointment with a dermatologist. I needed to find a new doc anyway, after moving, to check my skin/barnacles for cancer every year and deal with the Guttate Psoriasis that appeared ten years ago. Cut to a few weeks ago. I mentioned this wonder cream to my attractive young derm doc, aren’t they all, and she said without skipping a beat –

“We don’t do fillers.”

Fillers? Do I need fillers? What are fillers? Am I too late to the self-care party? The doctor explained that she doesn’t actually do cosmetic work at this facility, but she will do restorative work. I started to feel like an old car, or maybe an antique piece of furniture; the kind you don’t want to scrape the paint off because it would effect the value on the Antiques Roadshow. Just get it professionally cleaned.

I walked out with an Rx for the miracle cream I was to put on my face at night (Tretinoin Cream 0.025%) and some kind of moisturizer for my whole body which Medicare would pay for? (Ammonium Lact 12%) to use every morning. My face started to burn, I began to look like Strawberry Shortcake who was crumbling and peeling away. Every time I saw the Bride she’d say, “Mom what’s wrong with you? Your skin is scabby.” Luckily, my smart young ER doc told me to only use it three times a week. I forgot I still have red-headed skin.

Why are we women so hard on ourselves and aging? Who the heck ages gracefully? I aspire to age like Helen Mirren, not Jane Fonda. I’d like my face to register surprise when I see something surprising. That doesn’t mean Megan Kelly can throw shade at Fonda for not wanting to discuss her facelifts. There’s something just a little bit “mean girl” about Kelly. Besides, I bet she gets Botox shots.

I read an article that says little girls become accustomed to being addressed or defined by their looks by the age of 7. It suggested we use different adjectives to describe young girls, like: “Inventive,” “Confident,” “Curious.” When I noticed the Love Bug was totally in charge on the basketball court, telling her team mates where to stand, I thought to myself she is a little BOSS, just like her Mama. Little Miss Bossy Pants. Then I thought nah, she’s a Leader!

Women are standing up, we are stepping up. And maybe some award shows aren’t keeping up, but my generation will define aging any darn way we want to. We marched to get control over our own bodies, and we don’t plan on giving it up anytime soon. https://thinkprogress.org/gop-abortion-shutdown-dfd173817d47/

We need to stop judging others who might choose a different course, we have inalienable rights to take a pill, use a cream or get an eyebrow lift. First, I would have to find my eyebrows of course.

And if I still want to pretend I’m a ballerina without a bar, so be it. I’ve been teaching the Bug to string beads, and Bob’s been teaching her how to drill holes in shells. Barre or no bar, the force is strong in us!

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I say “Nut Butter Salted Caramel Peanut Butter,” made by Nut Butter Nation in Nashville, TN. This local delicacy has become one of my favorite go-to breakfasts. I spread a dollop onto one toasted Nuti-Grain Eggo blueberry waffle, add a cup of coffee and I’m ready for my day. I might also add some nut butter to a bowl of oatmeal as my food blogger friend KERF taught me. I was never one for a plain peanut butter and jelly sandwich, even though that is a staple for Bob if he finds himself adrift for lunch.

A different kind of nut butter has recently produced riots in France. A nut butter I thought was French, but is actually Italian! http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-42826028

The problem with Nutella started in this country when prices began to soar, and instead of hoarding it, we may have created a surplus? Maybe that’s why grocers in France decided to drop the price of a jar of this choco-nutty deliciousness from 4.50 euro to 1.50 euro…Now I never thought of the French as particularly aggressive shoppers. In fact, I like to think of Madame strolling through her market, in kitten heels, with a quaint wicker basket picking out only the choicest of delights for her family. I thought “bloody Friday,” aka the day after Thanksgiving for consumer deals, was a typical American invention.

An all American stampede through the doors of Walmart for a coveted TV, sure. But the French, mais non! However, you don’t want to mess with their Nutella crepes!

“They are like animals. A woman had her hair pulled, an elderly lady took a box on her head, another had a bloody hand,” one customer told French media. A member of staff at one Intermarché shop in central France told the regional newspaper Le Progrès: “We were trying to get in between the customers but they were pushing us.”

Now there is nothing wrong with Nutella mind you. This dark, creamy hazelnut spread began its life as a way to ration chocolate during the Napoleonic Wars. Then a century later, a crafty Italian baker decided it wasn’t such a bad idea; after WWII ,when chocolate was again hard to find, he swirled a little cocoa into some hazelnut cream, thereby creating Pasta Gianduja, renamed “Nutella” in 1964. The stuff dreams are made of!

So it’s an Italian invention that is produced in, wait, where is it made? It seems that like beer, some of this divine delicacy comes from the original factory in Turin, Italy – and some is made for the American market! It’s even packaged differently – “Formato Famiglia” or the imported version in a glass jar vs the Canadian-made, American version in plastic tubs. https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/food/nutella-imported-vs-domestic-is-there-a-difference/2014/05/30/3

I remember visiting Holland and being told the Heineken made there, with Dutch water, was better than our Heineken in the states. Well, there are people here who will pay more for the original Italian Nutella in a glass jar, because they say it isn’t so sweet. And did you know that next month we will celebrate World Nutella Day? An Italian-American blogger and Nutella afficianado, decided to dedicate one day a year to her favourite spread.

On February 5th 2007 “World Nutella® Day” was launched, and this schmear has been spreading ever since. One jar of Nutella is sold almost every 3 seconds throughout the world, so you can imagine how well this little family (Ferrero) business is doing.

Despite selling out of its entire stock in 15 minutes at a grocery store near Toulouse, leaving one woman with a black eye, I doubt the rioting will spread throughout Europe or the rest of the world; more than 160 countries carry Nutella on their shelves.

For my part, I’ll stick to my fancy local peanut butter. And fun facts – did you know that peanuts are not a nut? They are actually legumes grown underground. Also American kids on average will consume more than 1,500 PB&J sandwiches before they graduate high school. But they may not eat the crusts.

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Resolved: That I will march with women and like-minded men until:

  • Women everywhere receive equal pay for equal work
  • Our reproductive rights are no longer threatened
  • Women make up 50% of the House AND the Senate
  • Women are appointed to the Supreme Court and Federal Judgeships in equal number
  • The ERA is passed; Women’s Rights are Human Rights
  • Rape, sexual harassment and physical and/or emotional abuse are prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law – and YES, we know the difference between a “bad date” “consent,” “enthusiastic consent” and sexual misconduct.
  • Women of every color, indigenous Native American and LGBT women are no longer marginalized
  • We stop sexualizing young girls in the entertainment industry and end sex trafficking

Yes, I’ve been at this a long time. Writing about it, donating to progressive candidates, arguing with others and begging people to go out and vote for our democracy to survive.

My Nana couldn’t vote when we women won that right because she was married to an “illegal alien” aka an Irishman fresh off the boat. I felt the sting of patriarchy as a college student, unable to purchase that new birth control pill, because I wasn’t married. I marched in 1978 for the ERA, and I marched with Planned Parenthood when the Bride was 12. I marched last year in DC and I marched this year in Nashville. And to be honest, I’m getting pretty damn tired of all this marching.

But the pendulum will swing back, way back. Because we women are a great force, we are life-giving and life-affirming. And we cannot be stopped. Notice our little basketball player in pearls.

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The South doesn’t do snow.

Bob and I were supposed to be Grandparenting this morning, but the temperature plummeted and ice is supposed to turn into snow, so the Grands are home from school with the Groom. He is a great Dad and told us he can work from home; also pancakes are his specialty!

And in light of the racist slurs that came from Mr T yesterday, I made Bob sit down on the couch this morning and put Netflix on his iPad. I heard that President Obama was going to be David Letterman’s first guest on his new gig, “My Next Guest” https://www.netflix.com/title/80209096

Cue the bluebirds. We laughed, we even teared up a little, as we listened to Obama talk about bringing his oldest to college. They were having fun with each other and when Letterman told him he really respected Obama – as a man – and embraced him, I felt so much longing for those days. For a President that could make me dream again.

So it was a bittersweet interview, because I miss that man, and nobody mentioned Mr T at ALL. Which was refreshing, but in his absence, in his void, lies uncertainty. Like children of alcoholic parents, we the American people never know what to expect from his mouth or his Twitter fingers. We were getting so close to a deal on DACA yesterday, that I have to think Mr T’s racist remarks were calculated for his base. Just another bright shiny object to deflect the press. We already knew he was a bigoted nationalist, now I wonder if this president is either terribly sinister, stupid, or suffering from Alzheimer’s. https://www.cnbc.com/2018/01/12/trump-denies-he-called-countries-s–holes-rejects-senators-daca-deal.html

I did not, will not and could not watch Mr T sign a proclamation for Martin Luther King Day earlier. Instead, to commemorate Dr King’s life, I hauled myself out to the outskirts of  Davidson County and registered myself to vote in TN. And I have an idea about what to do on Monday. I will print off voter registration forms and leave them at our local coffee shop.

I recently left a book there with a post-it that said, “Free book from your local Book Fairy.” In Ireland they have a Book Fairy group that does this all the time, and you’re supposed to try and do it without being caught. Yesterday I noticed someone had left another free book in their window. It felt so good to know a mitzvah was being paid forward.

It should not be so hard to vote in this democracy. That bears repeating, “IT SHOULD NOT BE SO HARD TO VOTE IN THE USA!!” President Obama talked about strengthening the habits of the heart; the more we help others, extend our hands and really connect with others, the more we advance our democracy and our own humanity.

My Nana had a saying, “When you throw your toast out on the water, it comes back with jelly on it.”

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I’ve heard people say, the day after #HumanRightsDay, that they will lose their faith in people if Alabama elects a pedophile like Moore tomorrow. Granted, seeing pastors and some southern Republicans stick by him is confusing and contradictory if you happen to be a practicing Christian. Listening to Mr T’s robo-call of support is yet another nonsensical stunt from our Groper-in-Chief.

But it’s Moore’s racist point of view, and his willingness to endorse the agenda of the NRA that is truly frightening.

After all, it’s not just what he did as a middle-aged man with a teenager – it’s how he will vote as another old white guy in the Senate that is truly frightening! How can you say you believe the woman who was 14 when Roy Moore sexually assaulted her and simultaneously want the man in office. Easy, Trumpsters write this off as another “boys will be boys” moment. Locker room talk? It never happened. Denial is a powerful thing.

Maybe, but it’s a ‘bless his heart’ kinda Southern thing too, this Fundamentalist/Baptist faith in a God who is all powerful and therefore can take the rap for anything bad that ever happens; this is on the other side of a religious spectrum of ‘it’s a bad idea for one’s religion to guide policy in the US…’ ya know, cause the founders were trying to SEPARATE church and state.

“Moore suggested that a lack of faith in God may have played a role in the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, as he quoted a passage from the book of Isaiah in a February speech at the Open Door Baptist Church. The passage suggests that because God’s message was rejected, sin will come like a high wall that suddenly collapses.”

Then he compares that high wall to the Pentagon. He indicated that God may be upset because “we legitimize sodomy” and “legitimize abortion.” Families were closer during slavery! He has even blamed the Sandy Hook shooting on Americans who have, “…forgotten the law of God.” He believes we are a sinful people. I believe he is insane! https://www.politico.com/story/2017/09/27/roy-moore-outrageous-things-he-said-243207

Remember when Congress failed to pass a universal background check after the Sandy Hook massacre? That’s about when I lost my faith completely. Our legislators showed their true colors back then, and as my brother Eric likes to say, “We have the best democracy money can buy.”

They are willing to sacrifice 90+ lives a day to gun violence, and would now like concealed carry gun owners to be able to carry their weapons across state lines with impunity. So if a woman flees to a neighboring state, her abuser can easily bring his weapon of choice along for the chase. Republicans really respect women and girls, right? Women who lost their children in a classroom, girls who are being strangled by their gun-toting boyfriends.

Being an old school feminist, I’m really glad the #MeToo movement has started a revolution of sorts, but I wonder how we can bring about the kind of common sense gun reform our country so desperately needs. How about making it easier to vote, instead of harder? That could be a start, along with throwing the money/lobbyist class off the Hill.

Tis the season for sharing. Who cares whether you say “Merry Christmas” or “Happy Holidays?” Not me. While you decorate your trees and light your candles, while you go to the church or synagogue or nature trail of your choice, while you make your end of year charitable donations, think about ways we can make our country more equitable and just for all our citizens. I’d like to keep my faith in humanity.

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There’s no way around it, Hanukkah starts next week and shortly thereafter is Christmas. Great Grandma Ada told me she’s setting out for the mall to buy presents for all her little ones, and she needs some new makeup! I told her to be careful about “sale items” on the way to cosmetics, they can pull you away from your shopping goal.

“I don’t shop for myself anymore,” she said, “I shop my closet.”

“Ha, I shop my Pod!”

Or at least I wish I could shop my Pod. Almost every day that little Pod creeps into my conversation. I went to make chili, but my can opener was in the Pod. My super duper deluxe meatloaf pan from Williams Sonoma is in the Pod, not to mention my winter boots, hats and sweaters. Our mountain home sold so fast, Bob had to return for the final Pod Casting last summer, so I’m hoping all these things are in my Pod.

I never thought we’d be one of “those people” with a storage unit. Listen to Jerry Seinfeld’s bit on these wonders of the modern age; we Americans have so much crap we have to rent space just to contain it all! He called our homes “garbage processing centers,” and warned that once something leaves any part of the house for the garage it’s never allowed back in.  http://www.rollingstone.com/tv/videos/jerry-seinfeld-standup-tonight-show-20141224

I really really hope that no one accuses Jerry of sexual impropriety…

Sure the people who bought our home wanted the furniture, but that left all our personal belongings, including artwork, that would never fit in this tiny town home. Bob and I had packed for a month’s stay, thinking we’d go back and forth to Cville this winter. And I admit, we’ve been living the minimalist lifestyle pretty happily until now. The weather has changed and I’ve been missing my vintage blue Dutch Oven along with winter clothes. Although to be fair, we did visit the Pod once this Fall.

We had to schedule an appointment because presumably our Pod is stacked very high in a warehouse of similar Pods, like a sci-fi storage unit of astronauts in suspended life forms floating through space. It was one of those 90+ degree days and a crane dropped our Pod in the middle of a sunny, melting asphalt parking lot. We could only dig maybe a quarter of the way in, before heat exhaustion got the better of us – winter coats were salvaged along with some shoes and a chair or two.

And so there it sits, our poor little Pod, among thousands of similar Pods, waiting for us to find a beach house.

And while I extolled on the wonders of online shopping to Ada, who hasn’t tried Amazon yet, I drove myself over to my favorite independent bookstore, Parnassus, to pick out some special books for my little ones. Hint, if you have a three year old, she will love “Escargot!” Here is their gift list for children this season: https://parnassusmusing.net/2017/12/06/big-gift-list-2017-kids-teens/

Next, I walked over to a local designer pop-up boutique. Then down the street to our antique shop, where I can always score something fun and unusual. I found a beautiful silk and cotton scarf imprinted with an abstract guitar that was a perfect birthday gift for Aunt Kiki there. And I’m planning a visit to our amazing friend Robin’s pet boutique, “Come, Sit, Stay!” Because we only buy gifts for children during the holidays, and the occasional rescue dog. IF they’ve been good.

This December, I’m praying for a friend who broke her leg in too many places while saving her small son from drowning in TX. I’m sending positive vibes to a friend whose son is about to get a cardiac work-up in AL. And I’m wishing all those LA fires would just plain stop, and that our family and everyone on the Left Coast stay safe. And I wish Mr T would just resign already, instead of singlehandedly setting the mideast on fire with this Jerusalem business.

And I’m hoping when (or if) I’ve lived for nine decades, I’ll still think it’s a good idea to buy some new make-up!

So if you’re shopping for kids from 3 to 93, don’t let the holidays get you down ladies! Shop local, drink wine while baking cookies, and maybe splurge on a new winter hat! With pompoms, cause that Pod, you know. Thanks http://fannyandjune.com/shop/ Nashville!

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The name of the author is the first to go
followed obediently by the title, the plot,
the heartbreaking conclusion, the entire novel
which suddenly becomes one you have never read,
never even heard of,

as if, one by one, the memories you used to harbor
decided to retire to the southern hemisphere of the brain,
to a little fishing village where there are no phones.

Billy Collins was appointed Poet Laureate of the United States from 2001 to 2003. This may have been one of our country’s most fragile times, when more people sought peace from poetry. And he is a poet who gets us, and last night Bob and I had the distinct pleasure to listen to him read some of his poems at Salon 615. Everyone of a certain age has picked up a book in rapt anticipation, only to find a few pages down the line that it’s something we’ve read before. I admit it, and Collins makes it bearable in his poem “Forgetfulness.”

Like that moment when he realized he was older than Cheerios, at the age of 70, and so wrote a poem about it. He scatters serious sonnets in among his readings, so last night’s audience gasped and laughed in unison. Because poetry is “…a megaphone.” Because he loves to make up new words, like “azaleate” – which loosely translated means we’ve arrived at a place just before, or after, it’s signature event. Oh, it’s too bad you’ll be missing the peak leaf season here in Vermont, let’s say. Or:

Bob and I azaleated the lavendar blossoming in Provence this year. 

Collins writes about cats and dogs from their point of view. And he even writes about Tennessee Fainting goats! This type of goat freezes and keels over whenever it is startled or feels panic. It’s something I may be catching here in loud and noisy Nashville 🙂

What brought me nearly to tears was Bob’s reaction; he didn’t fidget or head for the bathroom. He actually loved listening to Collins, we poked and prodded each other at yet another small truth that bounced between the two of us. It was like going to Jacob’s Pillow when we were young and discovering that he enjoyed the ballet almost as much as I did!

Then, towards the end of the evening, he turned to that ultimate question all couples must grapple with, “Who will go first?” The universal hope that “…you will bury me.” But is that really true love, to want to go first and save yourself from grieving. Bob has told me so often that due to his genetics he will most likely go first, and I almost believe him.

But what if I were to get hit by a bus tomorrow? A very real possibility in this busy city. He would still buy peanut butter and jelly, he would still drive like someone from NJ. Maybe he wouldn’t search for a beach house, or maybe he would?

Collins recommended a book, one that had inspired him in his youth, by a philosopher named Gaston Bachelard, “The Poetics of Space.” And I remembered the Bride showing us her Public Policy building at Duke, the light pouring in through modern-Gothic arches. And just last year, pointing out her son’s little hidey-hole inside his closet in their new home.

In the first and last days of life, it is the cosmos of the home that takes on the full weight of human habitation, as retreat and space of belonging. Bachelard’s greatest work remains a compelling reflection on the enduring human need to find psychological refuge in familiar places and spaces, though its author admitted that poets and story-tellers got there first. 

http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/books/reviews/book-of-a-lifetime-the-poetics-of-space-by-gaston-bachelard-1673212.html

Here he is reading from his book, “The Rain in Portugal.”

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