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People are always asking Bob what’s retirement like; do you miss doctoring, what do you do all day? For an old codger he remains pretty busy. He just started flying again, and will have to study and practice to get his instrument rating up to date. After all, who doesn’t want to fly through clouds? And he packed up a U-Haul truck with some of our furniture, drove it over 500 miles to Nashville, and is currently reupholstering some chairs!

Now, if you were to ask ME what his retirement is like, you might get another story. A therapist once told me that he explains it this way to the men he counsels: “Imagine you’re still working, and your wife comes into your office and sits down by your desk every day. And never leaves.”

Is that transparent enough?

The first time I heard the word transparent to describe people and not paper, or windows, was from my psychologist brother, Dr Jim’s lips. Years ago he was talking about people from California, because he’d married Anita in Big Sur and chose to live and work there among the tomato and wine vineyards. In general, he was describing  someone who is happy in their own skin, who is not guarded.

Think of Woody Allen movies, where the lighting is so scorchingly bright on the West Coast, and diffuse and dark on the East.

The next time I heard about transparency was while writing for The Berkshire Eagle. I learned that reporters could access any and all public records. You may not remember this, but back in the day when women had to be married to get birth control and credit cards, many records were sealed, including our own medical records! And then we the people passed “Sunshine Laws!”

Through sunshine laws, administrative agencies are required to do their work in public, and as a result, the process is sometimes called “government in the sunshine.” A law that requires open meetings ordinarily specifies the only instances when a meeting can be closed to the public and mandates that certain procedures be followed before a particular meeting is closed. The Freedom of Information Act (5 U.S.C.A. § 552) requires agencies to share information they have obtained with the public. Exceptions are permitted, in general, in the interest of national security or to safeguard the privacy of businesses. http://legal-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/Sunshine+Law

The Freedom of Information Act was passed by Congress in 1966 and not surprisingly was spearheaded by California Congressman John Moss. If you’d like to look up a Citizen’s Guide to Using the Freedom of Information Act and the amended Privacy Act of 1974, you will find the following quote from our 4th President who lived right over the hill at Montpelier:

“A popular Government without popular information or the means of acquiring it, is but a Prologue to a Farce or a Tragedy or perhaps both. Knowledge will forever govern ignorance, and a people who mean to be their own Governors, must arm themselves with the power knowledge gives.”  James Madison

So we should arm ourselves with knowledge. That. Bears. Repeating. I’ve been thinking alot lately about how this Russian thing is a “Prologue to a Farce,” or perhaps even a tragedy in the form of treason.

Now the third time I thought about transparency was after being elected to a school board. Because it really wasn’t until I found myself on the other side of the table, the side that held closed meetings to discuss policy and personnel, that I realized there is a Yin and Yang, a dark and a light side to everything. Of course we didn’t want to disclose “on the record” why a teacher wasn’t getting tenure, and of course that teacher’s union could appeal to an administrative law judge, but in reality Due Process takes time…

These are the times that try our souls. Mr T has been celebrating Bastille Day, which is like our Fourth of July, in Paris. He was parading around, shaking hands a little less forcefully, while still defending his dear boy Donald Jr from the “Witch Hunt” of “Fake News.” One glaringly inappropriate, if not sexist, remark to Brigette Macron, the First Lady of France, stands out. Looking her up and down he said:

“You’re in such great shape,” then Mr T turned to her husband Emmanuel Macron, nodding approval and delivered one word, “Beautiful.”

Maybe he hasn’t seen many 60+ year old women in his tower, after all he’s traded in trophy wives a few times. We have a lecherous ex-Miss Universe owner for a President who is running our country like a reality show. To quote Olivia, “Let’s get physical, let’s get into physical. Let me hear your body talk.” Is that transparent enough?

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The latest This American Life podcast on NPR was all about summer camp. https://www.thisamericanlife.org/radio-archives/episode/109/notes-on-camp

About those people who absolutely loved camp and still think of it as a highlight of their young lives; and those who either never went to camp, or hated it for one summer. I fall into the former category. I started attending Camp St Joseph (CSJ) for Girls in the Catskills when I was around 10 years old, for the whole summer, and made it all the way to Counselor-in-Training at 16.

Which means I was a glorified waitress, but it was my first real job, and I was ecstatic.

Of course I was homesick that first summer. I had been contemplating moving home with the Flapper, and she was a working single mom at the time. So if I wanted to make the move work, she and my older sister Kay insisted I go to camp. CSJ was run like a military base camp. A bugle woke you at dawn and points were deducted from your team if you were late for the flag raising, if your uniform was wrinkled, or if a nun couldn’t bounce a coin off your neatly made cot/bed. The rafters were open so evening temperatures plummeted – we slept in our sweaters and socks.

Did I forget to tell you that each cabin had a nun sleeping in it?

Or that we went to Mass. Every. Single. Morning.?

But this is the place where I came of age. Where we sang Ave Maria on our way through the woods to a secluded grotto with a statue of Mary. Where I played Sir Lancelot in the play because I was taller than the other girl with a voice. Where I learned to play basketball like a pro. I can still remember the smell of the basketball court’s wood floor. The stomping, the cheers from the crowd, the ice cold Pepsi bottle from a machine after all our games.

I think the Flapper was pleasantly surprised that I cried when it came time to leave camp that first summer. After all, there were no smart phones to keep in touch; in fact, the camp didn’t want us to contact our parents at all. Every now and then we’d have to sit down and write them a letter, but that was voluntary – hence the phrase, no news is good news! After my first letter pleading my case to return home, my Mother never heard from me again.

Separation is an essential part of human development. Who really wants their kids living in their basement forever? Every year, when it came time to sew my name tags on all my camp clothes (khaki shorts and white polo shirts), the process of mini-individuation would begin. Raised as an only child with my foster parents, I learned how to handle conflict. I was also free to ride horses, learn archery, and play a mean game of jacks on our cabin’s front porch!

Today parents can keep track of their kids at summer camp via social media. I hate to sound stodgy, but IMHO this is not a great idea. Instead of separating parent from child for the summer, and allowing your child to blossom, constant virtual contact can give rise to separation anxiety… for the parent. Why isn’t Johnny in the river rafting picture? Where are Jane’s bunkmates in the craft cabin photo?

If I remember correctly, there were certain things I’d rather NOT tell my parents. Today, privacy is a thing of the past, and we Boomers are to blame. Kids share every detail of their lives on so many sites I can hardly keep track. Which is why I find it particularly hard to believe that Donald Jr didn’t say anything at all to Donald Sr about the possibility of digging up some dirt on Hillary via Russia last summer…

Now I get that Don Jr was raised as an entitled, elitist prep school snob. And I get that he thought he could pretty much get away with anything he did because Daddy’s money and power would bail him out of trouble. But I can’t buy into the “rookie” mistake language, or that he was an “innocent” bystander in all things Russian.

I think the President’s son needs to ship out to summer camp now, yesterday! Get off Twitter, remain unplugged and take a canoe out on a lake somewhere far away from reporters. Because even if his meetings with Russians were pure, and not illegal, they were certainly not saintly.       IMG_0809

 

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I’ve always said it’s easier for a woman in our golden years, or silver years, because we have always had certain routines. Centuries of domestic duties, child and elder care responsibilities. Maybe it’s just my generation, but for the most part we were the gardeners and the gatherers, we kept the home fires burning. Some men do, however, take up cooking and laundering once they retire, if they don’t find themselves “consulting” on a golf course.

Our last night in Nashville, I found myself frying up some catfish and shrimp for a crowd. And although I was in pain from a fall off a step, I was happy to be useful. Having a purpose, isn’t that the raison d’etre for woman and mankind?

But for young women today, the roles are not so clearly drawn. We raised our daughters to believe they too could be President one day (say this aloud again and again please); women could bear the babies and bring home the bacon. Anything. Was. Possible. I told the Bride again and again. Books advised them to Lean IN, and maybe their pay wasn’t quite up to par, but opportunities were endless! Of course, money helps…

And wealth, a staggering amount of wealth may not bring you happiness, but it certainly helps with childcare. Strangely enough, I understand how Ivanka Trump could praise her daddy at the Berlin G20 Women’s Summit. Next to the leader of the free world, Angela Merkel, Ivanka spoke of empowering women everywhere, and said she thought the media was giving her father a bad rap. It’s not his draconian policies or paternalistic pugilistic attitude toward women, it’s the big bad media.

“He encouraged me and enabled me to thrive. I grew up in a house where there were no barriers to what I could accomplish,” Ivanka told a German panel. http://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-39704840

She actually grew up in several houses, with many helpers, cooks and chauffeurs and a daddy who treated her like a real princess, in a tower. He left her mother when she was ten years old for a younger model and shipped her off to a boarding school five years later. Which is most likely why the German audience audibly groaned when she defended her father and her upbringing.

After all, how many women are struggling single-handedly to raise their children and put food on the table in our country? At least in Germany, parental leave is a tangible thing – 14 months of paid parental leave after having a baby, for both or even one parent… And once they go back to work? The German government is dedicated to provide childcare for its children, so that women and men can return to work. In fact, if there are no available kinder-spots, parents can actually sue the government! https://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2017/01/german-childcare/512612/

Of all the president’s men, I am at least slightly optimistic about Ivanka. She talks a good game about empowering women, and I want to believe her. She has her father’s ear, though exactly what her role will be in the White House is anybody’s guess. Remember that FDR was born to the carriage trade, but had the courage to steer us through the Great Depression and understand the working class. Maybe Ivanka will help us pass the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA), which just passed in Nevada this March without much fanfare.

Or will Mr T, like King Lear, give away our kingdom to the highest bidders and his two sons, turning away from Cordelia/Ivanka in the end? I hope she comes back from Germany soon, to steer her aging father away from the precipice. And his Twitterfeed.

Here is Nana doing preschool pickup, #beforethefall.    IMG_0360

 

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While cleaning and decluttering my aviary, I discovered a wish list I had made back in February of 2002 while still in NJ. At that time my son was applying to college and my daughter was working at her first post-college job in DC. I was anticipating the dreaded Empty Nest syndrome. It was fun to read the 25 wishes; many have already come true! Though I do not have an agent or a cook…yet.

Strangely enough, the very first thing on my wish list is to get more organized! Which is exactly what I’m doing; I now know where every single utensil is in my kitchen, I have the perfect amount of towels, and I have thrown out all those files I kept of Rumson Borough Council meetings. I did however keep the random thank you note from readers. It’s always nice to know your copy was read, and not just used to line a bird cage. Newspapers, good stuff.

As you probably know I am NOT a list-maker. But I did pick up a book during the Cville Festival of the Book titled, “52 Lists for Happiness,” by Moorea Seal. Anita and I were talking about how we could have more fun during these Trumpconian years, how we could avoid being dragged down by politics. When I read on my Facebook feed yesterday that we had dropped the “Mother of All Bombs” on Afghanistan, during the holiest week for Christians and Jews, I thought it must be fake news. But I knew Gail, the person posting this, she is a devoted activist and feminist in her church and our community.

She held un umbrella over our heads when we marched in Cville to support Planned Parenthood. She helped organize our first trip to Richmond to march for women’s rights. Gail knows a thing or two. She probably makes lists because she knows how to get things done! Gail quoted a minister, Rev Emily Heath, who said:

Next time someone tells you this is a “Christian nation” remind them that we just bombed Afghanistan during Holy Week.

Specifically we did it on the day that Scripture tells us Christ said these words:

“I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” – John 13:34-35

Lord have mercy. Christ have mercy. Lord have mercy.

Number 9 on my wish list was to have a “writing room.” A retreat from the world that was not just a corner of the dining room. As I sit here this morning looking at the journal I bought that might prompt me to make lists, I am profoundly afraid for our nation. We have an unpredictable President dropping bombs with alacrity, because his daughter was moved by dying Syrian babies, but not by a dead Syrian baby who washed up on a Greek island. But no, we can’t let Syrian refugees into our country. God Forbid.

At least Assad has decided to move civilians out of their war-torn cities, Sunnis go to Sunni territory and Shia go to Shia. That’s a step, to get the proxy war moving along. The Russians must be just as worried as we are! “The meeting in Moscow on Friday between Russian, Iranian and Syrian foreign ministers was the first held between the three allies since the US launched a missile attack on a Syrian airbase in response to the alleged chemical attack.” http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-39597630

I am now packing up my home, about to start a new chapter. What will I carry with me, what about all the Flapper’s correspondence? Yes. The elbow noodle pictures from preschool? Probably not. Will we be welcomed into a new community? Will people ask us, as they do all over the South, “What church do you belong to?”

Well, I belong to the church of peace and love, to the people who don’t run their lives by dogma or dietary dictates. I belong to my family of all colors and faiths. I belong to the sisterhood of brave, smart women. I’m going to start my first list – The Things That Make Me Happy Right Now:

Classical Music

Ms Bean

Birds Singing

The Mountains

Spring

The GIF of Our 2 yr Old Grandson Dancing

Bob in the Buddha Garden

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Happy First Day of Spring! We are in the middle of a self-inflicted March Madness (sorry Blue Devils), pruning and sprucing up the yard while simultaneously cleaning out closets. Bob gets to ride around on his tractor while I get to tackle my clothes. And since I’m not afraid to ask for help, this year I’ve called in a professional. The Bride gave me the idea; in the past, she would sit among my shoes and ask, “How many pairs of red shoes do you need Mom?” A few weeks ago, my daughter suggested I try hiring someone who does this sort of thing for a living. Not a psychologist/clutter counselor per se, but a stylist.

A stylist? Moi? She said she has friends in Nashville who rave about this service. And here I thought you had to be a celebrity to hire a stylist, I never even had a personal shopper. Or a Stitch Fix account for that matter…and then I thought, wait, why not? It’s true I can write in my nightgown, but hey, we are on the move! Looking for a beach house, traveling to France, moving closer to our Grandbabies, if only I had thought of this before the Rocker’s wedding! Remember, one of my first articles for the “Berkshire Eagle” was titled, “Fashion Police.” 

I wrote about moving from New Jersey to New England, trying to fit in with the natives. The paper actually hired models to illustrate my three styles of dressing – 1) the Native wore jeans, flannel and work boots; they were very early adopters of the uni-sex grunge look; 2) the Tourists were New Yorkers who came for the weekend or the summer and wore mostly Black to Tanglewood; and then you had the rest of us. I was a 3) Transplant, we had moved to Pittsfield from all over the country, we didn’t even own a pair of jeans, and didn’t have a style of our own. Hey, it was the 80s.

Obviously, it was a semi-satirical essay!

Moving to Virginia wasn’t too traumatic. We built our small house, pared down our lives. I was wearing jeans again, and I’d discovered Eileen Fisher. She is a designer who spoke my language, ethically sourced clothes in natural fibers, her designs are the epitome of easy elegance. Stevie Nix meets Helen Mirren! This old Catholic School girl was close to finally finding her own style. At least once a year I’d meet Anita for lunch in Richmond and get my Nordstrom/Eileen Fisher fix.

I knew I was on the right track when I found Andrea Wood, a “Personal Stylist and Wardrobe Consultant.”  www.andreawoodstyling.com  She doesn’t just help you clean out your closets, she looks at your clothes with a professional’s eye. The first thing I had to do was answer a questionnaire, then she had me make a special Pinterest page. I already had an old page called “Fashionish,” which tells you how I felt about my clothes. But now, I was having fun on our last snow day of the year looking for something new. I titled this page, “Style Mavens!” https://www.pinterest.com/mpjamma/style-mavens/

As soon as she walked in the door, I knew Andrea had my number. We talked a little over tea and then we got to work. The first thing I asked her was, “How many pairs of khaki pants does one need?” She zipped through my walk-in closet in no time, pulling out things she thought were outdated, or just didn’t look like “ME.” How did she know me so well? We made a special spot for “Vintage,” and another for Caribbean vacations. I no longer needed Black-Tie event dresses, and besides these heavily sequined silk numbers had seen a moth, or two. And also I’ll never see size 6 again.

It was such a relief this closet cleanse. Andrea told me she didn’t really think I needed much help putting outfits together (thank you dear), although we did do some mixing and matching. She piled all my old clothes in her car and was going to donate some and start a consignment account for me at a local shop with the others. I looked around and took a deep breath. I’d found things I forgot I had, clothes I never could find because I couldn’t move the hangers, beautiful blouses and pants that fit! She was a miracle worker, and she inspired me to keep going.

Sweaters were next. I posted a picture of the first sweater I ever knit on Facebook. I was trying to finish it in England and wore it through the metal detector in Heathrow with a stitch holder in my neck. That set off all the alarms and prompted my first full body search at an airport. I paired it in the 80s with a long, flowy skirt and Goth boots. I wanted to crowd source the question, “Keep or Donate?” Ms Cait, my new Daughter-in-Law, loved it and so I’ll be shipping it to LA pronto.

We all deserve our own “What Not to Wear” consultation at least once in our lives. My old friend and clutter counselor Betsy didn’t live around the block anymore. Anyone going through a transition – selling a house, losing weight, spring cleaning or just plain suffering from FOTO the dreaded Fear of Throwing Out – could benefit from a kind, professional helping hand. This coming weekend is the VA Book Festival, and now I can look less like a conflicted writer in yoga pants, and more like a confident writer in casual chic street wear! Thanks Andrea! 

This is the “Before” picture she wanted. Notice how clothes are barely able to breathe? Final pictures coming soon!  IMG_0172

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Tell me something good
Tell me that you love me, yeah

This Rufus & Chaka Khan song has been spinning through my head for days. Penned by Stevie Wonder, it’s not so much a funky love song to me, as it is a plea to our newly elected executive branch to stop worrying about a nuclear arms race. And rolling back civil rights, including where we can take a leak. Cause it’s not about bathrooms boys!

So here’s something good Bob and I have been planning for weeks now – a trip to the South of France. And it’s OK that the French are ratcheting up their own particular brand of politics, because I don’t plan on reading anything about their election. This trip will be purely hedonistic; we’ll be staying at a villa with a group of friends and a CHEF!  And we will be learning how to cook French food!

As some of you may know, Bob loves to travel. His parents carted him around the world as a child. I recently saw some early footage of 7 year old Bob lugging a gigantic pair of binoculars off a boat in the Caribbean. Plus, since we affirmed our Ancestry DNA I’ve realized that he has a strong nomadic gene that keeps his eyes searching for the horizon, or an oasis, or something… If he sits still for too long in one place, his biology may actually change! His fingers and toes start to tingle and off he goes!

Me, travel? Not so much. Maybe it’s my biology too? After all, the Irish always knew to “Pay the rent first” since their Protestant landlords could throw them off their farms at a moment’s notice. And then there’s my Year of Living Dangerously, which lead to my own nomadic existence. Driving back and forth across the Delaware Water Gap to visit the Flapper who was recuperating from the automobile accident. I had a paradoxical upbringing, filled with unconditional love from two very different families who tried to share me equally.

Instead of thriving on this NJ to PA cross-cultural-border parenting, I became an adult who preferred to stay at home with a nice cup of tea, or a glass of wine. I might have become agoraphobic if it wasn’t for the Flapper. She instilled in me a love for learning about other people, for listening to their stories. And there’s only so much one can learn from their own front porch.

We travel light, two carry-ons. And this time no children, or grandchildren, which is only the second time for us; we did that Viking cruise last year. I’ve heard that the first ten to fifteen years of retirement people travel quite a bit, and knowing Bob I had better be prepared with travel-size toiletries. I will keep a bag packed.

This morning i stumbled upon an article in the Travel section of BBC News, “50 Reasons to #LoveTheWorld.” Stunning photographs and insight into why (some) people love to travel. My reason might be “Because widening my experience of other cultures deepens my capacity for compassion.” It also helps me live in the NOW, since I love to leave lots of time unplanned to discover the unexpected.

http://www.bbc.com/travel/gallery/20161122-50-reason-to-lovetheworld–2016-edition

But first I have to make a poster for the Town Hall we’ll be attending this weekend at the local high school. The one our GOP Rep Tom Garrett refuses to attend after hosting two cowardly Facebook meetings: “The Facebook event couldn’t really even be considered a town hall. It was more Tom Garrett reading pre-written statements into a camera. Constituents continually said that the Facebook event was insufficient and that they needed an in-person town hall where there could be an actual conversation between Tom Garrett and his constituents. Garrett ultimately refused to hold such an event, saying of his events during the congressional recess that ‘most will be online’”  http://bluevirginia.us/2017/02/tom-garrett-tried-avoid-constituents-holding-virtual-town-hall-facebook-not-go-well

Sorry for that bit of Bad News Garrett from the 5th Congressional District of the Old Dominion. On a lighter note, Ms Bean always wants to go outside to her slice of sun on the deck! Enjoy this beautiful Spring weather everyone.  ps, that’s a pomelo we didn’t pick from a tree, like we did in California (insert smile emoji). And it sits atop a French waxed tablecloth of lavender from the French West Indies.img_0125

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OK, so we’re all getting plump on comfort food. We’ve participated in a peaceful demonstration or two, or three…we’ve made calls to the Hill asking that our already “Great” country stop pissing off the rest of the world. Too late, even the Terminator is tired of his tirades. What’s a girl to do?

Retail Therapy of course! I had lunch with Anita this week in the Heart of the Confederacy; which may be second in fervor only to my town, the Capital of the Resistance. And since a certain Rocker Wedding is coming up, I thought I’d do myself a favor and find a good concealer. You know that magical make-up tool that can take ten years off your life. I’ve tried every drug store variety to no avail; too raccoon-like, too cakey, too too.

Nordstrom is my cathedral of choice ever since I stepped foot into their San Francisco store with live piano music in the lobby (and it wasn’t Christmas). I met the Real Cher at the jewelry counter, it was really her in a cowgirl hat, and later found myself treated with dignity and respect by the shopgirls. Today, the Richmond Nordstrom lives up to its name, and has shopboys to boot.

The cosmetics section was hopping after lunch when Anita stopped for some creamy blush. That’s when it hit me, my total concealer fail. Here is my warning to all women of a certain age – NEVER sit down at the cosmetics counter in a fancy department store. Bobbie Brown had me at “Hi, my name is Judy, how can I help you?”

An hour and a half later I had an entirely new face and the smallest, most expensive grey Nordstrom bag stuffed with serums and elixirs and creams promising immortality. Honest. Oh and that thing I wanted, concealer, it was being mailed to me because they were out of it…that Judy could sell Finasteride to Mr T to grow hair…wait.

My therapy continued at the Verizon store where I purchased a new Iphone 7. Since Judy had wrangled all my contact information out of me, and I almost never give out my email, I was shocked to see all the buzz about Nordstrom in the news on my new cellphone. I finally remembered my Twitter Password when all these heart-felt apologies started scrolling down my palm.

“We’ve always said our buying decisions are guided by brand performance and based on that, we decided not to buy it this season.” 

That sounds strangely like “We decided not to renew his/her contract,” like “You’re Fired” in a nice, democratic tone. What was all the hubub about?

Ivanka Trump’s brand of course. Before I sat down at the Bobbie Brown counter, I had picked up a pair of Ivanka Trump shoes, and had a visceral feeling when I saw that name. Like my hand had been burned. I put them down immediately, and felt the blood rush to my cheeks. I knew enough not to buy Mr T’s wine, but hadn’t heard about this:

“The “Grab Your Wallet” campaign has now targeted more than 60 companies — a group that includes Trump’s golf courses and hotels, those that sell Trump-branded goods, and other businesses whose leaders endorsed Trump or donated to his campaign.”

Now this is a Buycott I can get behind. Thank you Nordstrom! https://grabyourwallet.org

Next week we’ll be headed to the desert for Ms Cait and the Rocker’s big day. Continually beading bracelets in shades of green has given me solace as well. African turquoise, jade, Dragonblood jasper and jade are spinning round and round in my hands, like Rosary beads that once offered redemption and courage.  img_0006

 

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