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We’re back home in the mountains, with birds singing and ethical questions abounding. Yesterday I saw Dr MacDreamy about my incessant back pain, and picked up an April 3rd copy of Time in his office titled, “Is Truth Dead?” All week I’ve been listening to pundits discuss whether Comey or Mr T were lying. Just that question… who to believe? And Bob and I listened to a podcast on the nine hour drive from Nashville on This American Life titled, “Mr Lie Detector.” https://www.thisamericanlife.org/radio-archives/episode/618/mr-lie-detector

Turns out lie detectors don’t work, so why are some companies still using them?

And to round out this theme, I was reading quite a bit of “Betty Bunny Didn’t Do It” by Michael Kaplan last week to the grandchildren. It was one of the free books that are sent via snail mail to all new parents (for the first five years) in TN from Dolly Parton’s “Imagination Library.” http://usa.imaginationlibrary.com

Well of course Betty Bunny DID do it, break a lamp that is, and her attempts at a cover-up only dig her deeper and deeper into hot water. It’s a great age-appropriate lesson in honesty. But let’s face it, who hasn’t lied about something? I was taught it’s a sin to lie, but to spare someone’s feelings it’s “a little white lie” that doesn’t count… Mixed message or what?

The Flapper lied about food all the time. Since she was a busy working Mom, and also an excellent cook, she couldn’t help but take credit for making the whole meal if we had company. When someone would ask, “Did you make this?” Her reply would always be, “Of Course!” Even if the muffins or cake came from a bakery. I distinctly remember the first time I heard this, I was dumbfounded since my foster parents and the nuns had me convinced lying was evil.

But my Mother lied with such enthusiasm we all believed her, even if we saw the package in the kitchen. Sometimes, on the weekend, she would go all out and bake a pie, but everyone knew she wouldn’t actually buy a pie.

She also lied about her age, and her hair color, but of course I thought everyone did that!

Bob and I are true believers in brutal honesty. We taught our kiddos not to lie to us, ever! We started telling them, probably around age 6 or 7, that in the future things may happen, but whatever happened if they told us the TRUTH, they would never get in trouble. Trouble with a capital T (consequences such as being unplugged or losing car privileges) happened when we found out they were using truthiness on us, deliberately obfuscating the truth, lying. And I’m pretty sure this approach paid off, though I’m also sure the statute of limitations on some teenage crimes and misdemeanors is about to run out!

Today we have an outright liar in the White House. He couches his texts in uncertainty – using modal verbs like, “may,” “might,” or “must.” He makes his followers think it’s possible that undocumented immigrants voted in the last election, even though he was proven wrong. He must believe his own lies, like any good paranoid he believed Obama was “wire tapping” Trump Tower. Having Mr Comey call out that nonsense must have stung; not bowing down in all his 6’8″ majesty of manhood to poor, pitiful Mr T, to pledge his loyalty and allegiance? No, so long Mr FBI Director. “You’re Fired!”

Mr T calls his version of the truth, “truthful hyperbole.” Kellyanne gave us a whole new lexicon with “alternative facts.” Facts are facts, like a deal is a deal is a deal! Just because Mr T believed that President Obama was born in Kenya did not make it so. And even if Mr T fires his special prosecutor Mr Mueller, the evidence, the facts about Russia will continue to come out.

Whatever your feelings are, and most of us are on a spectrum of honesty from being horribly brutal to trying to save someone’s feelings, we can all admit it’s never a good idea to lie under oath. Or for that matter, for public officials to lie to us. Lying about having sex with “that woman” is a different level, a whole different category of lies. It’s trying to save face, save a family unit, maybe even save that poor intern Monica.

But knowing that hackers interfered with our election and denying you knew anything about your chief advisors dealings with Russia, such a huuuge smart businessman like you Mr T, and we are expected to buy this? Didn’t you invite the Russians to hack Hillary’s emails in a debate? Oh Republicans, give them a good sex scandal anytime, but win an election at all costs, am I right?

Calling this a “witch hunt” really? Witches were innocent women, and you sir, are no innocent man. You are saying and doing things that would make you the opposite of innocent! When our reluctant Chief Executive/Golfer reads the National Enquirer and Breitbart News and watches Fox TV all the damn time – and believes it all?!

Mr T can’t negotiate his way out of this fast moving train of facts. Like Nixon, he can fire his staff willy nilly, but the truth will come out. His lack of credibility has diminished our leadership in the world. Right now, I’m wondering what he traded North Korea for to get our UVA student, Otto Warmbier, back.

It’s been hazy, hot and humid this week and Bob likes it chilly in the house. He asked me this morning if I turned the AC up last night? Who, freezing cold moi?

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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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My Grand Daughter left her Monkey on the plane going home to Nashville. The whole family went into crisis mode. Just to be clear, the Love Bug does have an emergency back-up Monkey, but it’s lacking an eye and wouldn’t fool her one bit. The airline was called and online reports were written; the small independent toy store in Charlottesville was searched.

“But this doesn’t look like her Monkey, ” I said.

Why would a stuffed animal company named Jellycats decide, in the course of four years, to make Monkey’s tail yellow and his feet brown?         img_5207

My plan was to wash and distress the new Monkey, and try to pass him off as Lovey Monkey #2, but to no avail. Ebay was a total fail.

“No, not worth getting a different one,” the Bride said.

But I did get the Bug a new Monkey, and shipped it off yesterday with its very own letter from Nana. The Love Bug has other endearing nicknames, which is why she is called Ms Magoo Two, after the Bride, who was the original Ms Magoo.

We all have to learn how to deal with Love and Loss eventually, still I thought she was just too young, too little, too tender…

Nana

Charlottesville, Virginia

Dear Ms Magoo Number Two

I have searched high and low, near and far, up and down, all over town for Monkey, and I have some news.

It seems he has decided to take a Grand World Tour on that airplane. As we all know, monkeys are very curious, and he wanted to see what other monkeys in other countries are up to:

To visit Lemurs in Madagascar

To visit Orangutans in Borneo

To visit Chimpanzees in Tanzania

To visit Mountain Gorillas in Uganda

And Lowland Gorillas in Cameroon

Monkey knows you will miss him, and he will miss you too. And so he has sent his twin sister to keep you company. Her name is Mona the Monkey!

Mona is very kind and funny, and she loves meeting new people! She likes to listen to your stories, have tea parties with dancing and singing, and just generally be the Belle of the Ball!

Like her twin, she loves to snuggle best of all.

I hope you will allow Ms Mona the Monkey into your heart Ms Magoo Two, and give her a chance to be your very dear Lovey. At least until Monkey decides to return to Nashville, Tennessee, whenever that may be.

She told me she cannot wait to see your new house and playroom, your new classroom and meet all your friends at school. She also told me she thinks you should be a Princess for Halloween, because you are already a Princess to her!

I really had so much fun in New York with you darling girl, and I promise to come and visit soon. I love you a bushel and a peck and oodles and boodles of macaroni noodles!

 

Kisses and Hugs,      

Nana

 

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…or determination?

Yesterday, I got up early and drove North to attend the public opening of a community hospital’s new ED. Yes folks, it’s a “department” not a “room,” one of the many changes I’ve witnessed tagging along with Bob over the years. “I can’t run a room,” was his constant semantic complaint. But it seems he can run a department.

When we first settled in the Blue Ridge, I thought it would be like old times. Bob would do some shift work at the local hospital, and we’d slide into a comfortable retirement; plenty of time together to visit grandbabies and pursue some new hobbies, maybe  keep a few alpacas? Or donkeys, or chickens? Then one year in, the Emergency Department Director just up and quits, asking Bob if he’d like the honor!

And just when I thought his directing days were over, he not only took over the reins, he became Chief of Staff and sat on the Board for many years. We had plans to go to Australia for a sabbatical that were put on hold, but we did manage to build our little house with a view. And one day he presented a plan to that Board for a new Emergency Department – they were bursting at the seams and the population was growing. He wanted a state-of-the-art facility and he managed to persuade the leaders and shakers with his constant optimism and tenacity.

Yesterday, the ribbon was cut joining the new building with the renovated old department, virtually tripling the space of the old ED. Twelve million dollars and five years later, the CEO introduced Bob and kindly said this project was his baby, and without his “persistence” we wouldn’t be here. Everyone nodded their heads, because everyone who works with my husband knows he can be pretty determined to achieve excellence in emergency medicine. He wrote the book on managing an ED and he served as President of ACEP in MA when we were young and just starting out in the Berkshires.

Unlike lots of physicians his age, he never gave up on medicine and he taught our daughter to love the profession too. To never forget the sacred trust a patient shares with them.

I was pretty proud of Bob yesterday, but we couldn’t celebrate yet. He had a lunch meeting with a colleague and then he was scheduled to work the 8 hour evening shift. Kudos to Bob, his assistant director Harvey, who followed him here from the Berkshires, and all the nurses and administrators who helped to make this remarkable transformation possible.

Maybe someday he’ll slow down, just a little? 19114_10152801541071943_7135939311025461658_n

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It just so happens that I read a couple of books on vacation that I would categorize as that heightened, coming-of-age, hormonal soup called YA – or Young Adult Fiction. Pity they didn’t have this category when I was that age, unless maybe “Little Women” qualifies? One book I picked up in the overstocked bookshelves of our villa was, “Never Let Me Go” by Kazuo Ishiguro. He wrote “Remains of the Day” and the jacket said he was a Booker finalist, so I thought, “Why not?”

The other was “The Giver” by Lois Lowry. This one I found in a French bookstore, and I really should have known it was YA, by the author and the large print, but it was just something for the plane and I figured, “Pourqoui pas?” Also, it was in English.

Ishiguro went big on description, but he hooked me right away. Granted there were no vampires, no Katniss archery-action scenes, in fact, the plot just sauntered along, from the perspective of Kathy, a “Carer,” about to retire from her job. Slowly we learn she’s maybe 30 years old and she’s been doing this Caring business for as long as anybody can remember, 12 years! Her memory is the meat of the story; her two best friends and their time spent at an exclusive boarding school in England.

Spoiler alert, they are all clones! If you love English drama, subterfuge, and mystery, you will love this book.

Ishiguro does not write like a realist. He writes like someone impersonating a realist, and this is one reason for the peculiar fascination of his books. He is actually a fabulist and an ironist, and the writers he most resembles, under the genteel mask, are Kafka and Beckett. This is why the prose is always slightly overspecific. It’s realism from an instruction manual: literal, thorough, determined to leave nothing out. But it has a vaguely irreal effect. http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2005/03/28/something-about-kathy

Bit by bit we finally learn why his characters seem so rigid, so overburdened with angst. Can they be truly human, whatever that means. The author wonders if they have souls. I came away thinking, holy crap, I wonder if this could really happen? Because that’s what great dystopian, sci-fi fiction will do, take us just a few steps into the future. You know if they can clone a sheep, and your pet dog, we humans aren’t far behind.

Lois Lowry’s 1993 book has been made into a movie, so some of you may be more aware of “The Giver.” In this novella the 12 year old protagonist is about to be assigned his life’s work. I thought about French children taking their BAC exams at age 16 or 17, and then being herded into the appropriate training college. Lowry pulls you in by the idyllic family life which seems fine, until you learn what his father actually does as a “Nurturer” and what Jonas’ job will be, the receptacle of the world’s memories. This community, that functions without color, or emotion, needs a scapegoat to remember the past. Rebellious pre-teens of today may find the action short but the overall mood of this little gem is compelling.

It’s always good to learn when everyone is the same, we are all lost. And this morning comes the news that a British author in the fantasy genre has died. ” I can’t imagine a 13-year-old alive who wouldn’t be changed a bit, for the better, by reading Terry Pratchett,” said Caitlin Moran on her Twitter feed. Sir Terry, who looked like a character from Hogwarts, succumbed to Alzheimer’s at the young age of 66. Best known for his Discworld series, he used satire to point out paradox in the adult world and published 70 novels.

“His death was announced on his Twitter account, on Thursday afternoon. The first tweet was composed in capital letters – which was how the author portrayed the character of Death in his novels.” http://www.bbc.com/news/entertainment-arts-31858156

“AT LAST, SIR TERRY, WE MUST WALK TOGETHER,” it stated.

La Librairie a Gustavia

La Librairie a Gustavia

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The city of Charlottesville has been ordered to halt the enforcement of an ordinance that prohibits panhandling on parts of the city’s Downtown Mall… a federal judge Thursday ruled the ordinance violates the First Amendment’s free speech protections.

Back in the day, I used to have to rack my brain to think of something to give up for Lent. It would usually be something like soda, or pizza, or ice cream. It just didn’t count if it was something you didn’t like to begin with, like liver. And yes we were very literal, it was always some form of food. Nobody gave up playing basketball for instance. I’m guessing it was the Christian form of fasting, like Yom Kippur or Ramadan. We Catholics were not allowed to eat meat on Fridays all year long, then we’d get marked with Ash on Wednesday and asked to stop eating something we loved for 40 days leading up to Easter. Lots of sacrifice, that was us.

Call me crazy, but I’m trying to square this with a federal judge’s ruling about a City Ordinance that Charlottesville enacted in August of 2010. In an effort to appease the business owners on the Historic Downtown Mall, the city created buffer zones to restrict panhandlers/homeless people. The city’s attorney argued this was a safety issue, but Included in the ordinance which distanced solicitation from certain areas on the Mall, was language saying that they could not approach people for money.

Lo and Behold, an attorney representing five homeless people filed their appeal based on constitutional law – saying this restricted their right to free speech. And US District Judge Norman K. Moon agreed with them “The City offers insufficient justification (much less a good explanation) for the fifty-foot measurement of the so-called buffer zone,” he wrote in a 25-page opinion filed Thursday. “There are other laws that permit the City to protect the public safety.”  http://www.dailyprogress.com/news/local/judge-rules-charlottesville-s-panhandling-ordinance-is-unconstitutional/article_c2ed6ff2-b89e-11e4-a872-e391736e6826.html

In striking down this ordinance, people standing or sitting, holding cardboard signs asking for money with dogs and a duffel bag by their side, are now not only allowed to be wherever they please, they are allowed to approach anyone and ask for money. Because the ordinance was not broad enough, limiting the free speech of pan handlers alone and not, for instance, political petitioners. Since I was once on the Mall hawking my view about the Affordable Care Act, I get it. It does in fact appear discriminatory.

Yesterday, on my way to unfreeze a hot water pipe, I passed by a homeless man standing on the corner to the bypass. I could barely see him, he was covered in rags from head to toe and my car thermometer read 16 degrees. I wondered about his life, what brought him to that corner, and I was strangely glad he didn’t have a dog with him. Because it’s one thing to expose yourself to such weather, and I fantasized for a minute about asking him to get into my car, bringing him to a restaurant for a meal. But the light was changing and I didn’t stop, someone would have plowed into me.

The city has a program for the homeless in this weather, different churches open their doors. But do we follow up with housing for the mentally ill, developmentally challenged all year? Where are the social service programs helping families one rental payment away from eviction? What is the role of government? Let’s not ask what we should be giving up after Fat Tuesday, but how and what can we give back to our community. Existential questions require more than a lawsuit that will pay out a “six figure” sum to the lawyers and the homeless defendants who had their right to free speech violated. IMG_2160

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It was 8 degrees this morning on my perch of the Blue Ridge. This is nose-hair freezing, eye watering, finger numbing cold, even if we still lived in the Berkshire Mountains. Which we don’t; we moved in part for warmer weather. But mostly to be closer to our daughter. Then she moved, to pursue her ER residency, to the ice capital of the South currently known as Nashville. And we’re all wondering why we didn’t follow the Rocker to LA right about now!

He texted us a weather report for the week – party sunny and 70s all week out there. Which is great since the band is on the Left Coast touring. They started out in LA at the Echo Tuesday night and a little birdie told me it was “…packed to the back.” Guess you can’t say, “…standing room only,” since everybody stands and rocks out all night. To check out their tour dates, and download “Cry Wolf” just skip ahead to their website: http://www.parlormob.com

“It’s the first thing we’ve produced ourselves with no outside involvement from anyone else for about 10 years, since we made our first record,” said guitarist Dave Rosen. “We didn’t really have any concern for anything else other than exactly what we wanted to do. So, we went a little crazy, basically.”

Imagine that, artists writing, recording, producing their own music. Bob was asking me if I ever heard of the Brill Building, sometimes called the Glass Building, and I said, “Nope.” So naturally I got a little history of music lesson. It’s located at 1619 Broadway and 49th Street in Manhattan, at the heart of the Theatre District. While we all know about the Motown sound coming out of the Hitsville Studio in Detroit, and Country coming from the Ryman, New York was doing music this way in the 50s and 60s.

“After its completion in 1931, the owners were forced by a deepening Depression to rent space to music publishers, since there were few other takers. The first three, Southern Music, Mills Music and Famous-Music were soon joined by others. By 1962 the Brill Building contained 165 music businesses.”

In essence this was called vertical integration. If a songwriter was looking for an artist and a publisher for their song, this was the place to be. In fact, “There you could write a song or make the rounds of publishers until someone bought it. Then you could go to another floor and get a quick arrangement, lead sheet for $10, get some copies made at the duplication office; book an hour at a demo studio; hire some of the musicians and singers that hung around; and finally cut a demo of the song. Then you could take it around the building to the record companies, publishers, artist’s managers or even the artists themselves. If you made a deal there were radio promoters available to sell the record.” http://www.history-of-rock.com/brill_building.htm

So before the internet, artist/songwriters needed all these middlemen, to get their music off a napkin and out to the public. Carole King had a cubby in the Brill Building, so did Neil Diamond, Paul Simon and Burt Bacharach. The power was in the hands of the publishers, not the artists. Today we have Pharrell Williams, the perfect example of a singer/songwriter/band/member who now runs his own multimedia company, hat and all. I mean I’d be happy too, wouldn’t you?

Happy touring boys, wish I could be at the Vegas show!

at the Echo

at the Echo

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