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Archive for the ‘Public Policy’ Category

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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My MIL Ada likes to listen to Rachel Maddow before falling asleep, and as much as I love Rachel myself, I just can’t do it. She would keep me awake all night with worry. I much prefer reading fiction until my eyes are crossed and I can’t remember one sentence from the next. But since Charlottesville was invaded by Neo-Nazis, I can’t resist the news, even at night.

Last night I caught a snippet of Rachel discussing the social media campaign to “out” the men (and they were mostly men) who showed up in golfing attire with helmets and assault weapons. It seems the KKK types no longer feel the need to hide behind hoods and masks. Still, I felt slightly queasy, because it’s so easy to host a website that “names and blames” the people who attended that white nationalist/supremacist rally.

These men are now losing their jobs.

It’s like being put on a sexual predator list, only instead of thinking a pervert lives next door, they think a racist bigot is mowing the lawn. “Hi, how’s the weather?” And it reminds me why I don’t like being put on any list.

The Nazis in Germany made lists of Jews and anyone else that opposed their propaganda.

The radical Christian right made lists of abortion providers.

I’d rather we discuss why those men from Pennsylvania and Ohio and North Carolina, those weekend “Warriors for Christ” as one proclaimed himself to be, were better armed than the police sent to guard everyone. And even though a car was used to kill Heather Hyer, a peaceful counter-demonstrator, a modern day abolitionist fighter, and two VA State Troopers died while on duty protecting everyone in Cville, that scene was potentially a powder keg for an all out riot with guns blazing and many more lives lost.

When Bob and I were fairly new to Cville, we attended a Bonnie Raitt concert on the Historic Downtown Mall. Before entering the Pavilion, I was frisked, my bag was searched, and I was told I could not bring my camera into the venue. My CAMERA. It was a small digital camera and we both looked shocked and said, “What do you suggest we do with it?”

At that time I was using my camera to take pictures for my blog, so it was always on me. Meanwhile everyone else was streaming past us with their cell phones! We mentioned this fact to the official screener, “You know, every cell phone has a camera, right…?” She just shrugged her shoulders. Inside the open-air concert, the first band was warming up as Bob walked back to his car in a parking lot on the other side of the Mall with my camera.

Virginia is an open-carry state. That’s why all those white militia men waltzed around looking like Rambo out for a stroll. Whatever your politics, allowing the NRA to make public policy that would endanger all our citizens, including the police, is madness.

I don’t care how long it took our little potentate to respond to Charlottesville. His true nature is making itself clear. I do care about our country, and I want that pendulum to swing back quickly. We must start passing common sense gun laws and stop trying to take health care away from millions. The vitriol must stop, we cannot let anger and hate win. Naming every single one of those vile men who chose to carry weapons into my adopted hometown is going low, and I ‘d rather be like Michelle, and go high.

Yesterday, we visited Parnassus, my favorite book store in Nashville after Kindergarten. Let’s remember, we teach our children how to hate and fear “the other,” but it’s never too late to teach them how to be kind, how to love.

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Last weekend, as we were rolling into our new home in Nashville, we heard about the death of Mayor Meghan Barry’s only child Max. Her son died of an overdose at the age of 22 in Colorado. I have to give Mayor Barry credit for being honest and open about his death; drug addiction is an insidious disease, an equal opportunity killer. Too often parents feel shame regarding this issue, and the stigma only grows in the dark.

Bob has always said, “There are no fifty year old addicts.”

“Our family would greatly appreciate your thoughts and prayers, and would respectfully ask for privacy as we mourn the loss of our child and begin to understand a world without his laughter and love in our lives,” the Mayor said in a statement.

Almost every American family has been touched by this epidemic. If you don’t have a family member who is suffering or recovering, you most certainly will know someone who does. And when I told the Bride about Meghan Barry’s tragedy, she was shocked and saddened. They met at a medical conference just last year and she has a lot of respect for the Mayor. .

My daughter is currently on a beach vacation and not in Nashville, so lucky for her she’s been media-free. She asked if it was opioids and I didn’t know; the fact is an addiction is an addiction, is an addiction. Heroin, pills, alcohol? In my mind, your drug of choice is secondary to the disease. Although politicians would like to blame the current opioid crisis on the health system, I think we need to dig deeper.

While we were discussing the rain in Florida and the grandbabies, the Bride told me about a book she’s reading, “The Gifts of Imperfection,” by Brene Brown. The author is a story teller and a researcher, her area of interest is what makes a person’s life authentic? And what does shame have to do with it? To reference my previous post – how does one remain real in this world?

“Participants who were living “amazing and inspiring lives” reported embracing imperfection and vulnerability and being grateful and authentic. As Brown writes, they talked about these things “in a way that was completely new to me.” These participants were living life and loving with their whole hearts.”

Before you tell me this sounds like a jewelry commercial, think about it for awhile. Once you have a child, you will become as vulnerable as a newly hatched soft shell crab. You will wake to a whimper, sit up all night with a fever, and foolishly try to shield your child from the rough parts of life. If you had a child who had to learn from his own mistakes, you know what I mean. But protecting a child too much can interfere with their growth. It’s a delicate balance, parenting.

Brown talks about cultivating three things –  courage, compassion and connection. Once we send our children off to school, these qualities may become elusive in our Kardashian culture. I just heard of parents in NJ who are suing a school system for not addressing the bullying their daughter was receiving. Instagram and Snapchat were weaponized by her peers. The 12 year old girl eventually killed herself. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2017/08/02/after-months-of-bullying-a-12-year-old-new-jersey-girl-killed-herself-her-parents-blame-the-school/?utm_term=.ffbf01eb5a92

This was SIXTH grade, in the town right next to our hometown.

I don’t know if Max Barry was bullied in school. I don’t even know if he suffered from a mental illness. But I can tell you this parents, if you keep those lines of communication open, if you can manage to stay connected to your children, they might just stand a chance. Disconnect from your cell phones and don’t worry about being the “perfect parent,” there is no such thing.

And have courage if your firstborn is starting Kindergarten this month!  IMG_1031

 

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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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As many of you know, Bob and I have listed our mountain home for sale. Which means when we are not in Nashville, we must vacate the premises periodically for a “showing” to potential buyers. In other words, super-clean the house and pack up Ms Bean for a two hour tour – cue the Gilligan’s Island theme song now!

You might think this is easy.

After all, we have no children in the house; no crumbs, or petrified hot dogs lurking about. A petrified mouse in the basement? Maybe. After all, we are a country house in the forest, with a long gravel driveway and a buried gas tank and a well…sooo, our windows may get dusty but more importantly, our dog gets car sick. Really, really car sick.

The first time we packed Ms Bean up for a ride into town we gave her the Vet’s super-duper anti-nausea pill. It must be given at least two hours ahead of time and costs about $20 per pill. This is the pill she gets for the nine hour ride to TN and the six hour ride to NJ. It lasts about 24 hours and I have to admit can make her a little loopy. We had a great time on the Historic Downtown Mall where dogs are welcome and almost every store is dog-friendly.

The second time a realtor called, we decided to try some people medicine on her, even though the Vet warned us against this tactic. Generic Benadryl costs a nickel for each 25 mg pill. On GoodRx, a coupon site for drugs, it’s half that price; pennies per pill. And its duration would be only four hours, which was more than enough time for someone to walk through our house and find their way down to the river.

It was a hazy, hot and muggy summer day, so we drove just a few miles to a local antique mall. I sheepishly asked the woman at the counter if my dog could come in, or should I leave her with my husband in the car? “She’s a very good dog,” I pleaded. Lucky for us, the woman calculated correctly, that a man sitting with a dog while his wife shops is a Win-Win. Bob was happy and Ms Bean was just fine! There was no foaming at the mouth, Benadryl for the goal!

Yesterday was the third time we had to pack up the dog, and yesterday was the charm. Since the weather was cooperating, dappled sunshine high 70s, we decided to stay in the neighborhood and take her for a walk. And we didn’t medicate her. We drove down the mountain to a development nearby and parked the car. Everything was going according to plan when I thought I saw a bear in the woods. Bean was pulling me hard toward a big black shape stomping through the leaves, but it turned out to be a goat! Mission accomplished. Car-sickness and bear-shaped goats were in our rear-view window.

And Ms Bean was fine! Our little special needs pup experienced no gagging, or foaming, she just curled up and relaxed for the ride.

So in anticipation of more impromptu, realtor-related car trips this summer, I suggested to Bob the idea of a service animal vest for Bean, that would get us out of the heat and into some air conditioning! After researching this a bit, we discovered you can purchase an “emotional support” vest for your dog on Amazon for about a hundred dollars. I mean what dog isn’t an emotional sponge for their owners? Some sites even offer certification, obviously the government hasn’t regulated these things which is why you may see a parrot on your next flight to Disney World.

Still, I’m a basically honest person and it just doesn’t seem right. Instead, I’d like to design a new vest for dogs – the “Shopping Support” vest! I will train my dog to sit and stay when she sees me pick up something I don’t need. If I don’t put it down immediately, she will lay down and not move. A silent protest. I will look down at her, come to my senses, and place the dreaded, overpriced article back on the shelf. This could work for any addiction. A second glass of wine? Walking toward a casino? The OCD dog vest could revolutionize treatment for millions of people.

I wonder if the new Republican Senate Healthcare bill would cover these vests? https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2017/06/whats-in-the-senate-republican-health-care-bill/531258/

After a long day in the car, Ms Bean rests her weary head on the lookout for rabbits. IMG_0846

 

 

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…and counsel in private.” I’ve heard Bob say this any number of times, it’s a management strategy. You just don’t dress down your colleagues in a committee meeting. I’ve heard this wise advice as a young soccer coach to my son’s team. Don’t humiliate a child in front of his team, goes without saying, no? I’ve heard it while studying for an education degree; ask to see the student after class, or walk out into the hall with a disruptive or disaffected student. Never, ever lash out verbally in the classroom.

Not like the old days, when Sister Mary Claire felt just fine swatting the back of my knees in front of everyone. Which served its purpose well, I still hate chewing gum.

Well Bob has been trying to get this point – you compliment publicly, and counsel privately – across to Mr T, every time we heard some scathing news item about his first trip abroad, in particular his public critique of NATO… I could hear Bob grumbling in the background. Thank God Bob is not on Twitter, he’d probably blow a gasket like that angry cartoon character in Inside Out!

Let’s just admit it, we have a buffoon for a President. He rides on a golf cart in the streets of Taormina, Sicily, behind all the other G7 leaders as they walk together. He needs his own Pope-mobile cause he’s so tired. How many remember the outcry when Hillary stumbled to her car while working with the flu. The silence on the Right is deafening.

They walked the 700 yards from the traditional G7 group photo, taken at a Greek amphitheatre, to a piazza in the hilltop town, but Mr Trump stayed behind until he could take a seat in the electric vehicle,” The Times reported. It also noted that Trump arrived last for the photo as the 6 other leaders stood waiting for him.

And then, Mr T pushes the newest member of NATO out of the way for his photo op?! Forget about the French handshake (actually the French kiss hello but we all know that wasn’t happening), the flapping of Melania’s hand at his (“Stay away from me you crass, crass man”), we now know that Saint Angela can see the writing on the wall.

To think that he has managed so much destruction of foreign alliances in so little time is mind boggling. I believe Mr T is tired, and I think he wants to rule like Mr Putin, he knows that whatever he says or does will be forgiven by his adoring fans. No matter that his most triumphant feat of travel was getting “triumphant” arms deals with Saudi Arabia, a Sunni country with a history of civil rights abuses who sent their terrorists over here to learn to fly planes without landing them…to attack Mr T’s own emerald city and our Pentagon.

Trump enthusiastically participated in a symbolic funeral for the Arab uprisings by embracing repressive leaders such as Egypt’s President Abdel Fatah al-Sissi and Bahrain’s King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa. No activists, civil society leaders or intellectuals were present, and Trump explicitly disavowed any pressure to alleviate their suffering at the hands of abusive regimes. Arab regimes will have ample opportunity to continue their long practice of manipulating the discourse of terrorism to justify the wide-scale repression of civil society, independent media, and political dissent.   https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/monkey-cage/wp/2017/05/22/what-kind-of-deal-is-trump-making-with-saudi-arabia/?utm_term=.fa7cef71dc03

Let’s not forget that Mr T made a deal, a 110 Billion dollar deal, for weapons/arms/defense so that our proxy war with Iran can continue unabated. Hawks can rejoice on the Hill, our leverage in parts of the Mideast is secure . But what about the Putin/Trump bromance? And what about Iran’s election of a moderate leader? Oh and that nasty story about Russia influencing our election. #whataboutheremails??!!

There was little fanfare this Memorial Day weekend when a judge dismissed the suit against Hillary over Benghazi deaths and her emails. Nor were there many pictures of her walking in the Memorial Day parade in Chappaqua, NY. Walking in the rain, not riding in a golf cart.

I have no doubt that Hillary’s experience as Madame Secretary, combined with her law degree and experience as a mother and FLOTUS, would have taught her eons ago that little golden rule about complimenting publicly, and counseling or criticizing privately. I also doubt that the current President can be taught anything about diplomacy, foreign or otherwise.

Meanwhile, on a happier note, the Bride and Groom stopped by on their way to a Cville wedding this weekend. The visit was too short, but the force in this marriage is strong!

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