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“In my desperation to be a good mother I talked myself into believing that all I was doing was giving my daughter a fair shot.” Felicity Huffman

I know, I know. GM is out on strike and we just might start a new war with Iran, but I’m still obsessing over Felicity Huffman’s college admission scandal.

Every single parent can relate to this; single moms I met in the Jersey City projects, where I was teaching Head Start ages ago, wanted the best education for their children. Education is supposed to lift you out of poverty.

But those young moms could not pay to endow a chair (the legal equivalent of a bribe) at an elite school. Today they live with luck; will an arbitrary lottery number mean their child gets to go to a charter school? And then, if they make the grades and stay out of trouble, will they even be able to afford a state college without sinking themselves into debt?

And what about suburban desperate housewives? Every single one of us knows of someone, or maybe IS that someone, who twisted the rules a little for their child. I knew moms who had their sons diagnosed with ADHD just so they could have their SAT time lengthened. I heard about moms who didn’t live in our tony district, so they submitted the grandmother’s address. I knew moms who hired college counselors just because everyone else was doing it!

We would pay for SAT prep courses and then pray for the best. Of course most of that was a “legal” attempt at gaming the system. The difference being, in suburban school districts like Rumson-Fair Haven, parents had the money to grease the wheels of the college admission process. In Jersey City, parents could barely survive on food stamps. What does this say about a public school system that is funded with property taxes? What does this say about our country?

WE ARE ALL GUILTY of wanting the very best education for our children! But comparing Felicity Huffman’s sentence of a $30,000 fine, 2 weeks in jail and parole to Tanya McDowell’s 5 year sentence for falsifying her address to get her son into a better school district and taking a plea deal on drug charges is misleading. Sure one mom is white with an infinity pool and one mom is brown living in a homeless shelter, but both of them were guilty and desperate to give their child a “fair” shot at success.

McDowell served 3 years of her sentence and said she would do it again if she had the chance because her son started Kindergarten in his grandmother’s district, and he is now on the Honor Roll.  https://www.oxygen.com/crime-time/tanya-mcdowell-homeless-mom-stealing-education-jail-felicity-huffman-college-scandal

Huffman, on the other hand, may have learned her lesson. She seems remorseful and pleaded guilty. Her daughter will now be identified with this scandal for the rest of her life, whether she actually attends college or not. Bob agrees with John legend, who posted on Twitter that women should NOT go to jail for these non-violent offenses. In a twist of the social media world, men seem to be more feminist and empathic than women who declare themselves feminist!

The questions raised this week about racism and social justice are not new. We are running private-for-profit prisons in order to maintain the illusion that our rule of law is fair. We pay more to incarcerate our citizens than we do for pre-schools and elementary education where more brown boys are labeled “special ed,” or end up suspended for disciplinary problems. Our system is broken, and calling out Felicity Huffman or comparing her with Tanya McDowell misses the point.

Over the summer, I downloaded a first level reader book about owls on my iPad for the Love Bug and caught her reading it to her brother. On her 7th birthday last month I explained the “age of reason” to her, about knowing right from wrong. Her brother starts Kindergarten next year and wants to learn how to play the drums! Our children are modeling our behavior – good, bad and indifferent.

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It was almost 2 am, my mind was a jumble of raw nerve endings. I tried to concentrate on my breath, to meditate my way back to sleep, but I ended up instead tracing the alphabet with my feet. Ankle exercises can be comforting. Then it suddenly got very dark. tomb-like-dark. And it was quiet, no house humming quiet. I wondered if it was just that Bob’s phone stopped lighting up. He had returned from a trip to FL, visiting his brother. But the alarm clock was black; our power was out.

Today it’s supposed to creep up toward 100 degrees, one of the hottest days of the year.

So what did I do? I woke Bob of course, after all maybe it was just a fuse that needed to switch. But it was the whole street, all the street lamps were out, thousands of people without power.

Are you a midnight wanderer? Do you raid the refrigerator at night, or watch TV when you can’t sleep? I’m a Reader with a capital R. So after 2 hours of mingling our feet and talking by flashlight, commiserating about our old whole house generator in the mountains, when the power finally came back on I picked up a National Geographic magazine about Migration.

It was like a crash course in “How Not to be a White Supremacist!” Because 1) tracing DNA has become so affordable, and 2) some tiny, miniscule bone in our inner ear that is the most dense bone in our body has been storing all of our primitive ancestors’ secrets since the Ice Age, therefore 3) anthropologists have been able to trace the Three Great Human Migrations!

“Who Were the First Europeans?” by Andrew Curry is in this month’s issue A WORLD ON THE MOVE. “Europeans living today, in whatever country, are a varying mix of ancient bloodlines hailing from Africa, the Middle East, and the Russian Steppe.” In other words neo-Nazis, get over yourselves and your replacement theory. https://www.nationalgeographic.com/culture/2019/07/first-europeans-immigrants-genetic-testing-feature/

We are all descendants of farmers who tolerated nomads (hunter/gatherers) and then rode horses across continents as plague almost decimated our species. That’s a pretty small nutshell, but some people were dark with green eyes, and some were light with brown eyes and somehow we managed to survive, together. Last night:

I was worrying about the Love Bug who starts 2nd Grade today. We spent the afternoon together and she had a fever, an ear infection, would her parents send her to school?

I was worrying about Great Grandma Ada, because she worries about me all the time so I thought I’d return the favor.

I was worrying about children separated from their parents because I was separated from my Mother the Flapper when I was 10 months old.

This morning I was surprised by how low the Trump administration could go, though I really shouldn’t have been. He is changing the rules and regulations for LEGAL immigrants to obtain a green card, making it more difficult to obtain visas or become citizens. Why you may ask? If a person has relied on any form of public assistance for more than ONE year, they will be invited to leave! The article was hiding inside the BBC News website. https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-49323610

This bears repeating – LEGAL Immigrants who do not meet the GOP’s rules of “self-sufficiency” will be deported. So legal immigrants working part-time at Walmart will have to go if they rely on food aid or public housing….

I didn’t go to this year’s East Nashville Tomato Festival because Bob wasn’t here, but also because I’m becoming afraid of crowds. What keeps you up in the middle of the night?

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How to properly apologize should be an AP course in high school. Especially for boys, who seem to barrel through life taking no prisoners, like they are entitled to step on a few toes along the way. Girls and women apologize too much and too easily; what are we so sorry about anyway? “Excuse this mess…Sorry for the inconvenience…Please accept my…” You might think we were born with a need to make excuses for taking up space!

Certainly my Catholic education prepared me for a lifetime network worth of apologies. I’m not quite sure how they did it, but those nuns had us feeling guilty for any minor indiscretion, and made us write, “I’m sorry and I will never do X again” a thousand times on a blackboard. In proper cursive mind you. No wonder we all vied for the privilege of erasing the blackboard after school.

Bob and I watched the Cohen hearing with eyes wide open: I thought it was an act of redemption, while Bob focused on the broken-record belittling by the GOP. The most absurd moment came when Rep Mark Meadows (R-NC) had a Black woman standing in a white cape behind him. Rep Rashida Tlaib lashed out at this pathetic attempt to prove our Commander in Comedy is NOT racist because he hired her. Tlaib scolded:

Just because someone has a person of color, a black person working for them does not mean they aren’t racist,” Tlaid said. “And it is insensitive, and some would even say that the fact that someone would actually use a prop, a black woman, in this chamber, in this committee”—here she took a heavy sigh—”is alone racist in itself.”

Well did he take umbrage? Of course, he didn’t like this woman, the daughter of Palestinian immigrants, suggesting that he pulled a racist stunt. HOW DARE SHE! So she immediately apologized in a polite, that wasn’t my intent way, “To my colleague, Mr. Meadows, that was not my intention, and I do apologize if that’s what it sounded like. But I said ‘someone’ in general.” This is called a hedging your bets apology.

OK so I understand it takes a lot of guts for a freshman/woman legislator to call that old white guy to task in a public hearing, and it certainly takes a good amount of grace to apologize and later hug it out. But this morning the Twitterverse would like HIM to apologize to HER. We all know that will never happen, but what if it did?

May I present exhibit A on how to apologize… the Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau!

In 2017 he delivered a speech on the floor of the House of Commons apologizing for the dehumanizing treatment of LGBTQ service members and other government employees throughout the second half of the 20th century. It wasn’t the common, half-baked apology, “If I managed to offend your poor little ego I regret it, it was not my intention…” Which is basically a “I’m really the good guy here and you need to grow a pair” kind of non-apology apology.

It was a good and proper apology, one that my old nuns would approve of, if they ever accepted the human race as sexual. It was eloquent and moving, hitting all the right notes, and I happened to read it again on a quilt last weekend. You can read the text here: https://nationalpost.com/news/canada/full-english-text-of-prime-ministers-apology-to-members-of-lgbtq-community

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Last year, we traveled to Italy with a group of our old friends. I wrote about the sheep bells and the wine tasting; it was by far one of our best adventures. But you probably didn’t know that Bess, our chief archivist and amazing photographer, was the editor of our high school yearbook back in 1966. Underneath my senior school picture was a quote, “Where’s Bobby?”

It was funny at the time. Teenage Bob was a bundle of energy, always on the move. His knee like a jackhammer under my desk in French class.

This year it appears that dredging up old yearbooks is trending. I first cringed at the suggestion, in Brett Kavanaugh’s SCOTUS hearing, that one of the girls in another Catholic prep school was an “alum” of most of the boys in his class. So we learned that he and his cohorts objectify women, and love to drink beer. It was all there in black and white, not just in his yearbook, but on every calendar he kept locked away in a drawer.

I get the embarrassment of our teenage selves. When my kids came home with their high school yearbooks I was usually not “allowed” to look at them. It wasn’t so much what was printed on those pages – the Rocker was voted “Most Changed” because he came in like a little surfer dude and left like a heavy metal rock star. Instead, it was the impromptu pen to paper musings of their friends and so-called friends, the doodles and yearnings of years of adolescent angst.

But we all went to school in NJ. Is the South still grappling with our nation’s collective scar of slavery?

VA’s Governor Ralph Northam handled his shameful, KKK and blackface medical school yearbook picture poorly. First, he sort of apologized, and then he said, “It wasn’t me.” The wistful Michael Jackson moment was tone deaf! Then yesterday, I read that VA’s Attorney General Mark Herring has said he wore “brown makeup” to a party.

What is going on in my lovely state of Virginia?

I asked the Bride if she still has her medical school yearbook. After all, she went to UVA and Duke undergrad in NC, maybe I could find a clue. Are elite Southern schools still harboring a vestige of white ‘good ole boy’ entitlement? Northam graduated from med school over thirty years ago, I was eager to compare. Unfortunately, if there was a yearbook for the Bride and Groom’s class, they never got one.

Stacey Abrams from Georgia countered Mr T’s State of the Union this week with this: “We continue to confront racism from our past and in our present, which is why we must hold everyone from the highest offices to our own families accountable for racist words and deeds and call racism what it is, wrong.” 

We are living in a transparent world, anything you might want to know is just a Google moment away from our fingertips. Horrible, racist, anti-semitic, misogynistic words that were once uttered behind restricted, whites-only doors, and sometimes found their way into yearbooks, are once again finding fruitful soil in our great country under the guise of “America First.”.

The image of hateful men wearing white shirts and khaki pants, holding tiki lights and shouting, “You shall not replace us,” on Thomas Jefferson’s campus has been seared into my memory. The confederate statues In Charlottesville are still standing.

For a more visceral understanding of our racial history, I’d like to recommend a book, “Homegoing” by Yaa Gyasi. It is not an easy book to read, I finished it on vacation; it covers 300 years of the African American diaspora and follows two half-sisters, one captured and sold into slavery, another who stayed behind in Ghana. https://www.npr.org/2016/06/07/480477931/homegoing-is-a-sprawling-epic-brimming-with-compassion

Until we can achieve true socio-economic justice for all our citizens, until black mothers can stop having “the talk” with their sons about racial profiling, until images of the Jim Crow South can be placed within the context of what it was, a vile chapter of our history, until every single monument to the confederacy is placed in a museum,.. only until then will we be able to reconcile our past with our present.

Dig up your old yearbooks, they are a time capsule into our souls.

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Who gets to define you? My first step into studying Buddhism asked this very question in a different way – how would you describe yourself? Easier maybe than a definition. I’m a nana and mother, a writer, a wife, stringer etc…easy. These are the simple ways, stating what you DO in the world rather than who you are!

An old friend from high school was visiting this weekend, and though our hair has turned a pale blondish white, we stood out in high school because we were both redheads. Being a “Redhead” has a certain cache. But when I was little I hated my hair, I wanted to be like everyone else, I wanted to fit in and belong. I wanted black hair like Snow White!

Edie and I were also both raised as the one and “Only” child in our families. Does that define us?

I woke up this morning to National Geographic’s special edition on Race through an Instagram video. They contend that science defines us by our DNA, but the environment, our culture defines us by the color of our skin. Their mission is to make us re-examine that paradigm; their example was a pair of fraternal twin girls, about ten years old.

The April edition of the magazine, The Race Issue, features a pair of black and white fraternal twin sisters from the United Kingdom, Marcia and Millie Biggs, on the cover (more here). The Biggs twins on the cover are a catalyst for readers to rethink what they know about race. The full issue is available now at natgeo.com/TheRaceIssue.

Now you know, and I know my DNA because I spit in a tube and sent my sample to Ancestry. Although I really didn’t need to know I was almost 100% Irish, because the priest at Sacred Heart School always told me I had the map of Ireland on my face! And I was mortified whenever he picked me out in class, although I’m sure it was meant as a compliment.

When our L’il Pumpkin was born with my exact shade of flaming strawberry blonde hair I was determined to help him feel proud about his carrot top. Well either that or ignore it altogether. But how will his ghostly white skin affect his journey through life? Will his schoolmates tease him when he’s putting on sunscreen before playing baseball? Will he yearn to have brown skin like some of his friends?

I remember when we visited Duke on the Bride’s college tour, and the Rocker, only 13 at the time, watched a group of African students walk by in colorful traditional dress. He thought it was so cool. Isn’t this what we want for our children, to enlarge their cultural influences, to expand their minds beyond a neighborhood of white privilege.

With our nation so divided – by political party, by religion, by geography – I wonder if we can turn inward to see what in fact we all share. Has Mr T unleashed this underbelly of white-neo-nazi terror in order to make us choose sides? Can we reject that? I choose to embrace our common sense of decency and civility, our humanity. We ALL want better schools for our children, schools without guns and active shooter drills. We ALL deserve comprehensive healthcare.

America, in our many shades of white/beige/brown/black, is at a tipping point. On the 50th anniversary of Dr Martin Luther King’s murder, I remember marching in the streets of Boston with my black armband. I was a college student then, and I would have defined myself as a “Dancer!”

Here is our superhero Spiderman. I can’t wait until he’s old enough to see Black Panther.

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I was just reading “Bono: The Rolling Stone Interview,” about the U2 front man’s latest brush with death. It seems he is reluctant to tell us the details, only that it was a physical “extinction event” – meaning that we may also suffer a mental crisis or two in our lives. We may get stuck in the pain and anguish of losing a loved one, for example, and never recover. We could find ourselves on the endangered species list one day, and extinct the next, like a Dodo bird. https://www.rollingstone.com/music/features/bono-u2-state-of-the-world-what-he-learned-from-almost-dying-w514442

I mean really, a bird that couldn’t fly?

Let’s say you let a divorce define you, or an illness, or maybe a car accident your family had in 1949. You nearly died. You might have died, were it not for the loving arms of your Nana. Who will build up their resilient muscles to grow and recover, and who will crawl into their childhood room and wither?

Bob told me he’s had several physical extinction events, (and he was only semi-joking) the last one being two years ago on an operating table. You can imagine the rest; as a curious kid, he once set off an explosive that ripped the eyebrows off a playmate. Of course I can’t remember my Year of Living Dangerously, I was just a baby. I do remember at sixteen being side-swiped by a taxi in NYC, the skyscrapers swinging strangely around our car. My step-father, Judge B was driving and I was in the back seat, covered in broken, pebbled glass.

The doctor said his old Caddy saved my life, since it had a steel bar between the front and back seats.

I also hit a deer at full speed head-on one night in my first car, a VW bug. Not sure why the animal didn’t come through my windshield, but I must have been going so fast the deer was thrown away from the car. I remember being afraid to drive at night for a year after that.

And I have a vivid memory of stopping at a red light after playing tennis. I was in my thirties, the kiddos were little. Dopamine must have been flowing full blast since when the light turned green I hesitated for a moment. Just then a car sped by right in front of me, blasting through a red light. I realized that if I had not waited half a minute, I would have been broad-sided. It gave me pause…

Then I read this morning that today is the 20th anniversary of Monica Lewinsky’s little kerfluffle with President Bill Clinton. Monica really turned her life around; she was a young intern who made a few mistakes in judgement, notably talking with the wrong woman about her Oval Office encounters, consensual mind you, and was humiliated, in public. I would call this a mental extinction event that she managed to overcome. She Tweeted this:

“for 20 years, i’ve marked 16 jan as the day i survived another year from 1998. on this 20th (!!!) anniversary, thinkin’ maybe we could try a survivor’s chain. whaddya think? (too corny?) RETWEET if you survived the unimaginable in your life”

And today Scope will publish a well known report about Mr T’s encounters with a porn star just one year after marrying Melania. Granted, he wasn’t a president yet. Still, I wonder how the Religious Right feel about Hillary’s emails now? We have a Groper-in Chief who is ostensibly a racist and probably demented, since I don’t believe he drinks or does drugs of any kind which would explain his behavior.

Is our democracy heading toward the cliff of extinction? IF Bill Clinton or Barack Obama said or did any of the things Mr T has been guilty of doing lately, you betcha the government would come to a standstill. It’s too late for Mr T to learn how to fly, how to lead, how to govern. But we, the people, must #persist and #resist.

And a very big shout out to all those families in Nashville who are experiencing the FIFTH day of a combo snow/MLK holiday weekend at home with the kids! It will stop snowing, eventually!

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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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