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Happy October from Nashville, the home of a seemingly endless summer. Yesterday it was 101 in my car! And Happy Jewish New Year to everyone, now is the time to do a deep dive into our souls. Right up until Yom Kippur, Jews everywhere will be condensing years of therapy into this holy week, asking ourselves what we might want to change or do differently in the future. In other words, let’s make some New Year’s resolutions.

Resolved:  To worry less – Lately I’ve been worried about early onset dementia. What will Bob do if I suddenly start dialing the microwave in hopes of making a phone call? Also why am I getting dizzy every time I lay down? Maybe I shouldn’t list all my worries right now if I want to worry less.

Resolved:  To laugh more – Finding humor in the strangest places is my God-given right –  and self-deprecating humor is an Irish tradition! For instance, I was telling everyone on erev Rosh Hashana what a thrill it was to steal an olive in an Italian abbey last year, which led to stories of petty vandalism by everyone. Belly laughing ensued.

Resolved:  Never to steal again.

Resolved:  To bake more – I secretly want to be a contestant on the Great British Bake Off! The Flapper was an excellent pastry chef, and her specialties were coconut birthday cakes and banana cream pies. Therefore, in the past I’ve limited my cake skills to carrots; but I’ve always been a pastry snob, never touching a dessert at a party unless it was home made. So for my birthday I made a savory olive and ham cake. I found the recipe on a French paper towel.

Resolved:  To disconnect more from social media – and the news for that matter. I’ve been thinking lately about what we would do before everybody had their necks craned at an odd 30 degree angle. Hint – We’d talk to one another! Whenever I leave the house without my iPhone (refer back to my first “worry” resolution) I first become alarmed, and then I settle into this nice homeostasis of contentment. Nobody can find me! I am FREE to flutter about without checking Instagram or responding to another Trump joke.

Resolved:  To bloom where I’m planted – I married a gypsy. Let’s face it, Bob’s not happy unless he’s moving or planning a trip. I hear, “Where should we go next?” and I think, “Why not walk over to the Farmer’s Market.” He’s global, I’m local. I’m starting Pilates to go with my T’ai Chi but I need to work on staying present, and all that new/old/age stuff. If Ms Bean can suddenly start heading up the stairs at bedtime with us for the first time in 2 1/2 years, I can get over any fear! Right? I mean she’s older than me in dog years.

Resolved:  To try not to experience too much Schadenfreude during this whole impeachment inquiry thing –  Well, let’s face it, you had to see it coming. We are going to need a new name for this debacle, maybe not one with the suffix of “gate.” After all, Watergate was a condo complex, and “Ukrainegate” doesn’t do it justice. But my pleasure in seeing Trump’s fall, like Gulliver all tied up by his larger-than-life ego, may be supplanted by pain if Pence takes the oath of office. Still, a little Schadenfreude is good for us:

“…if you’re more science orientated… In the last 15 years, evolutionary psychologists and neuroscientists have got very interested in Schadenfreude as a functional emotion – as opposed to deviant, diseased passion which is how it has been seen in the past. It makes sense that would have evolved to enjoy seeing justice done, and transgressors get their comeuppances. Studies show that seeing bad people punished even if they don’t know they’re being punished, like when we see a waiter spit in a rude customer’s soup – activates the reward centres of the brain, the dorsal straitum.”  https://www.forbes.com/sites/quora/2018/12/18/why-taking-pleasure-in-others-misfortune-can-actually-be-good-for-your-mental-health/#2b174cb46526

Republicans need to do some serious soul searching this Fall. It’s time to stop the old bait and switch mentality and stop using words like “traitor” and “civil war.” Running our country like its his own personal fiefdom is about to stop. The shofar has sounded. This “witch hunt” is over!

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Last night, amid a flurry of texts and Tweets, Bob and I were glued to the Democratic Debate. The Bride had asked us if we wanted to join their “watch party,” but I was determined to stay home and take notes. I knew adding two delightful children to that mix would completely throw me off my game. I was disappointed to see social media quickly turn snarky on Uncle Joe for his “record player” comment, and am still wondering what Bernie said to him as Castro pounded Biden again and again about “opting-in.”

While Castro was questioning his elder statesman’s memory, Bob was reminding me about the concept of “opting-out.” In case you forgot, behavioral economist Richard Thaler wrote a book about this very idea, about how to get people to do what’s right and is in their best interest! His groundbreaking book “Nudge” describes the ideas for which he won the Nobel Prize. Though not an entirely new concept, using psychology to mold public policy and marketing is new.

Prof Thaler’s central insight is that we are not the rational beings beloved of more traditional economic theory.

Given two options, we are likely to pick the wrong one even if that means making ourselves less well off.

Lack of thinking time, habit and poor decision making mean that even when presented with a factual analysis (for example on healthy eating) we are still likely to pick burger and chips.  https://www.economist.com/free-exchange/2017/10/09/the-nobel-in-economics-rewards-a-pioneer-of-nudges

Why? Because it’s our habit, it’s easy, and it tastes good. Climate change and our clogged arteries just don’t factor into a good burger! When Corey was asked if he would have all Americans adopt his Vegan diet, he said “NO” in two languages!

But if we apply Nudge theory to health care the answer is simple. Forget private vs medicare for all vs Amy Klobuchar who READ the bill; according to Thaler and Bob we enroll everybody in ONE healthcare plan! Give it a name and give people the option of “opting-out”…. and because it’s such a pain in the neck for most of us to change, the majority will stay on that plan.

My psychologist brother Dr Jim has said time and again, “There’s always that 10%!” Sure maybe 10-20% may opt-out for something better like a boutique, fancy schmantzy doctor plan, mostly people who are up around the 1-5% stratosphere. Some may just want none of this healthcare nonsense, they want to live like a hermit and prepare for the end of days. Doomsday preppers aside, this is what universal healthcare looks like in most of the G7-or even 8 countries.

My Friday morning quarterback, Dr Bob, has just told me that last night was “…Pure Posturing.” Granted his experience as an ER doctor and Director of his group, who also opened an Urgent Care and ran his own billing company for years gives him a unique “from the trenches” perspective, but when he talks the business of medicine I mostly listen! Because it’s still a “For Profit” business model – private insurers make 20% on every dollar paid for healthcare in this country, while Medicare makes 1%!!!! PLUS:

Bob insists that we are already paying for 80% of our healthcare in one form or another!

We already pay it in premiums (630Billion), out-of-pocket expenses (365B), and in state and Federal taxes (1.695Trillion) for Medicare, Medicaid, and the Military.

It’s only that 20% that businesses and unions pay that needs to be addressed, and think about it –  one political party wants to phase that into Medicare over 4 years, buy-in or buy-out or maybe even call it something else…. and the other party just wants to return to the past and forget about affordable healthcare. Think about what you would want.

Now who is the nudnik or the PAB in the room? Hint – he wasn’t on that stage last night.

This is us voting for the guy who didn’t win Nashville’s mayoral contest last night. Let’s nudge ourselves into picking a winner this time Dems!

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I married a man, a doctor no less, who HATES golf. I’ve tried sweet talking him out, into the open air of a country club, to hit a “birdie” or a “bogey” or anything, just to give it a try, but nope, not happening, never, ever. He would always say he sees no reason to follow a tiny ball around a vast, grass wasteland, even if driving a golf cart might be fun.

On the other hand, we now have a President who cancelled a trip to Poland, then ventured out to his branded and manicured golf course – all while Hurricane Dorian raged – to “chip” away at his “links.” On the last day of his third August in the White House, this was Mr T’s 226th day of GOLF!

What happens when an ace journalist, Susan Glasser, collects the mega data of 3 years of AUGUST Tweets from our Golfer-in-Chief? You get a compelling picture of the escalating and devolving speech process (and therefore thought process) of a presidency that resembles a hurricane, even without an enhanced Sharpie diagram!

Mr T has gone from a Category 1 to a 5 faster than a toddler can disintegrate into tears because… well, pick a reason.

Trump not only makes us believe it now but, as we approach the three-year mark of his upset victory, in 2016, his project has succeeded in such a confounding way that it seems as though Americans will now believe anything—and nothing at all. Today there are few things too extreme not to have plausibly come out of the mouth, or the Twitter feed, of the forty-fifth President. In August, Trump called himself the “Chosen One” for his confrontation with China, grinned and flashed a thumbs-up during a photo op with the family of mass-shooting victims, accused Jews who voted for Democrats of “great disloyalty,” and called the chairman of the Federal Reserve an “enemy” of the United States. He cheered the robbery of a Democratic congressman’s home and labelled various critics “nasty and wrong,” “pathetic,” “highly unstable,” “wacko,” “psycho,” and “lunatic,” among other insults. The daily stream of invective was dizzying to keep track of, and so voluminous as to almost insure that no one could, in fact, do so.

https://www.newyorker.com/news/letter-from-trumps-washington/trumps-wacky-angry-and-extreme-august-twitter

And is that the point, if he has a point? To create so much havoc, to take funds away from building schools for military personnel in order to build his border wall, to propose the next G7 happen at his Doral property? To reframe the American Dream in a thought bubble of nonsense? His helicopter summits elicit hyperbole rather than any real “Breaking News.” The number of times he has insulted a perceived adversary has multiplied threefold in the past three Augusts!

No wait, the number of direct insults from Mr T’s Twitter fingers went from 14 his first August to 52 last month! His list of humiliating monikers reads like a middle school diary: “Lunatic; “Crazy;” “Psycho;” “Pathetic;” and “Sleepy.”

The irony of listening to Democrats speak out about Climate Change while Trump, our Climate-Denier-in-Chief, played golf (as Dorian destroyed the Bahamas) was not lost on me. And the one thing the GOP picked out of CNN’s excellent environmental summit was that Bernie Sanders linked population control to Global Warming and therefore he wants less brown babies?!!

This is a real existential crisis, it is not a joke and it is NOT about straws, or plastic bags, or birth control. Our leadership must first accept science and enlist the rest of the world in its multifaceted solution if we actually want to save our planet, let alone our species.

We need a “Mulligan” I’m afraid. Or we could take a cake decorating class with our American Girl Doll?

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Things are heating up here in Nashville. Literally. Temps are headed into the 90s this week, and Bob got the gas fire pit to work just in time for summer. Naturally I decided to make my famous not-too-spicy-turkey-veggie chili last night; always a good way to get rid of all the remaining vegetables lurking in the fridge, including some parsnips that were sprouting greenery.

On Sunday our little neighborhood had its annual “Sip and Stroll” garden guzzle! Basically it’s a good excuse to drink with your friends and neighbors whilst walking around outside. A truck leads the way to 5 gardens with wine and beer on tap! Last year we had a blast, so I packed up my insulated summer wine goblet and headed east. The magnolias are in bloom, redbuds are leafing out and flowers were everywhere – lucky for us, when the rain finally exploded, we could take cover inside an open garage.

My 92 year old neighbor Berdelle’s son was in town for another outdoor lesson in T’ai Chi on Saturday. I loved practicing under the trees in her secret garden with 7 other women, listening to the haunting sound of a train whistle among the bird songs. It transports you to another time and place. I remembered all my attempts at gardening; my border of rosa rugosa in Rumson, my feeble plot to plant fig trees in Charlottesville just so the deer could enjoy them.

This morning is T’ai Chi at the Y and I’ll ask Berdelle if she’d like to attend a rally right after our class downtown to support Planned Parenthood. Maybe we will laugh about the “great” state of Alabama because in the darkest time we must find humor. AL has added insult to injury today – not only did it pass the most restrictive anti-choice bill in decades, its public television station has refused to air a cartoon episode of an anthropomorphic aardvark named Arthur! Why?

Because Arthur marries his same-sex partner. Oh the humanity!

The Bride’s friend Tamara from Duke wrote an excellent article about her abortion, or involuntary miscarriage, years ago that still rings true. I double dare any anti-choice person to read it! https://www.huffpost.com/entry/heartbeat-involuntary-miscarriage-and-voluntary-abortion-in-ohio_b_2050888

Ultimately, these TRAP laws and heartbeat bills are incremental infringements on our constitutional rights as Americans. They are lead by far-Right zealots who would like us to follow their own brand of religion, which tells them that marriage is between a man and a woman and that life begins in the womb, with no exceptions.

Not even when a fetus has no brain tissue and would never survive after birth, not even if a child is raped… They really need to stop legislating a woman’s uterus! Our First Amendment guarantees our freedom from religious tyranny, of any kind. That’s why our ancestors immigrated to this country.

So I’ll put on my big girl boots and march again this morning for #StoptheBans after T’ai Chi, I’ll donate to Planned Parenthood, and maybe I’ll break out my insulated wine goblet too. I’ll carry a sign and chant a chant. I’ll stop to smell the gardenias and keep fighting as if my grand daughter’s life depends on it. She’s got the bees knees!

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Bob’s car died the other day. Luckily, he was downtown and not on a highway, but we took it as a sign, time to give up the ghost. His Acura has served him pretty well for over 300,030 miles! Our one-car family was about to become whole again, it was time to start car shopping. Imagine that, a new car with all sorts of driver-assist doo-dads.

I have to admit, I’m getting a rush. It’s like that Handmaid said in the very first episode of the Handmaid’s Tale, their ice cream was better than sex. “Real sex.”

Oh, yes last night I finally gave in and signed up for Hulu, just to watch my favorite author’s dystopian nightmare about a land that could treat women like baby-making religious robots. I just had to watch Elizabeth Moss as Offred, after hearing about Justice Kennedy.

You see, for an old school feminist like me, all the latest SCOTUS rulings chipping away at our human rights in favor of some religious zealot’s right was a bit much. Throwing me over the edge was Kennedy’s decision yesterday to retire now,  this summer. Granted he is a Conservative, but he voted like a real “compassionate conservative.” Remember them?

Bob kept telling me not to download Hulu; “It’s going to depress you,” he said. But I subscribe to that other Kennedy motto, “When the going gets tough, the tough get going.” I wanted the thrill of something just a bit subversive, I needed the dopamine. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter, it’s the middle manager in our brain that helps move electrical impulses from one neuron to another – dopamine rules that synapse, that space, that rewards our pleasure centers.

Like ice cream.

Like subscribing to The New York Times, or Hulu.

Like buying a new car.

I guess it’s called self-care. In the midst of our current all too real reality Trumpworld show, it’s important not to let despair win. It’s important to do all we can to register new voters, and encourage them to show up this November for midterms. In TN we have until July 3rd to register in order to vote in the midterms, and it’s easy. You just fill out a form and mail it in – every library in the state has them. And I’ve deposited quite a few in our local coffee shop.

So keep your chin up and don’t even bite that hook about civility. If bakers can refuse to serve an LGBTQ couple, and pharmacists can refuse to fill an Rx to terminate a nonviable pregnancy, than We The People can throw the lying press secretary out on her tone deaf ear. Terrorists are killing reporters now, something quite common in an authoritarian state.

It’s happening faster than I ever could have imagined, so support the free press and not Trump entertainment network, where Milo Yiannopoulos can say he was “only kidding” about gunning down journalists.

Get a natural shot of dopamine folks whenever and wherever you can, before abortion becomes criminalized. We’re gonna need to get tough. Here are some badass young scientists from back in their med school days. Let’s get out the VOTE!

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Reddit bans guns sales. YouTube kicks gun fanatics off its site. Florida legislators have raised the age to 21 for buying your first gun, and on and on. Why is this different in our country’s national debate over common sense gun reform? It’s the messengers.

Teenagers have reframed the question; it’s not some esoteric debate about Second Amendment rights, they are simply asking not to be shot in their 5th period Chem class. And if you remember what it felt like to be 16, they actually think they can change the world!

I was 15 when JFK was shot. I was playing field hockey on a grassy high school lot when the milk man stopped to tell our gym teacher what happened; it’s forever embedded in my memory, even though there’s a Walgreens on that site today. We were all in shock, our parents and teachers were grieving. We didn’t see his brother Bobby and MLK’s assassinations in our future.

We didn’t know our generation was about to change the entire American culture with the Civil Rights and Women’s Liberation Movements. We didn’t even know about Vietnam, yet.

We walked out of high school over a dress code.

Today teens are digital natives. And Parkland students are leading the charge on Twitter, Facebook, SnapChat and Instagram to point out hypocrisy in all its many nuanced layers. The latest Associated Press poll tells us 7 out of 10 Americans want stricter gun controls. And look what happened just a few days ago, right after the Bride and her colleagues wrote a certain letter to the editor! http://thehill.com/policy/healthcare/379563-republicans-agree-to-clarify-that-cdc-can-research-gun-violence

Republicans agree to clarify that CDC can research gun violence

And so it begins, your grand daddy’s rifle is NOT the same as an AR-15. #ENOUGH is enough and after tomorrow’s March For Our Lives in DC, I believe the momentum will continue. Country music fans and elementary students didn’t stand a chance. But high school students around the country are weaponizing social media, for the good of us all. If Facebook fueled the Arab Spring, imagine what this will do.

Maybe we should put these kids in charge of the Russian hacking problem? I have no doubt they would tell Putin a thing or two!   image

 

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It’s been a very busy first day of Spring. I took my first Nashville Yoga class after breakfast, and joined a T’ai Chi bunch before lunch! I learned quite a bit, about tuning into my body and tuning out the noise of the city. And this city can be pretty noisy; Great Grandma Ada told me even the NYTimes was writing about the Demolition Blues here in the Music City. Right down the block we’ve had intermittent blasting through limestone that shakes the house, makes me jump, and has Ms Bean running around in terror.

It’s like a war zone, I feel a bad case of PTSD coming on. Between Mr T’s morning rambling via Twitter, and the Federal Trade Commission investigating Facebook (ps here’s how to clean up your account https://www.slashgear.com/facebook-personal-audit-privacy-app-sharing-19523634/) – the random, bomb-like explosions have thrown me over the edge. The whole existential crisis of a possible nuclear showdown pales before the everyday reality of our current climate.

Hence my plan for Zen Tuesdays.

Now for the other six days of the week… While I was saying “Namaste” today, we learned of another school shooting today, this time in Maryland. The 17 year old gunboy is dead, and the girl he targeted is in critical condition. There’s another teen boy who was targeted. Enough is enough. It certainly feels like we’ve reached a tipping point towards gun reform, although I’ve felt that way in the past too. But somehow, this time feels different.

The Tennessean published an opinion piece on Sunday that was co-authored by the Bride and her friend, another Emergency Physician. They are calling on state legislators to repeal the Dickey Amendment which curtails research and funding of gun violence. Oh yes, NRA, we’re coming for you!

It is time to treat gun violence like the public health emergency that it is, and to let the scientific community conduct the necessary work to find solutions.

Unbiased medical research has led to the eradication of smallpox, the dramatic reduction of injuries and death due to motor vehicle collisions, and lifesaving advances in the care of those injured in combat.  

 We can – and should – add the prevention of unnecessary gun-related deaths to this list.     

   

It was signed by 128 TN physicians!! Mostly ER docs who see the results of unfettered access to guns. https://www.tennessean.com/story/opinion/2018/03/15/opinion-gun-violence-national-public-health-emergency/426997002/

Let’s face it y’all, grandpa’s rifle is NOT the same as an AR-15, and even here in the South minds are being changed. The massacre in Las Vegas shook the music industry to its core, and now teenagers are planning a March on Washington to bring their message home. Our children deserve to feel safe in school, freedom from fear is our God-given, Rockwellian right in this country. The police don’t want these guns on the street, and we the people don’t want them either. It’s about time our legislators listened…

I think the explosions have stopped. Our neighborhood has been strangely quiet for a few days now. We managed to plant our lilacs yesterday, and now they are predicting snow. Happy first day of Spring to everyone from our little Irish Star Wars colleen!

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