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I love seeing the flood of Back-to-School pictures on my Facebook feed. First graders and first year in high school, they all look so fresh-faced and eager; but I guess if your child has been dreading the start of school, well, the first day might be different. Maybe she/he has experienced bullying? Or maybe, the sheer number of school shootings has them worried, do they really feel safe at school?

Not to worry, Betsy DeVos is considering using our tax dollars to fund arming our teachers and training them to carry guns… against all sane advice to the contrary from law enforcement, pediatricians and teachers’ unions. Our children are now practicing “active shooter drills” the way we had fire drills.

Our government has also approved a 1.8 million dollar grant for “School-Age Trauma Training,” ie to teach kids what to do to help their wounded friends. First Aid for First Grade. And now, bless our hearts, the Department of Education is considering using federal money set aside for “Student Enrichment” to fund gun-toting teachers.

I thought student enrichment meant field trips or maybe a special gifted and talented program? Maybe some band instruments? How about after-school-programs???

I was student teaching when Columbine happened. I’d gone back to graduate school and was placed in a middle school for a year. I remember the shock in the teacher’s lounge, a place I rarely visited. I remember the way the disaffected loner students retreated further. That feeling of helplessness, foreboding. Columbine happened nearly two decades ago, and here we are.

Those of us who do NOT watch Fox News on a feedback loop day after day may be wondering how we can continue, as a nation, to allow school tragedies like Newtown and Parkland to continue unabated. I was surprised to read that the DOE has already allowed teachers to carry guns in 14 states! The stranglehold of NRA money fuels a corrupt system that is uniquely American. Out of 23 countries with the highest-income in the world, the USA stands near the top of a deplorable list: 82% of all gun deaths – 90% of all women killed by guns – and 92% of all children killed either accidentally or on purpose by a gun.

Media reports of school shootings capture headlines, the way a lone suicide with a handgun never will. And yet, suicide is the most prevalent reason young people die in this country. But the heck with universal background checks and banning assault weapons or stopping loopholes in the law that allow spousal abusers to purchase firearms. Let’s just put more handguns in school, shall we? https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-45288773

Betsy, Betsy, Betsy please reconsider your boss’ insane idea.

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Today is National and International Senior Citizen’s Day. I’m not sure what that means exactly, since it’s a new holiday to me. Our generation changed the Early Bird Special to Happy Hours; maybe the cafes in our neighborhood will be having half price sales? That would make a glass of wine and a plate of wings $5! Or maybe BarcaLoungers will go on sale? I remember when our local animal shelter was giving senior dogs away free to seniors! Live out your last years together snuggling on Golden Pond.

Maybe someone will give me a flower?

The Flapper hated being called a “senior;” just when she was getting grey the term “elderly” changed to “senior.” Her mind was just fine and she abhorred being categorized like the latest marketing scheme. I remember when the “elder” George Bush started Desert Storm, she was the first to say it’s all about the oil. She never dyed her hair purple or did the tiny Queen-like curls that littered the heads of most of her contemporaries. She proudly swirled her long grey hair into a perfect chignon every day.

Great Grandma Gi (aka the Flapper) had a purrfectly beautiful cat and lived on Lake Minnetonka in the Land of Lakes. At one point, she befriended the “old” (as opposed to the “new”) Mrs Pillsbury, checking in on her during snow storms. My brother, Dr Jim, just sent me an article about “Southways,” the gracious Grand Home that sits at the point of the peninsula. It seems the Pillsbury estate is scheduled for demolition, a sad end to the Gatsby era.

“The estate, originally built as a summer house for John S. and Eleanor Pillsbury and their six children, has seen its price slashed several times in recent years. When listed in 2007 at $53.5 million, it was the most expensive house in Minnesota. After it failed to attract a buyer, the price was reduced to $24 million. Still no takers. Recently, the original 13-acre site was subdivided into five homesites. The 32,461-square-foot house and its remaining 3.3 acres and 415 feet of prime shoreline on Brown’s Bay was relisted at $7.9 million.”

http://www.startribune.com/lake-minnetonka-pillsbury-mansion-slated-for-teardown/491230621/

It’s a shame the historical association couldn’t save that home. But everything must change.

Moving Great Grandma Ada out of her home of 50 years was not an easy task. However, she has regained her strength and is moving more than she ever did in that big house on a hill. Some one asked if she needed anything shipped to her, and she realized she has everything she needs. Well, actually she does need some of her beads since she started me stringing! And her purpose in life is still the same, to help others. Yesterday, a young man asked if she’d like to sit on a panel about aging. Of course! And a few days ago she delivered a painting of a totem pole to a friend’s daughter for a birthday present! Now she is a Commissioned Artiste!

On this Senior Citizen’s Day Ada’s calendar is filling up. Today we are celebrating in Nordstrom’s, after a visit to the dentist. The next round of visitors should be starting very soon. She feels as if she is slightly sixty, maybe, and is aghast about hitting her hundredth decade! We need a new name for these seniors, maybe “Super Duper Seniors!”

 

 

The Payback Kid

The Flapper once told me that TV shows are written for the 12 year old brain. Watching TV, therefore, would warp my mind and keep my critical thinking skills at a minimum. Of course she couldn’t have factored in streaming sites, or HGTV for that matter, but still my Mother was one smart cookie. Like Lenin, she also told me that religion was for sheep, and did I want to lead the crowd or be led? What rebellious kid wants to go to church anyway, especially one who had just been kicked out of Camp St Joseph for Girls!

Lately, I feel like watching and listening and to some extent even reading the news out of Washington is like time traveling back to my pre-teenage years. Omarosa is roasting Mr T every day with a naughty bit of audio tape. The Queen of Soul dies and Mr T’s take is that she worked for him? And anyone who has anything to do with the Russia investigation better watch out, they might have their security clearance taken away – kinda like being unplugged!

Because we have a twelve year old payback president who calls the free press his enemy.

My 3 am TV channel was tuned to PBS last night, and I was pleasantly surprised by a documentary on what’s happening in Iran now. It followed a Western guy “Our Man in Tehran” who spoke perfect Persian and interviewed modern, middle-class Iranians, including a middle-aged Persian pop star in LA! It was so good and compelling I woke Bob to tell him that Persian sounds just like Hebrew!   https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/frontline/article/watch-how-the-internet-has-changed-iran-from-cappuccino-cafes-to-headscarf-protests/

Why, you might ask, was I awake at 3 am? Well, I found out I need to have a Mohs procedure done on my dominant hand thanks to sun damage. But in the middle of the night I thought about how alike we all are, how connected via the internet, even Iranians have Instagram. How it’s only the different myths we believe that separate us, as if any one country or culture owns God, even if she/he exists. It was almost a religious experience. And this morning, I give you the Dalai Lama on Twitter:

“I am one of the 7 billion human beings alive today. We each have a responsibility to think about humanity and the good of the world because it affects our own future. We weren’t born on this planet at this time to create problems but to bring about some benefit.” 

So are you a problem maker or a problem solver? Taking retribution against your “enemies” is pretty pathetic, so is tearing up the Iran nuclear deal and walking away from the rest of the whole damn world on climate change. Swinging tariffs around like a bully in the playground. It feels like we have a 12 year old steering the ship, this reality nightmare of a Congress that is 2018.

I was a senior in high school when Aretha sang “Respect.” She was a mighty warrior queen who gave my generation of women its anthem. I will pay it forward, not back, by redoubling my efforts to register young voters and support Planned Parenthood – the one and ONLY clinic left in TN to provide abortions. If we cannot control our own bodies, respect will become an empty noun.

ps, we voted early this month!

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The Prosecution of Paul Manafort rests, and I’ve heard that Judge Ellis III doesn’t just swing a gavel, he swings a battering ram with nails. Soon enough a jury of his “peers” will decide if this friend and former campaign manager of Mr T deserves a jail sentence for tax fraud. Oh how I wish I was at the beach last week with the Groom’s family since his father just retired from a government career holding such people accountable… Grandpa Mike might have been able to shed some light on the world of financial crime.

A world full of greed, lies and manipulation as another tax attorney described it. So, as an antidote to the escalating breaking news of the day, I offer you my two cents:

Instead of greed, altruism. I spent a good part of yesterday with The Love Bug, and on our morning Ms Bean walk she happened to find some pennies. In a few weeks she will turn 6, and so she is starting to learn about money. Later, in the car with her Mama, she asked me to look for homeless people so we could give them some money! That was the sweet news, but unfortunately in Nashville, we have our fair share of homeless.

Instead of lies, truth. Differentiating between lying and truth-telling begins at about this age, which is why the Catholic Church chose 7 as the age for Communion. But some people never quite get it, they conflate and exaggerate the truth, or ignore it altogether. Our L’il Pumpkin is almost 4 and loves super heroes, so whenever I play Wonder Woman to his Batman I throw my invisible lasso of truth around the bad guys (usually a big stuffed bear). I believe in brutal honesty, and so does that bear!

Instead of manipulation, role-modeling. If you want someone to change their behavior, particularly a child, bribery does help but modeling the behavior you desire works best. I would always bring soup to new moms when the Bride was little, and I was happy to see she has continued this tiny tradition with her friends. Whenever I watch the Love Bug pick tomatoes from their garden, I think back to the Berkshires and the short growing season our tomatoes endured – the love of garden “candy,” of eating healthy, real food is being passed down to the next generation.

I could care less what Omorosa has to say, but I DO care that Mr T called her a “dog” this morning in a Tweet. Do you remember when a radio personality lost his job for calling the hair of the Rutgers women’s basketball team “kinky?” Can the racist, misogynistic hate please stop! It seems like our level of discourse may never recover from this presidency.

But for a final bit of good news, did you know there’s a large group of “Grannies” who have made their way to the Texas/Mexico border to protest the separation of families? They boarded two big vans in NY and picked up almost 2,000 more seniors heading south!

Like most others on board, Ms Mellen’s motivation for joining – a belief in the “designed, intentional cruelty” of the administration’s immigration policies – was deepened by maternal experience.

“Being a mother and a grandmother I know the incredible connection I feel toward my children and my grandbabies, and you put their faces on these children,” Ms. Mellen said.

“I can’t imagine the pain.” https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-45174891

No human is illegal, and every grandma is a gift.  IMG_3121

 

 

 

 

 

A New Niece

Ever since Great Grandma Ada and Hudson moved to Nashville, Bob and I have been busy with the myriad friends and relatives who have come to visit them. First it was Hudson’s son-in-law, then his daughter from Arkansas.  Next up, Kathy and her ex from NC went to the museum with all of us. Then an old friend, Toni from FL came by, and she and Ada Facetimed with Toni’s new grandbaby.  But the last visitor stole the show!

We finally met Dickie’s daughter, Tamara.

When Ada first heard the news during rehab she was ecstatic. It made all her hard work after hip surgery bearable. Dickie was her middle son, the handsome desperado who went to Mexico for medical school and in some ways never returned. He died too young. In fact, the Rocker’s Bar Mitzvah was just a few weeks later. His very first band played at the beach party we threw for all the Eighth Grade! Dickie would have loved that evening.

Why he didn’t tell us about Tamara we’ll never know. He wrote to her, and her birth mother Kathy, once she found him. By that time his daughter was in her early 20s. Maybe he just wasn’t ready to meet Tammy; it must have been a shock to find out that twenty years ago you went to Woodstock but somewhere in NC, in one of those horrible homes for young pregnant girls, your baby was born. And against Kathy’s wishes, Tammy was given up just days later for adoption.

I’d been on pins and needles, waiting to meet her. We saw pictures of Tammy and her family – Ada now has two new Great Grandsons – and I kept trying to see Dickie in their eyes. I just wasn’t sure, until I walked into Ada’s new apartment and looked at both of them, Grandmother and Grand Daughter together. I realized Tammy takes after Ada’s family, like Bob and Jeff. Dickie looked like his father, blonde and fair, it didn’t occur to me that of course DNA can do extraordinary things!

She has Dickie’s wavy hair and his smile, but the rest is pure Ada. Those dark Russian eyes, and the sparkle to go along with them. She loves history and music. Her voice is honeyed by her Southern roots. She is beautiful, smart and sensible, and lucky for her, she grew up in a loving, intact home. Unlike most adopted children, Tammy didn’t seek out her birth parents, so this rag-tag team of Yankee Jewish relatives was a big surprise. For most of her life she thought she was Italian!

We laughed, we ate, we shopped at Talbots, we talked, we celebrated our good fortune. We added another link to our family totem; our tree of life has sprouted a new branch.

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You’d be hard pressed to find me talking tariffs, but here goes…

What I know about Economy 101 is simply the guns vs butter parable – a country who spends more on guns, spends less on feeding its people. I get that, the more we spend on prisons, the less we spend on schools. But today, tariffs are going to start again for Iran according to the Twitter fingers of Mr T, and maybe I should be worried but I’m kind of stuck on an overdrive of worry.

Why are those cave boys from Thailand becoming monks?

Why is Norway separating children from their parents?

What exactly won’t I be buying from Tehran?

And just when my feminist heart was melting because Saudi Arabia finally “allowed” its women to drive cars, I just read that Canada has decided to sanction Saudi Arabia on Human Rights violations.

Saudi authorities in 2018 continued to arbitrarily arrest, try, and convict peaceful dissidents. Dozens of human rights defenders and activists are serving long prison sentences for criticizing authorities or advocating political and rights reforms. Authorities systematically discriminate against women and religious minorities. In 2017, Saudi Arabia carried out 146 executions, 59 for non-violent drug crimes. A Saudi-led coalition continued an airstrike campaign against Houthi forces in Yemen that included the use of banned cluster munitions and apparently unlawful strikes that killed civilians.  https://www.hrw.org/middle-east/n-africa/saudi-arabia

CANADA mind you! Not us, no we just love strong rulers.

Remember how much Ivanka and her dad fawned over that new young Saudi Prince Mohammed bin Salman? The one who held up his relatives and 200 of the richest Saudis in an airport until they paid their taxes to the crown. Well, not to be outdone, the Prince has retaliated by: evicting the Canadian ambassador; stopped all commercial airline flights to Canada; ordered 16,000 Saudi students to come home; AND placed an immediate freeze on all investments and bilateral trade agreements between Saudi Arabia and Canada!

I guess Riyadh will have to buy maple syrup from Vermont?

This has me wondering if sanctions and tariffs actually work? Or are they just symbolic slaps on the wrist of an increasingly entitled corporate global structure that can shift easily between ruling oligarchs and demagogues, and princes. According to The Washington Post, some goods and services are better than others to sanction. Usually there’s a point at which the demand for something goes up, the price will come down, except for iPhones. But consider Veblen goods, they perform in a contradictory way like diamonds – the more demand we have the higher the price.

“Veblen goods are positional goods, in which demand increases along with price because the good is seen as a display of prestige. Veblen goods can explain why some countries choose to invest in aircraft carriers or space programs when they should be allocating scarce resources elsewhere.” https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/posteverything/wp/2018/08/07/why-in-the-world-is-saudi-arabia-sanctioning-canada/?noredirect=on&utm_term=.26a5b146bfb2

Since most countries don’t have the resources to even impose sanctions on one another, the author posits that Prince bin Salman is showing the West his peacock plumage. He is arresting women activists while also letting them drive cars, so they know who is in charge. And he can throw out the Canadian Ambassador because he CAN, ratcheting up his prestige on the world stage…making tariffs and sanctions into a kind of Veblen good. Criticize Saudi Arabia at your peril!

Thorstein Veblen was an economist who coined the term “conspicuous consumption” in 1899. I wonder if he ever thought a Narcissistic real estate con-man who lived in a gilded tower in Manhattan could ever become President of these United States.

Patriotism, Veblen once said, was the only obstacle to peace among nations. Let that sink in.

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Papal Peace

All good (and lapsed) Catholics remember St Francis of Assisi, standing around with birds on his shoulders and animals curled around his stone feet. He was the one saint everybody loved because his tenet was, “All Creatures are One Family.” So it’s only right that the modern day Pope of the Holy Roman Catholic Church should be named Francis; he sleeps in the most spartan bedroom at the Vatican and rides around in a Ford. He washes the feet of the poor.

And now Pope Francis said that the death penalty is unacceptable in all cases. He called it an attack on human dignity and has actually changed the Catechism (that little book I started each and every day with at Sacred Heart School) to reflect the Church’s new directive.

Maybe it’s time I went back to church? Right before the papal news broke, I was telling the dermatologist, who was digging a crater of squamous cells out of the back of my hand, all about my escapades at Camp St Joseph. Sure enough, he knew if the girls were on one side of the lake, the boys were on the other!

I was 16 when I lost my faith, and almost 30 when I found Judaism. Granted I was marrying Bob, but my decision to convert was deeply rooted in my desire to raise a healthy, cohesive family. There would be none of that back and forth from one place of worship to another, and neither did I want my children growing up without ANY religious foundation. That just seemed wrong to me.

And early on in the process of learning about the Jewish people, I had a vivid dream that the Pope forgave me! Of course, that was the year of three Popes, so I’m not sure which one it was!

The year 1978 will long be remembered as the year of the three popes. The not unexpected death of Pope Paul VI on August 6th, 1978, was followed on August 26th by the election of the “Smiling Pope,” John Paul I. Reigning only 33 days, the length in years of Our Lord’s earthly life, he died in his sleep of a heart attack on September 28th. Only a few weeks later on October 16th, 1978, the College of Cardinals elected Karol Cardinal Wojtyła, Archbishop of Krakow, Poland, as the first non-Italian Pope since Adrian VI (1522-1523). His pontificate has been one of the most remarkable in history.  https://www.ewtn.com/johnpaul2/life/1978.htm

Even though that last one, the first non-Italian, Polish Pope, John Paul II, never officially apologized for the Vatican’s Holocaust-era activities, and he defended Pope Pius XII, who did very little to help the Jews and Christian priests during WWII, even advancing him toward sainthood.

I knew I liked Pope Francis when he was asked about homosexuality on a plane, he replied to the reporter, “Who am I to judge?” Well he IS the Pope. And just this morning I was reading about his visit with 500 schoolchildren. A little boy asked him how he felt when he heard that he had been elected Pope, and he told him he felt “PEACE.” And it made sense, because the current Pope has turned away from divisive social issues like abortion to minister to the poor. The Flapper always said you can get more bees with honey.

I thought perhaps Francis’ legacy would eventually allow women into the priesthood! Even thinking this in the past would have been a mortal sin! But he took the name of the saint to all creatures, and recruiting nuns in this day and age cannot be easy.

I wish Pope Francis would visit the Ayatollah, Sayyid Ali Hosseini Khamenei aka the current Supreme Leader of Iran. He seemed to be getting along with President Obama, and currently, I’m pretty sure he views Mr T as the rest of the world does, a wild card. We might actually rid the world of nuclear weapons if the Pope walked into a bar with the Ayatollah. #WorldPeaceSummit

And maybe this American Girl could grow up to be President one day!

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