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Let’s Get Emotional

Let me feel your psyche talk. Reading a recap of the news this morning made me want to break into song, sorry Olivia Newton John. It seems that Mr T is on a Twitter tear, which obviously means he’s not happy, and he’s setting the stage for his United Nation’s address today. What he will say to the General Assembly is anybody’s guess, but one look at his Tweets tells us he’s getting aggressive with the “Rocket Man.” And Nikki Haley’s response?

“He gets emotional.”

Awww. Imagine what would have happened if Hillary Clinton set policy via Tweets creating one scandal after another, and then her Ambassador said she was just being emotional? Imagine President Obama saying just about anything Mr T has said?!! Imagine any US President mock/striking a woman with a GIF of his golf swing! This is our new normal, we have somehow normalized the behavior of a 12 year old boy.

Last night Bob and I drove out to a lake house for dinner with some new friends. We have the shared experience of our daughter’s residency at Vanderbilt. Their doctor-bride-to-be will be married in January, and she is a Pediatric Orthopedist. We met Susan and Tom by chance at the eclipse, and liked them before we found out our girls actually knew each other. We had a lovely time and returned home in time to watch the premiere of Ken Burns and Lynn Novick’s epic documentary “The Vietnam War.”

I got pretty emotional, because my brothers served in that war.

I had no idea that the eventual leader of the Viet Cong, Ho Chi Minh, had first written to FDR after WWII for help with establishing independence from the French for his country. That letter was never delivered. After the Chinese Revolution, Russia was only too happy to help this nationalist leader fight for a united Vietnam.

I didn’t know a young congressman named John Kennedy saw the futility of this proxy war for the French. And that in 1959, the first two American soldiers were killed as they watched a movie. The incremental lead up to war was chilling, and resonates today with our troubles in North and South Korea. And so much is about the context of our time, and how that shapes our point of view.

In the 1960s, we thought we were fighting for freedom, because we were afraid of Communism. Fear pushed four presidents of both parties to intercede in a bloody civil war for French Indochina – we didn’t see the obvious end of colonialism. Hindsight may hopefully teach us something this time around.

If we can manage to not let our emotions take over; if our President can control his temperamental Twitter tirades; if we don’t turn our backs on history.

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Cactus Gardening

Our new townhouse gets a tiny sliver of light each morning, and the sun streams in again in the late afternoon. Against all odds, I’ve decided to plant a few dish gardens because “Bloom Where You’re Planted” is my mantra. And even though my green thumb has been noticeably absent when it comes to house plants – with the exception of orchids –  I’m determined to turn my horticultural track record around and plant cacti!

After all, who could kill a cactus plant?

They grow in the desert, so water isn’t a problem. I’m really good at forgetting to water things, houseplants are low on my list of priorities falling right after dusting. Gardens, in my opinion, belong outside. But cacti, in or out, do need a fair amount of sun. Therefore I will inch my cactus gardens into that small square foot of sometimes semi/saturated/sun space and hope for the best.

We all adapt to our environment. I’ve gone from living on the edge of a bird sanctuary in Massachusetts, to the Jersey suburbs, to the mountains of Virginia. And now I’m sitting here, in the alcove of our “open plan” Living/Dining/Kitchen room in the middle of a big city. Ms Bean has adapted to a collar and leash; and Bob has changed in his own way, he’s enamored of Uber, forsaking driving, and has just walked in from his daily bike ride!

City life is looking better and better. I’m about to meet the Bride for another look at the fashions of Downton Abbey before the Cheekwood exhibit closes.

I learned a few things from my last visit to “Dressing Downton; Changing Fashion for Changing Times.” For instance, skirts began to shorten during WWI, as nurses on the front lines shortened their hemlines to avoid mud and blood. Hence the Flappers of the early 1920s. Fashion was adapting to the pragmatic needs of working women. Corsets became unnecessary, along with bustles. Eventually, women started riding horses astride in pants, they gave up the ritualized riding costume to ride like a man!

I recently found out a food blogger I follow from Charlottesville, Kathy Younger of KERF, made up with a particularly nasty troll of hers who had created a synchronous, satiric website for two and a half years. One of the many cruel and snarky comments on this other site had said that I looked like a man in my Downton Abbey-type hat. Those of you who know me know I wouldn’t really care, but what was interesting was that this troll took the commenter to task, telling them my website MountainMornings.net was actually well written and interesting!

The funniest thing is I thought the troll was a man. Why? I’m not exactly sure, the writing was sharp and witty, but Tina Fey is sharp and witty. Maybe I just couldn’t imagine a woman cutting down another woman like that. It turns out her troll was a 20 something young woman from LA, one with her own issues, and she wanted to make amends. https://www.katheats.com/i-befriended-my-troll#Z2pOl6ZWizcpyJbw.01

What I wanted to know was who was paying for this troll to write her miserable copy almost every single day? I haven’t quite adapted to the business side of the internet yet, but Kath said there “…are huge networks like Google Ads and they run all over the internet, so you can’t really pinpoint single businesses. They run on so many sites that they probably don’t even know they’re on a troll site.”

Well shame on these advertisers! And just in case you think the White Supremacists marching in Cville shouting “Jews will not replace us” – which no Jew I know would want to do in the first place – was a fluke, Facebook has just announced it will trim its targeting system for advertisers. Yep, it will no longer search for people to target in ads who are self-proclaimed “Jew haters!” I kid you not… They said they are “…building “guardrails” into its processes to stop offensive self-reported profile traits being used as ad categories.” http://www.bbc.com/news/technology-41278800

Did you know that a Jew born in Israel is called a “Sabra?” The name came from a kind of succulent that grows wild and free on the coastal areas, like a prickly pear. I’ve become rather proud of my bleeding post-potting fingers.

I hope that more platforms like Facebook and Google adapt to the troll and racist/anti-Semitic sites that pop up in the wild west of wifi, because free speech is becoming a synonym for spew all the hate you can, and we better learn how to handle this new territory.

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Remembering

Weekends blur into weekdays after retirement. Routines become malleable after moving from the country to the city. Today we might go out for lunch, or we might not. September is always a busy time of year, but with impromptu wine and cheese parties popping up, where we meet our new neighbors – “Oh, you moved from Chicago two weeks ago?” – and try to remember their names and their dogs’ names, I forgot what day it is, until I remembered.

The phone call from Great Grandma Ada, telling me to turn on the TV

The shock of standing alone in Rumson, across the shipping lanes from Wall Street

Calling the Bride in a government building in DC, then she suddenly hangs up

Listening to her voice hours later, after she walked back to Adams Morgan

Calling my sister Kay and my nephew Robert, who live in Manhattan

Waiting to hear from Bob, who was waiting for casualties at a dock

Waiting for the Rocker to return from high school, not knowing where he was

Driving on empty streets to the Red Cross to donate blood

Talking to a neighbor, who was walking her baby frantically up and down, up and down the street and rambling about knitting booties for rescue dogs

This morning the Bride told me she was having a hard time waking up. It could be because she worked yesterday and then afterwards threw a party at her house. It could be because it’s an overcast, cold day in Nashville. Or it could be because waking up to this day every year brings our fragility into sharp focus. Because sixteen years ago we woke up to a nightmare followed by funerals with empty coffins.

We remember our neighbor on Buena Vista Avenue who perished in a Tower. We remember our friend’s mentor who was a judge on one of the planes. This morning we vow to #NeverForget all those innocent people who lost their lives going to work, the rescue personnel who perished and became sick from digging in the Pit of millions of tons of steel and the ash of human remains. And their families. We will always remember.

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Picture from National Geographic archives – 6 months after 9/11 while the Pit still burns

 

One Last Thing

So much is happening, locally and globally. But this morning I’m heading out to Tot Shabbat at the Temple. We will sing, and light candles and try to forget about natural disasters and the personal/political ramifications of rescinding DACA for an hour or two..

Yesterday was the closing on our mountain house. We didn’t have to be there, we signed everything electronically. The people who bought it flew in from FL, they were escaping Hurricane Irma and bought our house as a second home. The closing was supposed to be today, the storm changed that equation.

It was bittersweet for me as this was the first, and most likely the last, home we built together.

Yesterday was also the end of Four Bridges, Bob’s family summer home. The last hold-out in signing off on the property finally relented. Checks will be cut for all the descendants of Etti and Sam, immigrants from Russia. They came here with nothing, and left quite a legacy.

One Hurricane story concerns our friend’s son, Jon. He had just started medical school on St Martin and luckily his apartment was not right on the sea. He took shelter with his friends and they are all fine but the island is uninhabitable. The school’s back-up plan was to send students to Miami.

That’s the last place they can go for their first year of study. I wonder if someone at Vandy or UVA will accept these medical students, like they did after Katrina?

And one last thing if you are in the path of this hurricane. Close all your windows and inside doors too, this will help save your roof! http://disastersafety.org/Hurricane/

May God watch over us all. “You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one.”

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Drawing a Line

In Nelson County, VA, no one wanted a pipeline going through their property. And when surveyors found the remains of an African American slave cemetery would be in the path of a proposed 554-mile Atlantic Coast Pipeline, to the tune of 5 Billion dollars, let’s just say things heated up at the local Planning Board.

“It is among at least four known African-American cemeteries in the area of Union Hill, an African-American settlement that is now in the path of a 42-inch natural gas pipeline that is proposed to sweep through Nelson from the Blue Ridge Mountains across the James into Buckingham County.

“This is the heart of the African-American community,” Rev James L Rose said. “It runs right through it.”

I’ve always been intrigued by metaphorical and physical lines. Iraq was invaded because we thought they had crossed President Bush’s WMD line; President Obama drew his line in Syria with chemical weapons, but didn’t follow through. We all draw our own personal lines in the sand of time – for instance, I will (or will never) get a tattoo!

But let’s get back to land lines. In the last eight years I’ve been crossing the Mason Dixon Line, traveling between VA and TN. I never really gave it much thought, in fact I used to think it was nothing more than an idea. A leftover relic of the Civil War, like the plaques and memorials that litter the South. But I’ve discovered that it is an actual boundary line that was drawn 250 years ago, pre-Revolutionary War, by two Brits, named surprisingly enough, Mason and Dixon!

And of course it was drawn to settle a land dispute between two families.

“For 80 years the Calvert family of Maryland and the Penns of Pennsylvania had been locked in a bloody dispute over the boundary between the two colonies they had been granted by the English Crown.“The stakes were very high,” said Mr Thaler, trustee of the Maryland Historical Society in Baltimore and an expert on the Mason-Dixon project.“There was about 4,000 sq miles of territory that was in dispute and nobody knew who to pay taxes to. Warfare regularly broke out along the border.”

Charles Mason and Jeremiah Dixon were sons of a baker and a miner respectively who had immigrated to the new colony to make their fortune. They first collaborated on a Transit of Venus map in 1761. For this adventure, they dragged exceptional, state-of-the-art instruments through the wilderness for 5 years between Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Maryland and Delaware. One scientist has called it the “moon landing” of that time period. Its accuracy was astounding and continues to be relevant, the very first geodetic survey in the New World!

During the Civil War, the Mason Dixon Line symbolized the border between free and slave-holding states. An outstanding engineering achievement for its day, the line came to represent a mortal wound in our country’s history. Did I feel any different after crossing that PA line in my CRV listening to This American Life podcasts? Not really.

While most of us are preparing a potato salad for a Labor Day picnic, I’m planning on Nanasitting the baby boy so his big sister can accompany the Bride delivering donuts to the Groom. He is on call in the MICU. Hospitals never close for holidays, and I guess neither does the United Nations.

This morning I just listened to Nikki Haley address the UN Security Council. She said that North Korea was “…begging for war.” I am praying Mr T’s line in the sand is permeable.

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“What does feminism mean to you?” Maxine, a new friend questioned me. I had to stop and think, since it feels like such a natural element in my life, she might have well asked, “Why do you need to breathe?”

My rant began slowly and built up over time. But I had to start out with equal pay for equal work, a fundamental, major prerequisite for life here on earth. Luckily she agreed, but she is about ten years younger. I’ve noticed that some younger women take many of our rights for granted, they think the word “feminist” is alienating. They like to call themselves humanists.

Which is OK I guess. After all, they didn’t have to be married to get birth control from a paternalistic, male doctor. They didn’t see their friends mutilated from illegal abortions, and later be unable to bear children. They were never told not to consider college by a school counselor, instead apply to secretarial school. They were never shamed about their sex.

I fumbled into a bit of a Twitter tirade with a young feminist author recently. I try to avoid trolls at all costs, I believe in just blocking them at first sight. But I was reading Hunger by Roxanne Gay, so I started following her and she mentioned she was working on a group of stories about “difficult women.”  And I asked if “difficult women” are the same as “nasty women.”

“NO,” was her one word reply.

The problem was I didn’t see her reply until the next day and by that time a bunch of angry young “feminist” trolls had said some awful things about me in her feed. So I’m not some 12 year old girl who would have been crushed and possibly suicidal by the digital harassment. I responded to them… I said I was a 68 yr old feminist and truly didn’t know the difference and would they please explain. I went high.

Now one of the responders had mentioned “cis women,” and how fed up she was with them (me), so I was guessing this had to do with some Lesbian sexual thing, since Gay is gay and I was simply referencing Hillary’s “nasty women.” I remembered another instance of being shamed online, when a famous food blogger put my picture up and someone said I looked like a “man.”

Now that really hurt! But I blamed it on my pouffy hat at the Downton Abbey premier. IMG_0836

And if you haven’t heard Pink’s response to her daughter being told she looks like “…a boy with long hair,” listen to this: https://www.vox.com/culture/2017/8/27/16212862/pink-vma-2017-video-vanguard-acceptance-live-your-truth

Thank you very much Pink! It saddens me that some feminists with differing sexual preferences aren’t on the same page, because we all were once upon a time. Ms Gay deleted all those difficult/nasty/mean Tweets and then she blocked ME!

Fine. Her book became difficult for me to finish, and it wasn’t an easy start as she was gang raped at the age of twelve. But I didn’t block her, I’m giving her a chance to explain herself. After all, she doesn’t know I have a good Lesbian friend here in Nashville.

Now Ivanka is another story. She stood behind her dad in blocking the implementation of President Obama’s rule to address gender-based pay discrimination. (Remember that was my very first point to my new friend). The rule would have required businesses to collect data on pay discrepancies based on gender, ethnicity and race. Here is her explanation, in case you were wondering about her feminist cred.

“Ultimately, while I believe the intention was good and agree that pay transparency is important, the proposed policy would not yield the intended results. We look forward to continuing to work with EEOC, OMB, Congress and all relevant stakeholders on robust policies aimed at eliminating the gender wage gap.”

I wish we could all stop shaming each other. When I see snarky comments about FLOTUS wearing stilettos to a flood zone I get just as mad as I would have when anyone criticized Hillary’s hair or her clothes. I mean, come on…..

This is my high school graduation picture, 1966. I was a 17 year old budding feminist then, who didn’t wear stockings or makeup or tease her hair.

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When Waters Rise

My heart goes out to Texas during Hurricane Harvey. And in particular, a Houston family of five we first met in Nashville years ago, who lived for awhile in Cville; they escaped the storm yesterday, on their oldest child’s birthday, and are now sheltering in Austin. Thankfully.

The Rocker was only 7 years old when a nurse and her husband/firefighter rescued him and his big sister from the December 11th No Name Storm. He dragged his lovey Wiley Coyote along through the flood. Our newly renovated Rumson home was taking on water from the Shrewsbury River, and we were miles away at a conference. Airports shut down, as did I, until I could hold them again.

Someone told me yesterday that refugees from Katrina are still living here in Nashville. She said her brother is a master electrician, and he was on his way to Houston to volunteer. Then she told me he would stay in Texas, as the insurance money flows in for rebuilding, construction workers will have plenty of jobs.

I remembered the Nashville flood of 2010. A newly married Groom, exhausted from late night hospital shifts, woke dreaming his dogs were swimming in the basement. Which of course, they were! The Bride was stuck in her ER, her car on an upper level in a flooded parking garage. I couldn’t wrap my head around a landlocked city flooding, I thought the moon and tides of our coastal towns dictated devastating storms. I was wrong.

An important dam outside of Houston is beginning to overflow as the reservoir rises over its banks. “While spillover would not cause the Addicks dam to fail, it would add more water to the Buffalo Bayou, the main river into the fourth largest city in the US.
Flood officials are also concerned about the Barker dam, which also controls the Buffalo Bayou west of Houston.” http://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-41081629

I hate to see this tragic event politicized. Democrats criticizing Republicans for calling for a smaller government while also asking for FEMA aid. Republicans continuing to support  a president on his way to Texas to offer what? Empathy, I’m not sure he’s ever heard of the word. Sorry folks, I couldn’t help myself. Still, chances are he’ll use the limelight to blow his own horn.

But maybe this time, we could forget the political minefield for a moment and all come together to help our fellow citizens in Texas. Because we all are in the same small boat, and the sea is so very wide. You can donate your money, or your blood, or if you can manage to get down there with a skill, your sweat and tears too.

http://www.redcross.org 

Happy Birthday to Mikey in Austin, we miss you buddy but we’re glad you’re safe with your family! Your friend Moana sends you hugs and courage!

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