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Shame Shame

In another life I used to sew. I would make tiny elephants to string across a new baby’s crib in different grey textures and patterns. You know the mom who made her kid’s Halloween costumes? That was me.

But I really loved to quilt; and not with some computer controlled techy machine. No, no it was the 80s after all. I liked to sit with fabric in hand and stitch pinwheels, Dresden plates, sunbonnet sue and double wedding ring patterns.

My friend Jean told me her favorite quilt was the log cabin. She graciously agreed to tag along with me last weekend when the rain ended to Music City Center for the Modern Quilt Guild’s Annual QUILTCON! Little did I know that this international retreat and conference of all things quilted is an epic event. There were over 500 gorgeous, contemporary juried quilts on display and dozens of vendors. It was a feast for the eyes!

We happened to meet one of the designers right in front of her quilt – a triptych of postcard-sized rectangles in white with bold black lines. Jean and I both had the same idea, “I could do this!” It’s manageable, piecework, something small you could travel with easily that finishes large. A statement. Then we turned the corner…

A huge red quilt with a barbed wire fence coursing through the lower half. Two outstretched arms, one above and one slightly smaller below, told me this was about immigration. I saw the letters instantly, red thread on red fabric: SHAME, and I knew this quilt was referencing Mr T’s family separation policy.

Art is supposed to do this to you. Hit you in the gut and open your eyes. The word “Shame” was hidden in plain sight, in fact some people didn’t see it. Some say shame is a worthless, destructive emotion. Brene Brown says that shame is all about the self, while guilt is more about our behavior; “I define shame as the intensely painful feeling or experience of believing that we are flawed and therefore unworthy of love and belonging.” 

I would posit that shame and guilt can occur at the same time, and in fact are necessary for a society to function. Seeing graphic images of children being separated from their parents at the border was enough to end this heinous policy. What kind of monster tells him/herself that a parent deserves to lose their child for wanting a better life?

The GOP might benefit from a collective dose of shame at the latest hijinks of their leader proclaiming a state of emergency over a border wall that nobody wants! The House will surely vote today to end this, but will the Senate have the will? Can Lindsay Graham actually feel shame? Or is it only theatrical indignation that stirs him to action over a frat boy’s beer-guzzling past.

Certainly not losing 90+ souls a day to gun violence.

Oh no, wait, at least one of Mr T’s architects certainly feels shame. Paul Manafort’s lawyer petitioned the judge today before sentencing and – “…insisted that Mr. Manafort was not only deeply remorseful, but “has suffered almost unprecedented public shame” for what they called garden-variety offenses.”

Michael Cohen was sentenced to 3 years for his garden variety of felonies that he pleaded guilty to, only he actually DID seem remorseful, as in he may have a conscience after all. His shame seems to have been personal, and not just public.

I found a unicorn pattern at Quiltcon for the Love Bug and a taco truck template for the L’il Pumpkin. My fingers are itchy to start stitching again!

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A Waste of Space

Let’s face it, you can never have enough storage. When we moved to Nashville, we were forced to rent a Pod, the first time we’ve ever had to pay for storage. But when you downsize to a two bedroom townhouse, while anticipating another move to a second home, you need a place to keep your antique French cupboard for example… because we all know our kids don’t want our big old brown furniture.

Although it seems they do want Great Great Grandma Ety’s fine china, and Great Grandma Ada’s Steinway grand piano!

Bob and I are starting to house hunt again, and we’re also about to list the old homestead in NJ. So while his brother Jeff is trying to find places for 50 years of a life well spent traveling and accumulating stuff, I’m looking for a modicum of closet space! We toured a historic home right up the block yesterday with soaring ceilings and absolutely no storage. Although it did have a garden shed in the backyard.

Usually Bob and I are on the same page, but this is a sore point between us. He is absolutely not interested in collecting stuff – he is in fact, the opposite of his Mother. While she stores her sisters’ bric-a-brac for years, Bob will throw out anything that isn’t tied down. “Do you need this?” is a common refrain. He continually reminds me that he is not into things, just experiences. Give him Predator tickets, not another tchotchke!

Not me. As you may already know, I covet shoes. Boots of all varieties too. I know I’ll never have my very own custom shoe side of the closet again… but a girl can dream right? And I LOVE books, real hold in your hands books. So a built-in bookcase would not be unreasonable! Books will always call my name whenever I walk into a living room. Naturally I was drawn to this article in the Real Estate section of the NYTimes, “Beyond the Built-in Bookcase:”

“One way to come up with ideas for creative built-ins is to look around your home for wasted space. Taking advantage of any oddly shaped leftover space is a great way to integrate storage while reducing the need for free-standing pieces…”

First you are supposed to walk around your home and make a LIST of everything you want to store, then determine if you are a messy kind of person who deals with clutter (I would change that description to “creative types”) OR a show-offy type of person who wants to display collections…

Artistic people need to think of drawers and closets, while collectors need to think of glass cabinets and open shelving. OK that makes sense. And now to tackle the wasted space part. Nearly every house I look at, the owner will say something like, “I just never knew what to do with this space.” Either it’s a corner with a huge air vent, or a strange architectural detail, like a point instead of a bay window. Designers like to hide storage in plain sight with invisible latches; “They send a signal of stealth wealth and attention to detail,” she said. “Built-ins have gone from being a statement to being a secret.”

Like a Murphy bed! Who doesn’t love a Murphy bed?

It’s another rainy day in Nashville. I think I’ll start my list of stuff to store with all my stringing and beading paraphernalia. It’s organized among clear plastic bins and can fit into a small painted chest, but right now it’s spread across the dining table because I’m feeling creative. Pantone’s color for Spring is Living Coral!

I’ve told Bob when we finally empty the Pod it will be like Christmas morning for me. He figures if we’ve lived without “it” for 2 years, we don’t really need it, whatever “it” is. I love my 1960s Dutch oven that I bought in a store in Cambridge Mass, after seeing Julia Child. Is this minimalism a Y chromosome thing?

To his credit, Bob does make a mean ravioli, and we sometimes eat at the table!

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A Beauty Revolution

It was one of those rare opportunities lately for me. We were meeting Bob’s cousin from NY and his girlfriend for dinner at a trendy restaurant downtown. I had to run upstairs and get “beautiful.” It was an excuse to put on makeup!

I remembered the Flapper saying she had to, “put on her face.” Nelly, my foster mother, would only occasionally get dolled up since I am convinced she had agoraphobia. Still, on those rare occasions when she did venture out, she appeared like a Geisha – white face powder and red lips.

My routine now is pretty similar to Nell’s; some tinted moisturizer with an occasional dusting of mineral powder, a lip balm, with the addition of eyebrows; as in, she had them and I don’t. Well I do, but they are blonde. Still, just the basics. With Great Grandma Ada it’s all about the lipstick. She likes a bold lip.

Attending a Catholic school meant I had to learn the beauty basics fast in high school. In the 60s, I would take my “pin money” to White’s Pharmacy or Newberry’s and buy the latest white lipstick and blue eyeshadow!

I’d been told that it was always important to have “pin money.” What a quaint, ancient expression that referred obliquely to a woman having some financial independence. The term originated at the turn of the 20th century when women were fighting for the vote, and God forbid we might lose our hats in the process; hence Gibson girls were told to keep some change on their person for hat pins!

During the Flapper’s roaring 20s, it meant money for a cab in case your date was getting too fresh…

I didn’t grow up with huge beauty emporiums like Sephora, or tutorials on shading your face to create angles on YouTube. Side note – I just watched my first “influencer” teach me how to make “beachy waves” with a curling iron… it took her almost an hour and included many products! I’d just rather go to the beach though. Cheaper and simpler.

Of course, we didn’t have to be Insta-ready for a picture to spread like wildfire on social media, for all our friends to judge us.

We didn’t know how fresh and pure our skin was, so we spread on the orange gel, Bain de Soleil, and baked into bronze goddesses under the sun. We didn’t focus on the “size” of our pores or look ahead to future basal and squamous cells.

We didn’t even know that makeup was tested on animals. We thought that the bunny died only if one of us became pregnant. That was the test, there was no peeing on test strips in the privacy of your own bathroom. That dead bunny was the watershed moment for many of us.

Because I was a redhead, my skin was deemed super sensitive, everybody knows this. Nurses told me when I first tried nursing my baby. Doctors told me after stitching up the C-section wound. When I was diagnosed with psoriasis, I was reminded yet again…

But it wasn’t until I saw the youngest Kardashian (Kylie Jenner) on the cover of Forbes that it hit me. The beauty business is BIG business. https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbesdigitalcovers/2018/07/11/how-20-year-old-kylie-jenner-built-a-900-million-fortune-in-less-than-3-years/#4a7b63dcaa62

You need more than pin money to keep up these days. Imagine that as a teen Jenner was developing these “lip kits” to plump up lips. I never worried about my big upper lip, it was just a part of me and if I wanted to change anything it was to gain some curves and not look stick-straight, “like a boy.”

When the Bride was teased about her gorgeous rosebud lips in middle school, I cringed.

We didn’t know how trendy such lips would become – that a big upper lip is now considered an Elvis asset. That women inject their lips with fillers for this effect is fascinating to me. I want to tell the Love Bug to love herself just the way she is, not to compare herself to others. She will have to deal with being a tall girl in a world where women are told to keep quiet still, and stay in the background.

And when they do speak up, like Dr Ford, they are vilified.

If there was ever a generation to lead a beauty revolution now is the time. Let’s clear out our makeup drawers ladies and accept our grey hair and wrinkles. Let’s stop searching for that magic potion of youth and put our pin money where our head is – in the stuff that will soothe our souls. In books, music and art.

Beach hair and wrinkles #nomakeup, this is what 70 looks like.

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Floating World

Ukiyo-e is Japanese for “pictures of the floating world.” It usually refers to scenes from everyday life, and was an art movement that inspired the early Impressionists. Imagine those prints of ocean waves, islands and cranes you once saw hanging in your grandmother’s home. Not this nana though; I’m more of an early 20th Century French advertising print sort of girl.

Still, with this torrent of spring rain, I’m beginning to feel as if I’ll be floating down to the Cumberland River any day now. Last night, during a rain-free respite, Bob and I visited our local Art Crawl – less a walk-about town and more an old factory brimming with live music, food trucks and artists of all media! We were especially taken with the paintings by Shane Miller. I asked if he works from a photograph or does he haul his easel outside? He said the photographs are all in his mind. https://www.shaneartistry.com/

He layers oils onto canvas in order to evoke a dreamscape. I could envision an expansiveness, a floating vista that spoke to a primordial self. I know, it sounds weird. But think about your happy place – the beach? The mountains? A long landscape of wheat grass at dawn bordered by a forest? Now stand back and squint your eyes to blur that image down into its essence. There, if you are lucky, you may find his work.

Our cousin, Stevela, is visiting his Aunt Ada (and us) from NY. He is an orthopedic surgeon who is grappling with retirement and recently started painting. What does a doctor do when he or she is no longer doctoring? Some like to pick up garbage in the neighborhood, while others might pick up a paint brush.

This is our second year in Nashville, and it was our very first Art Crawl. We told Steve that a visit to the Frist Museum is well worth it since their Mellon Collection of French Art (Van Gogh, Monet and Degas) just opened. We’ve seen it already with the Grands, where a docent told us that Van Gogh tried out being a missionary for a few years but failed. He was disabused of the notion that everyone has good intentions.

So he went back to France. “For my part I know nothing with any certainty, but the sight of the stars makes me dream.” 

Did you know that Diego Velazquez liked to paint himself into his Baroque paintings of royal families?  In Las Meninas you will find him painting in a corner, like a play within a play.

“…Manet went to Madrid to look at Velazquez’s work and later wrote to his fellow painter, Henri Fantin-Latour: This is the most astonishing piece of painting that has ever been made. The background disappears. It is air that surrounds the fellow.”  https://www.theartstory.org/artist-velazquez-diego.htm

I was lucky enough to hear Edward Friedman, the Gertrude Conaway Vanderbilt Professor of the Humanities, speak about analyzing literature to a group of Great Grandma Ada’s friends this week. He compared writers to painters.

He was using Las Meninas and “The Story of the Bad Little Boy,” by Mark Twain, to illustrate his point – the narrator can be reliable or unreliable. Twain is omniscient, his opinions float in the background of his narrative like the Mississippi River, brown and brooding.

I knew that my stories were all different colors swirling around, flowing fiercely sometimes and meandering at others. I knew that my palette was my laptop’s keyboard. But I had never heard the intersection of writing and painting so beautifully expressed before I met Prof Friedman.

Am I dreaming, or did the rain stop?

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Being Nice

The rain had stopped for a few hours, so I ventured outside to check out the anniversary shenanigans of my favorite boutique in Nashville, Alexis and Bolt. A mere block away, we have a special relationship since they opened and we moved here about the same time two years ago – has it been 2 years? Early on Bob helped them out with a little problem that first week, while walking Ms Bean, and then told me I’d love the shop!

Bob never encourages me to shop so I knew I would love it. Dogs are always welcome too.

There were huge balloons and signature cocktails and the best Bolt Babes to celebrate their commitment to style and the neighborhood. But just as I was walking down our alley I heard the most mournful screams for help. I started running, taking out my phone to dial 911 when I saw a few women standing at the back of a Ford pickup truck with a trailer attached. As I got closer I could see a young man on his knees with his thumb caught in the hitch.

I saw something that looked like a tiny food truck halfway off the other side of the trailer.

It took just a few seconds to understand that the young woman was pleading with passers-by to jump onto the trailer and thereby see-saw the lock open to free his hand. I don’t remember dropping my bag, but I did jump up there and stood in a tight line of women, like Rockettes getting ready to kick. We jumped in unison and he rolled away.

My EMT training of 40 years ago kicked in and I told him to lay down and covered him with my coat while the woman-in-charge-owner-of-the-trucks raised his legs above his heart. Someone had called 911 and I’d called Bob who was just a few houses down the street. Thankfully his thumb was still attached but looked badly broken.

Bob did his thing, ordering ice from the fish store and making sure all his other fingers could move. When the ambulance arrived his color was back and he could stand up fine.

Never underestimate the power of a group of single-minded women. We worked in unison to rescue his hand while the owner of the tiny truck and the big Ford pickup told me that so many guys had just walked by when it first happened, while she was pleading for help. I wondered what they were thinking, is this a scam?

Bob and our neighbor Ron helped push the tiny truck into position on the street, but it was not a food truck after all, it’s a flower stall on wheels called Taylor’d Crowns where they make beautiful tiaras on the spot with ribbons and baby’s breath to make you feel like a medieval princess. I could imagine that every single girl at a Nashville bachelorette/hen party will want to wear one of her creations! https://taylordcrowns.com/

And the funny thing is, the tiny 1969 Citroen H van is from France and her name is “Gertie,” Grandma Gi’s name was Gertrude.

My sister-in-law Jorja was just talking with me the other day about the Flapper, aka Grandma Gi. She’s been sending us both signs lately! Sometimes it’s a recipe and sometimes it’s an angel making flower crowns.

Let’s encourage our daughters to not just BE nice, but to alway DO the “right and proper thing,” as my brother Mike would say. To strive to be their authentic selves; tell them that not everybody has to like them. And that’s OK.

These two could use some flower crowns!

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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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Sunday, Funday

One thing about Nashville, it’s never boring.

It’s been a cold and busy reentry; waiting for Uber at the airport, freezing in a 20 degree wind tunnel wearing a summer dress, should have been my first clue. Getting back to reality would usually take some time, but my island speed shifted into overdrive fast. Our beautiful NC niece Tammy was visiting her Grandmother Ada, so we made some delicious, authentic ravioli for a small dinner party, and yesterday was game day for the Love Bug!

I’m not talking football here, it’s Firely Piggies girls basketball.

They still sometimes head down the court in the wrong direction, pink shirts and pigtails flying. But they won one and lost one, so we all had a blast. And who doesn’t like a concession stand with soda and candy? Still, since the weather here is warming rapidly, I longed for a completely unscheduled day with the Grands. Just some time to sit on the porch, or play “Go Fish,” or even ride around the neighborhood on bikes.

The word “boring” was banned in my house. Whenever the young Bride or Rocker would discover this word I’d immediately put the kibosh on it! “Look around you,” I’d say, “there is so much to do, only boring people get bored!” I was happy to notice this same reaction in my daughter when her children would gaze up at her, in the middle of paradise, and say, “I’m bored Mama.”

We would scoff, they would laugh, and finally she would admonish them. Then off they would go, to create a pretend shelter in their room for homeless people – pillows for beds and seashells for food. Such young altruism made my heart sing.

But I’m afraid parents today feel it’s their duty to keep their children entertained at all times. They have grown up in an age of “stranger danger” meaning only constant vigilance will do; free play time has become an archaic term. My kids rode their bikes to the school bus. Mothers now are being arrested for leaving their child in a car for a few minutes.

Last week, while discussing humbugs, the L’il Pumpkin told me he may have actually seen one, or it might have been his imagination… And this is exactly what I love to encourage – imagination, curiosity, creativity, a sense of wonder! Sometimes I would keep the Rocker home from school and call it a “mental health day.” Children need space to grow and dream.

Lin-Manuel Miranda once credited his “…unattended afternoons with fostering inspiration. “Because there is nothing better to spur creativity than a blank page or an empty bedroom,” he said.  https://www.nytimes.com/2019/02/02/opinion/sunday/children-bored.html

Maybe growing up an “Only,” with plenty of time on my own, is why the blank page never scared me! I’ll be attending a restorative yoga class this afternoon (thanks MaryAnn), while everyone else is watching Super Bowl Sunday or Puppy Bowl antics. Whatever you’re planning this #SundayFunday, I hope you stay UN-bored y’all.

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