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This week Ms Berdelle was rounding up the neighborhood so we could all tie ourselves to the cherry trees on the Cumberland River bank. But that’s another story

Cherry trees are exploding all over Nashville. There is new growth on every block; tulips coming while daffodils are going, backed by an orchestra of bird song. I can’t help but smile as I walk Ms Bean and wonder if passers-by are also euphoric over Spring, or are they just self/or/doctor/medicated? Passover and Easter are right around the corner and we are in the midst of starting over in our new home, the #PartyFarmhouse.

Like Chip and Joanna of HGTV fame, I’ve christened our urban oasis with its very own name – the Party Farmhouse is a simple, white shingle-style abode with black trim – built in the 1930s, the small side garden holds a gas fire pit and is adorned with party lights! Emptying the Pod yesterday was like Christmas morning; the Flapper’s Buddha, the French cupboard, old paintings and my ancient desk. In the midst of it all, I’d almost forgotten my hair stylist’s appointment.

There is nothing like a new do to make you feel alive and reborn, so of course I made a point of showing up because I love Chase! We always have the best conversations, and yesterday he told me that his dearly departed grandmother shared my name and my original hair color! We talked about one of his relatives who doesn’t believe in vaccinations, and I told him how I was lined up at Sacred Heart School to road test one of the very first polio vaccines. In my day, we still saw children who had been afflicted with polio in wheelchairs with wasted limbs.

Which is why I cannot abide by parents who are “anti-vaxxers.” I told Chase about the research I did on language acquisition in college at the Hartford School for the Deaf. Most of those beautiful pre-schoolers had been born to mothers who had contracted German measles during their pregnancy, also known as Rubella. There was no choice for these parents, not in the 1970s. The MMR vaccine today prevents Rubella and regular measles, aka Rubeola. Now thanks to certain communities in the US and all over Europe as well, measles is making a comeback.

“Italy and France have extended existing requirements (for school admission) with fines and restricted school attendance. And Germany is currently discussing making measles vaccine mandatory.

In New York’s Rockland County, unvaccinated children have been banned from public places for 30 days. But it is difficult to see how this could be effectively enforced and there is little evidence that mandatory vaccination is always the best approach.”   https://www.bbc.com/news/health-47800438

Whether you believe basically sentencing an unvaccinated child to house arrest for a month is constitutional, or not, this is a fine line for public health officials to cross. Most outbreaks have occurred in ultra-Orthodox Jewish communities thereby fueling anti-Semitic sentiments. But combined with Christian-Right homeschoolers, many children can no longer rely on herd immunity. A community needs a rate of 95% compliance in order to benefit from herd immunity.

My biological Father was a pharmacist who believed you could contract all these communicable diseases in a hospital, when in fact the measles virus floats around in the air droplets of an infected person and on surrounding surfaces for hours. It’s highly contagious and not worth risking a child’s life over unsubstantiated conspiracy theories, no matter what religion one subscribes to.

Well, it’s back to unpacking boxes for me. Ms Berdelle’s plan almost worked, since the cherry trees were not chopped down and now have another chance at life! Let’s hope most of the trees the city of Nashville transplanted to accommodate the NFL draft (and our massive voter petition) continue to bloom! We pick up the Grands today after school and just might be installing a fairy house!

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Today is #EqualPayDay across the globe, meaning any woman who thinks she isn’t a feminist isn’t paying attention. For every single dollar, or euro, a man makes, a woman will collect only 80 cents. Think about it, we make almost one quarter less than what men make for doing the same work! Maybe back in the day, where MAGA-hat-wearing people long to live, men went out to work and plunder leaving their mates at home, barefoot and pregnant. But today, we ladies are half of the workforce, maybe the “better half?”

Last week, the D Majority House passed the Paycheck Fairness Act. Why should that matter? Certainly some industries are fair when it comes to the payroll – historically women-centered careers like healthcare and teaching have been gender-neutral for the most part. But now the Paycheck Fairness Act will help to close the 20% wage gap in a broader way by banning employers from asking about former salaries. And maybe most importantly, prohibit companies from firing or retaliating at workers who share their wage information!

So step over to the next cubicle and talk about money people!

I remember my first real job. Before my days of teaching at a Head Start in Jersey City, I was hired to interview temp workers for a large American firm. This entry HR job meant I had to administer typing tests and ask the kinds of questions above and beyond what your last salary looked like – “Are you married?” “Do you want to have children?” Those were the good ole days, when it was more of what your body actually “looked like;” the days when my older sister Kay had to keep her child a secret if she wanted to continue to work as a stewardess in the airline industry.

And she had to starve herself too, in order to stay at a certain weight. We women of a certain age have these memories floating around in our hippocampus, judging ourselves in the mirror every day.

And being a card-carrying feminist means one should fight against sexual harassment in the workplace, or anyplace really. But listen up, I may offend some of you here, maybe we’ve gone a step too far? I mean, I LOVE ex-Veep Joe Biden! He hails from my hometown, and has the most authentic, warmest smile. His son died of the same kind of brain tumor that killed my biological father. He reminds me of my foster father, Daddy Jim; I’d share a cup of tea with him anytime! And guess what…

If he kissed the back of my head, or leaned in for some Eskimo kisses or even butterfly kisses… why, I’d hug him right back! There, I said it. Most women can differentiate between a lecherous old guy who is too handy and goes for your lips, and a Mensch. The first kind of man makes you instantly turn your face away, he hugs too hard and too long, we can see it in their hungry eyes. Great Grandma Ada had a friend like that, even into his 90s he’d put the moves on you.

But Uncle Joe just doesn’t strike me that way, you know, the way Mr T strikes me.

So let’s settle down Dems, we will never win in 2020 by fighting amongst ourselves. Let’s teach our little boys about consent, without scaring them away from intimacy. Teach them how to know when to shake hands or hug hello. Here is Pop Bob (a genuine Mensch) teaching the L’il Pumpkin about tools with his very first tool box. Clap your hands if you believe in fairy houses.

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Needless to say, I’m on the “almost too old to bother” with this test. But in my defense, the first time I was scheduled, after Katie Couric made it seem so easy, Gma Ada had a heart attack. I cancelled and flew to NJ.

The second time, just last year, I bought the gallon jug of prep medicine along with two gallons of margarita mix, because we were hosting a Cinqo de Mayo party. Honest. Last April Gma Ada broke her hip, so I cancelled and flew to NJ.

This third time for my very first colonoscopy would be the charm we figured. I considered not even telling Gma Ada what was happening but in the end Bob dropped me at the hospital and drove his Mom to the dentist today. In bubble wrap.

Here is what I learned while drinking myself into oblivion last night.

1. Don’t bother buying any Crystal Light. It only changes the color which made me think I’d flunk the test.

2. Don’t try to read Southern Living Magazine. It’s all about FOOD and you won’t be having any for awhile.

3. Ditto for TV. Did I need to know that Red Lobster is having a special on lobster of all things? The PBS special on rice however…

4. Don’t start texting with that friend who writes you long letters. Your attention span cannot possibly keep up with your powder room visits.

5. Don’t leave any jelly beans or nuts lying around the house, your memory starts slipping and you might be tempted to eat one.

6. Don’t accidentally mix the infant simethicone drops in with your dog’s dinner. It’s hard to multi-task while chugging GoLytely – a most ironic choice of names for my liquid diet.

7. Don’t forget to thank your husband. For answering your same question multiple times, “Did you talk to the doctor yet?” and for cooking dinner when it’s all over. The hospital socks are a nice touch!

Hocus Pocus

It would seem that a certain type of actor can actually pull off a stunt about racism and lynching, and get away with it! Jussie Smollett said,“I have been truthful and consistent on every single level since day one… I would not be my mother’s son if I was capable of one drop of what I’ve been accused of.” Prosecutors have dropped his case, although Smollett did donate his $10,000 bail to the city of Chicago…

Not guilty of 16 counts of disorderly conduct, lying to police, and being the victim of a hate crime. I just don’t get it. He is taking the plea, while still saying he’s innocent? It feels as if the whole world is turning upside down.

I mean what’s happening with Michael Avenatti? First we think Stormy’s lawyer may make a run for President in 2020, and then he is indicted on both coasts for embezzelment.

While Mueller comes up with nothing... NOTHING? Mr T has not colluded with Russia? So what was he doing? Only asking for Hillary’s emails and trying to build his brand in Moscow? OK, I’ll believe whatever Mr T says over and over again, said nobody I know!

Bob thinks that Avenatti was going through a manic phase; I think he’s just a sleaze ball. You know there can be sleaze on both sides of the aisle. After all, Stormy was a means to his end – he wanted the notoriety, the fame. His 15 minutes of fame is up.

The hoax that Smollett and Avenatti perpetrated on the public, is similar to the hoax that Mr T has been spreading – “There was no collusion,” and “It’s all a witch hunt.” You cannot invite a foreign power to mess with our elections, on camera to a TV audience, and then plead innocent. It begs credulity. But instead of being manic, Mr T is laser-focused on making as much money as he can while he still holds the Office of the President. He is smart like a fox.

Meanwhile, on to local news! We are moving. Not very far but still a big, big deal. So if you don’t hear from me for awhile, you’ll know why. We are simultaneously packing up our things and arranging for the notorious Pod to be delivered. It’s only two blocks away, but while the cherry trees are in full bloom, I will be hauling my shoes and clothes over to our new little farmhouse in the city. We’ll have our very own garden, and party lights too! Maybe the world is evolving as it should?

Here is his Mother’s son, under our porch and the flowering cherry tree!

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Oh Happy Spring! The sun is out, the daffodils are smiling, and the Love Bug is on Spring Break. It’s a rare opportunity for me to have some alone time with my granddaughter – usually her adorable and exuberant little brother is tagging along, or a parent or two. But lucky me, this week we had a day to ourselves to design dream catchers, share crepes for lunch, and skip to the Farmer’s Market for salted peanut butter ice cream with chocolate flakes.

But the absolute best time is when we get to talk in the car. There is no one else to control the radio in the front seat, or play imaginary games in the back seat. So I opened up the sunroof and blasted Bach on our sound system! If you go to the Google Doodle today, you’ll see why Bach is all over classical stations – it’s his 334th birthday! You’ll also be able to interact with an AI composer… which is awesome btw! https://www.classicfm.com/composers/bach/birthday-google-doodle-ai-game/

The Baroque composer played and worked for princes and churches. His stunning harmonies never fail to move me, and in particular I could listen to the Brandenburg Concertos forever. Bach was a master of  something called “….counterpoint, (this) is the way notes move alongside each other in harmony. Bach is particularly famous for the complexity of his counterpoint, often creating incredibly intricate harmonies beneath simple chorale melodies – with beautiful results to the listeners.”

Back to the present, there we were, on the first day of Spring, with the sun shining through the roof of my car when Ms Bug asked me if Bach was deaf? And honestly I didn’t know, I mean wasn’t Beethoven deaf? I turned down the music as she told me the story of a composer who was conducting his orchestra with his eyes closed so he didn’t see that the musicians had stopped, and he was deaf so he couldn’t hear either.

Someone had to gently turn him around to the audience so he could see them clapping.

Granted her school has an awesome music program, where the arts are thoroughly integrated into every grade’s curriculum, not treated as an after-school-after-thought.  But I was still amazed as we discussed what a deficit like that might have done to a musician. My almost 7 year old granddaughter has a mind that rarely slows down, and a gift for compassion. Suddenly I asked her which she would rather – “Would you rather be deaf or blind?”

I know it’s a hard question at any age. I’ve witnessed what deafness has done to Great Grandpa Hudson, I’ve lost some of my own vision over the years and still it’s a question I’d rather not even ponder, but for some strange reason I asked it. Making sense of this world can be challenging; and here she was on the brink of the Age of Reason. Plus, I loved hearing the Love Bug think out loud.

She said immediately, “I’d rather be blind.”

Of course there’s no right answer. It’s like asking “Which super power would you have if you were a super hero?” It’s fantastical, theoretical, and absurd. A Sophie’s Choice in a Willy Wonka world. But the Bug would miss her mother’s voice, her father singing her to sleep, the sounds of spring.

And I thought to myself, would I miss reading the news, the news junkie that I used to be when I was a reporter. Could I adapt to audible books? Would I miss seeing the sun rise and fall? Would I still take pleasure in cooking if I didn’t see what I was doing, if I could only smell and taste a dish? Would it even be safe to make ravioli? Maybe, because I could play Bach’s Brandenburg Concertos and Chopin’s violin concertos, and I would be able to revel in the Rocker’s compositions.

Later on with Pop Bob, we stood in the middle of the enormous bell towers at the Bicentennial Capitol Mall when the hour struck, and all around us we heard the dulcet tones of the TN Waltz. Bob asked me to dance, and the Bug smiled.

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Our newly discovered niece, Tamara, was thrilled. She sent us a picture of her son, a high school senior, with his college acceptance letter right before the holidays. He had excelled in his studies and won a scholarship to the school of his choice, the Citadel, the Military College of South Carolina! He towered over her, looking somehow humble and proud at the same time. And even though I’d missed his birthdays and holidays over the years, I’m determined to make his graduation this Spring.

This is the pinnacle of a parent’s job here on earth, the icing on the cake of motherhood. After all, we modern moms have little or nothing to do with our child’s choice of friends, which sport they may, or may not want to play, or whether they decide to rehearse their heavy metal band in your garage…but, we may still have a little pull and persuasion in the dastardly-named “college application process.”

And as F Scott Fitzgerald said, “Let me tell you about the very rich, they are different from you and me.” To which the Irish writer Mary Colum replied, “Why yes, they have more money.”

And possibly less scruples. Last week we were shocked, well maybe only slightly shocked, to find out that money seemed to be the defining factor in by-passing the usual college admission rigmarole for a kind of side-door acceptance scheme. The college counselor to the stars and the top 1%, William “Rick” Singer, enlisted university deans and college coaches, along with SAT testing officials to fix the game of College Choice in his client’s favor. https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-47585336

The case looked at a period between 2011 and 2018, when, according to the authorities, $25 Million in bribes were paid by people looking to sneak around the usual university admittance process. Fifty people – including 33 parents and various sports coaches – were indicted.

In our tony suburb of Rumson, where the Bride played field hockey, the kids drove better cars than the teachers. And guidance counselors were swamped with the high-end demands of their students and parents who were alternately nouveau riche investment bankers or old world riche tennis players. The college admission stakes were high.

The Bride got into Duke the old-fashioned way, although she was a Legacy since Bob had graduated ages ago. Still, we didn’t build a building or donate to the library. Her test scores were her own, as were her grades. Her high school guidance counselor advised against Early Admission, the stakes were too high, but she proceeded and gained entry anyway. Her college essay was about her work at Planned Parenthood, a risky choice. We had done all our heavy lifting in her previous 17 years:

We instilled in her a love of learning, of art, of reading and traveling. We encouraged her curiosity, and desire for social justice. We drove her to and from piano lessons, horseback riding, and even Sea Bright for her very first job as a waitress.  She took charge of her college application process, at one point finding a teacher’s reference letter that the counselor had lost!

When I read that Desperate Housewife Felicity Huffman, had not only lied and said her daughter had a learning disability in order to have an unlimited time frame to take the SAT, but was arranging, through Singer, to take that test at a special place in West Hollywood where someone else could pose as her daughter, I was shocked. The fictional daughter was actually an ex-tennis star with a high IQ who often did this for a price; in this case it cost Huffman a mere $15,000, less than the cost of a new Tesla.

We Americans like to think that our country is the one place on earth where Horatio Alger dreams can still come true. A place where with enough hard work and diligence, anyone can rise above their socio-economic circumstances to the the next level. In fact, the opposite is true. People born into wealth here are more likely to keep their status, while someone born into poverty is more likely to stay in that lane. https://www.forbes.com/sites/aparnamathur/2018/07/16/the-u-s-does-poorly-on-yet-another-metric-of-economic-mobility/#4ce797c56a7b

The U.S. is one of only four high income economies amongst 50 economies with the lowest rates of relative upward mobility. While the problems in each country are unique, many solutions are universal. The report highlights much needed investments in early childhood through subsidized childcare and paid leave, nutrition programs, good quality public education programs and schools, improved occupational networks and labor market interventions such as employer tax credits to employ younger workers. But it also points to a new, and often overlooked, factor: the role played by aspirations, both of the parents and the children themselves, and the link between aspirations and mobility. 

Aspirations, what a quaint word. Every parent wants one thing for their child, a safe, effective education. It doesn’t matter if you live in the projects of Jersey City or the suburbs like Rumson or the city of Nashville. And we all know, with private, charter, magnet and regular old public schools, our child’s education is no better than a horse race. The rich are starting off with an advantage, but we cannot allow cheating.

Here is the L’il Pumpkin, who wants to be a fighter like his Great Grandpa Hudson and loves crossing bridges!IMG_2494

 

 

Bearing Arms

This morning we awoke to another mass shooting, except this time the carnage took place in New Zealand, a country we Americans like to think of as idyllic. Friends returned from a trip once to tell us that Kiwis are the most delightful people they’ve ever met! The Bride will tell anyone that people just don’t sue their doctors in the land of Tolkein.

But today, hate has landed on their shores in the form of far-right, white supremacy.

49 people are dead and more than 20 are injured simply for attending their mosque in Christchurch. The young man, the terrorist with a gun, live-streamed his vicious attack shooting men, women and children at close range for Facebook.

How is this different than a neo-Nazi killing Black people in a Christian church in South Carolina? Or is it different from an anti-Semite slaughtering Jews at prayer in a synagogue in Pennsylvania? Is a shooting at a place of worship any different from a school massacre?

An anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim, racist bigot with a camera on his head is no different than other young, white men on a mission to hate and kill; what they all have in common besides hate is a GUN. Yes, terrorists will try killing with cars and trucks and knives, but a gun is so much more efficient

And in this respect I do have some good news to share – the Supreme Court of the state of Connecticut has ruled that the Sandy Hook Elementary victims have the right to sue the manufacturer of the gun, a Remington Bushmaker AR-15, that was used to slaughter their children. The Associated Press reports:

In a 4-3 decision, justices reinstated a wrongful death lawsuit against Remington and overturned the ruling of a lower court judge, who said the entire lawsuit was prohibited by the 2005 federal law. The majority said that while most of the lawsuit’s claims were barred by the federal law, Remington could still be sued for alleged wrongful marketing under Connecticut law.

This is a huge step for gun control safety, ending the age-old practice of complicit immunity to gun companies and their shareholders.

And in other good news, the 55 year old father of the Waffle House shooter here in Nashville has been charged with unlawful transfer of a firearm, a felony, in his home state of Illinois. His “child” killed 4 people in 42 seconds. Because the father knew his son had been hospitalized in the past five years for his mental health, the state thinks he should not have given his son an AR-15. What do you think? Do you see a pattern? https://www.tennessean.com/story/news/crime/2019/03/14/travis-reinking-father-jeffrey-waffle-house-shooting/3016158002/

“If he is found guilty, the charge could carry probation or up to three years prison time and a fine of up to $25,000.”

My heart goes out to the victims in Christchurch this morning. But as Spring approaches, I have hope that we can turn this massive public health crisis around. Like Rip van Winkle, our country is awakening from the biting cold grip of the Second Amendment.

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