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This weekend we had our very first double sleepover. We picked up both Grandkids around lunchtime Saturday and returned them to their grateful parents on Sunday. Bob warned me not to get my hopes up, four year olds may meltdown at bedtime and need to go home in his PJs. I however, would have none of that thinking, we were going to have so much fun, my L’il Pumpkin would forget where he was and sleep like an angel. Which, spoiler alert, they both did!

When we arrived at our townhouse it was cold and drizzly with an Amazon box on the front porch. I’d been collecting beads and jewelry making tools for the Love Bug for awhile now, and had recently found a cute craft box for her. She is very much like my daughter, her Mama; type A, hyper-organized, in love with the Container Store. I knew she’d love her craft box, but I needed something for her brother.

Thank goodness for two day delivery service. I ordered a small tackle box and a bunch of kid-sized real tools for the L’il Pumpkin. I had a plan but forgot to tell Bob about it, luckily he pitched right in – explaining each tool, then trudging up the steps together, they began “fixing” things, including the squeaky daybed he and his sister would be sleeping on that night!

I know – raising gender neutral kids is new to me, though I did help the Pumpkin make a Black Panther necklace!

Then we went out for a trek in Ms Berdelle’s Secret Garden. We searched in the misty rain for Tinkerbell trim – small, delightful pieces of nature to design and  construct a fairy house: pine cones, bark, leaves, dead flowers, berries, stones, snail shells. Anything glorious and small would do. I didn’t dig up moss for a thatched roof because Bob said it’s still living and we’re not arguing anymore over little things like that.

Every summer at Camp St Joseph for Girls I loved hiking through the woods and coming upon a fairy circle; a large, round patch of sumptuous moss surrounded by ferns in the dappled sunlight. I’m sure my love of mystery and magic began there in the Catskill Mountains many years ago.

When we returned home I started cooking dinner for four again! Mrs Zimmerman’s shallot chicken, mashed potatoes (little clouds), and broccoli (little tress). At Nana and Pop Bob’s house they can watch TV while I’m cooking and eat as little or as much as they want. It warmed my heart to see how much these two love butter! We followed that up with popsicles because we’re saving popsicle sticks for the fairy house. Then we played a good game of Alphabet Fish and the Li’il Pumpkin won!

After pulling out the trundle bed, we read my Editor Lisa Winkler’s book about a girl named Zimmerman, “Amanda at Bat” https://www.amazon.com/Amanda-at-Bat-Lisa-Winkler/dp/1533240094  It is a wonderful story about speaking up and making sure your voice is heard. And their eyes were starting to droop by the end of “Escargot,” while the Frozen night light sent its bat signal onto the ceiling of our 2nd bedroom. Good Night Room.

Long story semi-short, we all slept like babies and Bob made blueberry pancakes in the morning. Then we high-tailed it off to Great Grandma Ada and Hudson’s apartment to build our fairy house. Bob and I had made an executive decision to skip Hebrew School, sorry cousin Nancy! We’ve made a brave start jockeying a glue gun like nobody’s business, and we’re relying on Hudson to carve a tiny crooked fairy door. We have a very special tree stump in mind… then the Bride arrived to pick them up.

I was going to write about orchid and dandelion children. How one needs special care and an exquisite environment, while the other will flourish no matter where they find themselves. That’s the program I was listening to on NPR when I sat down to write, an old rehash of nature vs nurture. My Love Bug was definitely a wild orchid baby, the kind who would wake at the sound of a pin dropping, while her brother could sleep through a smoke alarm.

And I realized that I was a mixture of the two, a child who was smothered by my foster mother Nell, and never allowed to have a sleepover, yet my St Joseph camp mates could never wake me when it was time to head out into the night looking for trouble. But don’t worry, I found my own trouble eventually!

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How else can one explain what is happening in China over the last few years? Mr T Tweets at 3am, and now he’s calling the Taiwanese Prez, which is like snubbing your nose at your big (or little depending on your POV) brother or sister. Only this sibling doesn’t sleep, and could suffocate you with his or her pillow all while continuing to pollute our environment.

Remember back in February when I recommended a compelling non-fiction book about China? “Age of Ambition – Chasing Fortune, Truth and Faith in the new China” by Evan Osnos. https://mountainmornings.net/2016/02/27/mj-fever/

If you’re not one for the long read, how about a couple of articles in this month’s Atlantic, “China’s Great Leap Backward?” Kisssinger explains China 101 and tells us how to avoid a trade war, among other things. And James Fallows tells us that freedom is even harder to find in the new China; “It has become repressive in a way that it has not been since the Cultural Revolution.”

We Americans have been asleep. We don’t want to wake to the nightmare of last month’s election, and why should we? We would rather come home from work, open a craft beer, and watch Netflix. Only the latest sci-fi series I told you about, Black Mirror, is actually coming true in China! https://mountainmornings.net/2016/10/25/feeling-twitchy/

If you need a respite from politics, and all the mud-slinging of this election, I have a Netflix show to recommend from England. “Black Mirror” (a trope to our attachment to the smart screen) is about how technology is changing the course of human history in a very scary, sinister and smart way. I’ve only seen the first few episodes of Season 1, created by Charlie Brooker, but if you are wondering where our dystopian obsession with devices is going, tune into the future.

So that’s what I said in October…and now China is creating a nightmare for its citizens with their tacit consent.

It is collecting “Social Credit Scores,” in other words, the dragon has a highly developed Big Brother with a big pillow under his head. All electronic purchasing data, social media networks, and algorithmic sorting devices are being collected to give each citizen a score between 350 and 950. This system not only monitors whether or not you could pay for your apartment. but how compliant you are politically, and what kind of spouse you might make! If you hit a score of 700+ you are allowed to travel to Singapore…

Black Mirror is no longer science fiction, it is becoming fact. The Regime can now keep a tally of any message with a mention of Tienanmen Square for example, which would not only lower your score, but those of your friends and family! All of the scores are available to everybody in China online, and strangely enough like salmon swimming furiously upstream, citizens have embraced this system.

And just like the American 12 year old I overheard bragging about how many Instagram followers she had, I am finding this brave new world frightening. After all, we have Google and Amazon and Facebook et al collecting our data, but our government isn’t quite yet in cahoots with them, is it? http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-china-34592186

It’s enough to make me want to crawl right back under the covers and hibernate the winter away. But first a prayer for what it’s worth, please God, let Mr T pick Romney over Giuliani for Secretary of State. We don’t need any more bulls roaming free in a China shop. Let me know when it’s time to wake up and get off the grid. From an exhibition in LA at the Broad Museum – this is Jenny Holzer 1979 – it’s strangely prescient

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Birthdays can be blissful, or birthdays can be forgotten. When I was approaching 50, I decided to go backwards. So instead of 50, I celebrated my 49th birthday. Reaching 40 never phased me, but I was dreading that half a century mark for some reason. Now I’ve reached the brink; an age that is still too young for Medicare, too old for Twitter (though I do love Instagram) and just right for becoming a Grandmother. I am now the same age as Bob, our birthdays are about a month apart so I can stay younger for exactly 35 days. Because my generation thought we had to make dinner every night, I’m still feeding him.

When we moved to the Piedmonts of Virginia from the Suburbs of the Jersey Shore, I only had two conditions. We would build our house, a not-so-big house with a view, and we would learn to tango. It wasn’t easy. Our realtor said that she showed us every single thing there was for sale in the county over the course of a year, when I found the right piece of land online. Our dance instructor told me that Bob had to lead, so you can imagine how that worked out. But tango we did and here I sit, in my aviary typing away, watching the mountains turn from dark charcoal and lilac lines into a citrine and burgundy masterpiece every day.

And although the book I want to write about the Flapper is still in pieces on my desk, I do have something else, besides the Love Bug to celebrate this year. A woman I met through a serendipitous route – let’s see, it started with knitting and ended with a new friend who was becoming a grandmother on exactly the same date – has edited a group of essays by bloggers…and asked me to contribute. So when dearest Aunt Bert asked, “Where does your blog go?” I can now answer her, “Why, into a book of course!” And it’s titled, “Tangerine Tango.” I’m thrilled, and hope you like it.
http://www.amazon.com/Tangerine-Tango-Women-Writers-Slices/dp/1479125318/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1349055631&sr=1-1&keywords=tangerine+tango%3A+women+writers+share+slices+of+life

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This week has been proclaimed National Small Business Week and DC is alive with everything little http://www.nationalsmallbusinessweek.com/ And I was involved in a group message about baby carriers with my sister-in-law and the Bride’s Amazon baby registry. I totally understand wanting to support our local businesses, the problem comes when a party is in one state, the parents-to-be live in another state, and the party-goers are mostly from an entirely different part of the world (like Hawaii, or say upstate NY). The nice thing about the Goliath Amazon is that they link to many smaller stores, and they also have a check box next to the “add to cart” link that says – “buying this gift elsewhere?” or, “Yes I am purchasing this item at a store of my choosing!”

I must admit that I’ve been feeling only slightly out of my element since the baby registry talks began. My parental style has again been challenged by this watershed event. “Mommy did you use scissors to cut my nails?” “No, sweetheart, I think I just bit them.” “Did you bathe me in the sink, or did you have a baby bathtub?” “No darling, I used to take you in the bath with me and bathe you on my lap.” I was beginning to sound like some Neanderthal cave mom! Looking back, maybe I was. Living on a mountain, check! Heating with wood, check! Hanging cloth diapers outside on the line since I didn’t have a dryer, check check! Well, that is until the Flapper came to visit and went right down to the local hardware store and ordered an electric clothes dryer and charged it to Bob. Check…

And this is how becoming a grandparent is similar to becoming a mother-of-the bride. You are treading on an emotional land mine; how to balance your ideas for a best practice, with your daughter’s and her husband’s ideas. Yes, nowadays the dad is stepping up to the challenge of parenting thanks to all those rights we women fought for and are still having to defend. Thank you to the Groom’s Mom for raising an enlightened man, one who is not afraid of being surrounded by pink! But I have to say that the one thing planning a wedding has taught me was to listen, and follow their lead. It was their wedding, and this is their baby. I won’t have to buy them a dryer, and I don’t smoke so I won’t be confined to the porch (sorry Gi). I usually try to NEVER give advice unless someone asks me for it. Plus, I am lucky to have a great relationship with my daughter, and maybe key, I have a wonderful MIL. She is a licensed marriage counselor who reminds me daily about boundaries.

Beyond babies and back to business, our soon-to-be Senator Tim Kaine asked on his Facebook page, “What are your favorite small businesses across Virginia?” My favorite VA businesses are: 1) a chic shoe store named Scarpa http://www.thinkscarpa.com/ 2) a delicious Chardonnay from White Hall Winery http://www.whitehallvineyards.com/ 3) my friend Wendi’s high end consignment traveling business http://www.leftoverluxuries.com/ and 4) the only place to go for jewelry and unique gifts http://www.lynnegoldmanstudio.com/ Oops I almost forgot, 5) if you love freshly baked rolls for your next barbecue try Great Harvest, next to Cville Coffee http://greatharvestcville.com/ A very “great” family owned business! And please, if you care about small businesses, read this article and contact your legislators:
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/fred-r-becker-jr/national-small-business-week_b_1533807.html because, “…a vote for S.2331/H.R. 1418 is a vote in favor of Main Street small businesses and the average American taxpayer. It’s a vote for the American way of life.” Amen.

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