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Last week I screwed up my courage and went to the doctor. As usual, it took months of misery and complaining to get me there because I’m surrounded by doctors and don’t want to trouble anyone with my minor problem which will most likely get better with time. You heard that, right? I have a major martyr complex.

Instead of dealing with my problems, and because i thought for now the threat of WWIII might be over, I focused my time on the Duke and Duchess of Sussex – aka Harry and Meghan. https://sussexroyal.com/

So much stuff and nonsense. I’ve always been an Anglophile, like most Americans who love the British Royal Family precisely because we don’t have them – I’ve been eagerly anticipating the CNN special about the Windsors.

…binging on the Crown for awhile now too. Why? Maybe it’s the Queen Mother’s tiny purse, the assortment of Welsh Corgis, or the non-stop intrigue. Yes, they have castles and scads of money, but the Royals are also imprisoned in centuries of pomp and history.

I get that we can’t escape our destiny, even if we do live in a country without peerages and aristocracy. Princess Dianna wasn’t the first to chuck it all, let’s not forget King Edward VIII, Harry’s Great Grand Uncle, and Wallis Simpson – another poor, divorced American girl.

At first, I thought Meghan’s problems with life in the UK might have been what was keeping me up at night. Then I realized it was really my chronic neck pain; added to that was a severe pain in the ball of my foot if I walked Bean more than a block. Mind you, not sleeping and not being able to walk was all it took to get me to an adorable sports medicine doctor.

Yesterday I started Physical Therapy, because Bob has finished his round of PT and this must be what our future looks like! So while the Queen held a summit with her son Prince Charles, the heir apparent (let’s not forget Prince Andrew has already been banished from royal duties) and her grandsons, I was learning how to walk properly!

Queen Elizabeth II ultimately supported the young couple, Meghan and Harry, even though they jumped the gun with their press announcement:

“Today my family had very constructive discussions on the future of my grandson and his family.

“My family and I are entirely supportive of Harry and Meghan’s desire to create a new life as a young family. Although we would have preferred them to remain full-time working Members of the Royal Family, we respect and understand their wish to live a more independent life as a family while remaining a valued part of my family.

“Harry and Meghan have made clear that they do not want to be reliant on public funds in their new lives.

“It has therefore been agreed that there will be a period of transition in which the Sussexes will spend time in Canada and the UK.

“These are complex matters for my family to resolve, and there is some more work to be done, but I have asked for final decisions to be reached in the coming days.”

So said HRH the Queen! https://www.npr.org/2020/01/13/795955373/after-summit-queen-says-royals-respect-and-understand-harry-and-meghan-s-decisio

In other words, let’s not drag this out, let’s not wait months and months before you call a doctor, or/I /mean figure out a way to make part-time Royalty work. Meghan phoned her thoughts in while staying with friends in Canada. Baby Archie and the Duke and Duchess had just spent a long holiday break in Victoria, British Columbia, without one single paparazzi spotting them; they must have felt the kind of freedom we commoners take for granted.

I believe they will carve out a new path for the next generation. Good on them and Godspeed! 962FFB38-8C7E-4018-B1D6-CE090BF7DED0

 

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Sure, I was bullied as a kid. But that one boy who tripped me up on my bike, when I fell and broke my arm, I got back at him. I pushed an ice cream cone right in his face, and I don’t remember being bullied ever again. Well, except by a teacher.

Over sushi I was telling the Grands about Catholic school. How we had to sit still with our hands folded in front of us all the time. One teacher made me stand in the corner for half a day, luckily she didn’t have a dunce hat. “Why,” they wanted to know.

“Because I was talking to a boy!”

And I swear, we all broke out in belly laughs. One of the worst moments in my young life seemed pretty comical now. I mean shaming a child, it just doesn’t compute or translate well in today’s world, or maybe it does?

I’ve been having an ‘on and off’ conversation with the Love Bug and the L’il Pumpkin about “bad people” ever since someone stole my wallet while we were having lunch at Panera. What should we do if we have to confront a bad person. Their parents have been telling them that everybody is good, that you turn and walk away from a confrontation, and I get that. You don’t want to color their young minds with horror stories – and yet, they already hate Mr T cause, well, we ALL do.

I was thinking about this after the Democratic debates in Atlanta. I was surprised at how much I like Andrew Yang. He seemed to be the only authentic person up on that stage, like he was talking to me. When he spoke about looking our kids and Grands in the eye, and leaving them a better future, when he shared that he had an autistic child, when he talked about keeping America safe:

While it was well into the debate before Yang spoke, his answers about some of the threats to American society once again, brought new ideas to the debate stage. Artificial intelligence, which he’s mentioned in previous debates, is a future threat that must be taken seriously. And setting up something like a WTO (World Trade Organization) for data? His ingenuity was astounding. Bold ideas suit Yang well — and, when well thought out and pragmatic, they get high points in a debate.  https://www.cnn.com/2019/11/21/opinions/buttigieg-yang-stole-the-show-debate-opinion-graham/index.html

A WTO for Data?!?! I mean, AI is coming, along with the Russians and China, and will we be ready for it? Then the Rocker sent me an article about Yang;  “As President, I will establish a Department of the ATTENTION Economy,” https://www.cnn.com/2019/11/18/perspectives/andrew-yang-technology/index.html

He wants to study what social media is doing to our kids. It’s like “Back to the Future,” will they become (expletive) or something? My kids didn’t have smart phones growing up, tech was in its infancy, email was a new thing. And the Grands don’t have a tablet or phone or anything YET; but they DO use tablets in school and see everyone else around them staring down into their hands. The Love Bug recently asked her Dad if they could have a “Device-Free” day because she’d heard about this from her teachers.

A young mind can become addicted faster than our old brains want to believe. And social media is simply another method for bullies to do what they do best – shame and humiliate. A 12 year old girl in Nashville just committed suicide after being bullied mercilessly. How many “followers” do you have? Did you see that picture of so-and-so on Insta?

Remember how inadequate you felt your Freshman year in high school?  Well, add a few years of comparing yourself to others on top of that. I walked straight outta Catholic school into a public high school, and was lucky to find a bunch of nerdy, pre-college kids to welcome me.

Running around the neighborhood on my bike was pretty care-free in comparison to today, even if a bully thought he could hurt me, I didn’t let him define me. I got even. My not-so-polite message is not to run away from a fight, not to make excuses for someone’s bad behavior. My Grands will eventually meet up with a real “bad person,” they will eventually have a smart phone in their hands or maybe a piece of Borg machinery hard-wired directly into their skulls.

Should we employ algorithms to cap a child’s screen time per day, or just boot them out the door to play? We are experiencing a “GLOBAL epidemic” of childhood inactivity, what do you think? https://www.bbc.com/news/health-50466061

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I was watering my herb pots yesterday when I heard a distinct whirring sound, even Ms Bean was looking up. I knew the sheep were still in Tuscany, and so is Bob! Because as I write now, he is cleaning a vintage pasta machine our neighbor gave us; did you know that you cannot allow water to get into the steel gears? Google told us!

“Now I’m gonna make some spaghetti,” Bob said.

It’s difficult to write in the middle of an open concept townhouse. But back to the strange sound in the sky, I looked up to see a drone whizzing by and even though I was dressed in yoga/gym appropriate clothes, I felt distinctly vulnerable. Taking cover under the porch’s roof, I watched as the drone hovered very close to my herb garden – the parsley, pineapple sage, rosemary and thyme seemed to cower in technological despair.

I know that some realtors use drones for their sales, and even Google Earth may deploy one, or Amazon might start delivering small packages. Drones can bring death in other countries, or a new iPhone to our doorstep. In my jet-lagged state, I felt invaded. Can privacy honestly be a relic of past generations? Will that smart phone we palm become an imbedded portal to our brain, teasing us with targeted advertising all the time?

On the nine hour flight home I watched two movies and finished one book on my iPad. Maybe I was feeling twitchy because the book was Dan Brown’s latest, “Origin.” The acclaimed author of “The DaVinci Code” brings back to life the Harvard symbologist, Tom Hanks, whoops, Robert Langdon. Set in Spain, of course there’s a beautiful woman engaged to a prince but the most unlikely new hero is an AI named “Winston.”

What I find interesting in today’s context was the Loyalty (with a capital L) Winston the AI displayed to the scientist who built him – I had to ask myself, can a machine demonstrate loyalty, or can people write a code for that? The book revolves around the age-old argument of science/evolution vs religion/creationism and taught me more about Gaudi and in particular, his unfinished cathedral The Sagrada Familia, than I ever needed to know.

“Where are we from and where are we going?” is the central theme of the book, and as I watch the debate over Kavanaugh and the idiotic tour of North Carolina by Mr T asking about Lake Norman because he has a golf course there, I’m wondering the same thing. This president considers loyalty to HIM as sacrosanct, he doesn’t give a fig about where our country is headed or how our allies are increasingly isolated. And his followers seem to be OK with his contradictions, calling themselves good Christians while $260M is moved away from cancer and HIV/AIDS research to pay for the care and custody of 13,000 immigrant children – with 1,500 children HHS could still not locate!   https://www.cnn.com/2018/09/20/politics/hhs-shifting-money-cancer-aids-immigrant-children/index.html

When I asked Italians what they thought of Mr T, they said they liked him UNTIL he started separating children from their families.

Hate and Fear are powerful motivators, but I have to believe that Love is the best by far. So my New Year’s resolution is to spread some love around, like a drone flying overhead, surreptitiously. I will turn the other cheek, so to speak. We will make ravioli, and work to register voters and pray for a miracle in November.

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Another pundit bites the dust. Jeffrey Lord, a Mr T defender on many CNN shows, has had his contract with the network terminated. I would usually turn the channel whenever his smugly leering mug appeared because he always seemed to me insincere. Nothing worse than a reluctant ideologue. And guess what he said – in a Twitter tirade no less – to Angelo Carusone, the President of Media Matters for America?

“Sieg Heil!” 

“Nazi salutes are indefensible,” a CNN spokesperson said in a statement. “Jeffrey Lord is no longer with the network.” https://www.washingtonpost.com

This particular German phrase is banned in Germany. You can’t put air quotes around these two words and pretend you don’t know what they mean. In English the phrase means “Hail Victory;” in reality, it goes along with the Holocaust and an arm in the air and black shirts.

Kayleigh McEnany, another Mr T media consultant left CNN recently. She is now the RNC’s spokesperson, working for Mr T’s very own network. You can’t make this stuff up, in fact I wish I was making it all up.

Let’s skip over to Google shall we. James Damore, an engineer wrote some of his thoughts in a company memo on the reason we see nearly 75% more men in the tech industry and in leadership positions, and then he got sacked. His words of choice were “Biological Differences,”  which seems pretty tame on the surface. After all, we women are the ones giving birth and nursing if we so choose. That can sometimes put a dent in a woman’s career.

But we are not back in the 60s when women could be asked if they planned on having children in a job interview. On a deeper level, Damore was implying we’re not FIT for such complicated, intellectually stimulating and challenging work. Remember, initially we didn’t have women astronauts because of that little “time of the month” problem. No, it’s actually 2017 and young girls are encouraged to pursue Stem careers (science, technology, engineering and maths) – just ask my niece Lynn!

But I have to admit that censorship of any kind scares me. In fact, the ACLU is taking up the case of Milo Yiannopoulos’s free speech rights. He is that ex-Brietbart editor who was drummed out of speaking at a California campus, a British citizen who is ‘dedicated to the destruction of political correctness,’ an alt-right agitator extraordinaire. The Washington, DC Metro removed Yiannopoulos’s ads on their trains for his new book…now a train system is a utility and I guess they don’t have the right to discriminate. Right?

And believe it or not, I’m glad the ACLU is doing what it’s supposed to be doing – protecting our rights! When “Hate Speech” collides with “Free Speech” we have a fundamental question that speaks directly to our democracy and may end up at the feet of the Supreme Court. This is an essential thing that differentiates us among many nations, we don’t ban words or burn books, our only admonition is not to yell “Fire” in a big, crowded public room.

Yesterday I spent much of my time pointing out to a certain two year old, who loves his new Superman cape, we need to use our “inside voices.” We teach our children about tone and decibel levels effortlessly, we want them to grow up in a civilized world. Unfortunately, we have a President who needs someone to manage his Twitter speech, to explain to him it’s like yelling “FIRE” at North Korea, in an “OUTSIDE” voice.

This was my view yesterday morning on my way to the Zoo. Nashville has sent out the Bat Signal because we need a hero!

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You’ve all seen them while running through an airport. The giant ads – no, not the picture of the Parlor Mob at JFK – pictures of doctors in white coats, smiling in front of computers. Why wait for hours at your local Emergency Department? Can’t get an appointment with your actual doctor for months? Maybe you’re too sick to drive, and just too busy to take an Uber to an Urgent Care?

Well, the Virtual Doctor is in!

The first time I saw my very own Dr McDreamy at UVA I was slightly disappointed. Like many women, I had never had a primary internal medicine doctor before…ObGyns sure, and specialists to repair meniscus tears etc. Whenever something was seriously wrong, I always had Bob to remind me this was just a virus and it would get better with time. But a real doctor, this was something new to me.

Let’s go over the best parts first: the waiting room was almost empty; he was on time; his nurse was efficient, I was blessed with some very good genes so my medication list is mostly vitamins; his resident asked all the right questions; and finally, when I saw the doctor, he sat and talked with me for a very long time. I was in love!

And now for the not so good parts: I had to drive 40 minutes to park in a gigantic cement parking garage I would later get lost in; the walk to his office was well over a mile; and the worst part of all, he never actually touched me. I never got undressed and jumped onto an exam table clinging to a paper robe. No physical exam…I left his office with appointments for tests like blood work and a mammogram.

Let’s skip ahead to that week between my fall off the steps in Nashville, and our trip to the South of France. I called my Primary Care doctor and he was away and they couldn’t fit me in. I called my Orthopedist and his office said since I didn’t break any bones, he doesn’t do muscles! I didn’t bother trying to see my Dermatologist. I wondered aloud, is this what it’s like for everybody? When you finally really really need to see a doctor, like you can barely walk and you’re about to get on a plane, they are nowhere to be found?

Well folks, I think Bob may have found his retirement second act. Emergency docs have to know a little bit about every disease and a whole lot about the ones that will kill you. And isn’t that what we all want to hear? You don’t have a terminal illness. It’s just a cold, get over it! Well, maybe they will say it with a bit more finesse, into their monitor.

Dr Ali Parsa, founder and chief executive of digital healthcare app Babylon, sees the (remote physical and mental) health trend as an undoubted force for good.
“It’s time to do with healthcare what Google did with information – using the power of technology to democratise access for all, and put a personal (digital) doctor in everyone’s pocket regardless of geography or income,” he says. http://www.bbc.com/news/business-40629742

Bob’s been doing this for years already with our relatives and friends. People send him pictures of rashes, x-rays of broken bones, brain CAT scans. He’s functioned as our collective consultant at seders and dinner parties. “My foot’s just not getting better.” Or, “Will you just take a look at all the drugs I’m taking?”

I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t want an App or a Bot to speak to about my medical condition, but having a real, live physician on FaceTime or Skype? Sure! And the doctor or the patient could be in Katmandu, so long as the WiFi is working – this takes boutique medicine to the next level.

Lots of hospitals do this already. Did you know in most rural parts of the country, smaller community hospitals have critical care ICU docs checking in via monitors from their big city university hospital? At night, radiologists in other countries read X-Rays that are sent  digitally from the US. This has been going on for years.

I’m feeling hopeful today after the Senate saw fit to drop their misguided bill to “fix” the ACA and throw millions off Medicaid. The sheer irony of Sen McCain delaying the vote because he was busy having a surgical procedure his insurance covers illustrated their sinister deliberations. http://www.cnn.com/2017/07/18/politics/how-the-republican-health-care-bill-fell-apart/index.html

I hate that we politicize health care in this country. Until we see fit to have Medicare for all, maybe technology will help restore access and autonomy to the doctor/patient relationship. And at the very least, we would know if we need to go sit in an ER because our neck is tender and we must rule out meningitis. The doctor is on deck!IMG_0846

 

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I’m feeling like a two year old. It’s a rainy, cold morning in the mountains and I just cranked up my Twitter account to read about some middle-of-the-night GOP shenanigans. It would seem that Congress has voted to dismantle the Office of Congressional Ethics! So somebody please sit me on your lap, get me a blankie, and read me Rebecca Patterson’s book, “My No, No,NO Day.”

Won’t somebody make it stop?!

After nine days in Nashville without cable news of any kind, I was almost looking forward to watching some CNN. Y’all know I’m a news junkie, an ex-reporter and school board policy wonk with a taste for irony. When West Nile began swelling my brain until my eyes turned beet red, I didn’t go to a doctor until I couldn’t read that new-fangled news crawl. But I’ve been quickly disabused of this notion – it would seem that media coverage today consists of deconstructing Mr T’s Tweets.

And I refuse to follow him on Twitter. NO.

SO, since throwing a temper tantrum isn’t an option, today we here in MountainMornings Land will be observing Opposite Day! I am in opposition to this whole damn Electoral College business (this is true) and Mr T is NOT my President-Elect! Get it?

Today I will dress up funny, I will say the opposite of what I mean to say, and probably mumble. A Lot. Kids love doing this in Middle School; they learn about antonyms and might play a game of Opposite BINGO in their classroom. When the Rocker was very little, we were playing a board game with a group of adults, the one where you can’t actually say the word in order to get your team to guess your word and win…his word was “Negative.”

“The opposite of affirmative.”

That’s what he said, and we all looked at each other. This response has been etched into our family’s history.

In some ways, I feel as if our country is living in a perpetual state of Opposite Day. Since journalists are now trying to parse what, how and when to use the word “LIE,” and translating Tweets has become a common practice. It’s only because I have Twitter on my phone that I read about Mr T’s New Year message to his “enemies.” Tasting like a bad clam, I wish I hadn’t.

Nancy Pelosi said, “Ethics are the first casualty of the new Republican Congress.”

Elizabeth Warren said, “Tell us, @GOP: Who, exactly, thinks that the problem with Washington is that we have too many rules requiring the gov to act ethically?”

And I say, shall I list the antonyms of ETHICS? Corrupt, Dishonest, Immoral, Improper, Unjust, Unrighteous….

Some friends and family have stopped watching the news on TV altogether. But being an ostrich about current events isn’t the answer. In fact, this beautiful, tall bird has gotten a bum rap all these years. They actually DON’T stick their heads into the sand! http://mentalfloss.com/article/56176/why-do-ostriches-stick-their-heads-sand

So let’s suspend all our belief systems for the day, or maybe the week, or even this New Year. My cookie broke and ballet is too itchy and… Put on your big girl boots and get ready to March on Washington ladies on January 21.

 

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Fog Happens. That was the bumper sticker I loved on Martha’s Vineyard. To this day I have remained a bumper-sticker-free driver, although I do appreciate a good joke on a taxi. There is one company in town that adorns its taxis with snippets of wisdom, like this one: “Only dead fish go with the flow.” And you know that silver fish you sometimes see on a car that means the driver is a Christian? Well a friend gave me that fish with the word “Gefilte” inside; it stands above my desk keeping guard. My car shall remain fish-free!

This morning it’s hard to see your fingers in front of your face. Birds are grounded and the red tail hawks are not circling the backyard looking for vermin. I wonder if planes will be grounded too, and that has me worried since we are supposed to fly out of here today for our 37th Wedding Anniversary river cruise up the Danube. Fingers crossed the fog lifts and s&*t doesn’t happen!

For a person who doesn’t like to travel, I seem to be doing a lot of it. We are supposed to have WiFi on the boat so hopefully I will continue to blog.

I will be happy to take a hiatus from CNN. The fog of war continues as our brave armed forces “assist” the Iraqi forces in taking back Falluja. Trump continues to spout nonsense to Bikers in DC, many were Vets yesterday showing respect for the fallen as they cruised the monuments.

And don’t get me started on the gorilla and the toddler. Bob says they could have tranquilized the big guy, but I said he may have collapsed on the baby…we met a large animal Vet the other day at Starbucks. Pat is married to our small animal Vet. He tends to cows and horses all over the Shenandoah Valley and he told us they are “Wild” animals and cannot be trusted. That made me feel better, sort of. Still I turn away from the video. So, as much as I’d like to be all Dame Jane Goodall about gorillas, I’m sure the zoo did the right thing. Right?

Time for another cup of coffee, to clear my foggy brain, and make sense of the final packing checklist. To edit out the useless, and stick with the essentials. We always pack light, one carry-on each for any trip, of any length, anywhere. Bon Voyage!  IMG_4484

 

 

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