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Happy Earth Day everyone! It’s a blustery, sunny morning on the Blue Ridge, and life is almost back to normal. Bob left late for the hospital, so we had lots of time to discuss that five year old boy, you know the one. The parents “allowed” him to identify as a boy since the ripe old age of two, even though biologically he’s a girl. Mia or Jacob, you decide. It seems we have different opinions on that one, but I’ll just let you guess. Because I hate judging parents, I really really do.

Then before I had a chance to head outdoors and plant a rhododendron, the Bride sent me this Salon article because all her friends were talking about it: “What a Horrible Mother” by Kim Brooks:

http://www.salon.com/2015/04/19/what_a_horrible_mother_moms_arrested_for_leaving_their_kids_in_the_car/

So many touchy issues here. First of all,, I don’t believe this is an absolutist argument. There are many shades of grey, so if you’re of the opinion that one should never, and I mean ever, leave a kid in the car, you should stop reading. Same goes for those of you who believe, like the Scandinavians, you can always just plop your child alone, in public, while you run into a coffee house. Grandma Ada’s generation believed that fresh air was essential for a child, so they parked the pram on the porch and went about their housework every single day.

Today, if you run into the dry cleaners and leave your sleeping, sick child in his carseat, windows cracked open, parked and locked in the shade for a few minutes, on a 50-60 degree day, you may come back to your car and find yourself arrested!

For Dawn, a young mother in New England, it was the same: a moment of convenience followed by one of shock. She had just picked up her daughter from daycare when she remembered she was out of toilet paper. Her daughter, worn out after the day, was strapped into her car seat and busily enjoying what was her first ever Happy Meal to boot. Dawn pulled up in front of a Rite Aid, locked the doors, and sprinted inside. By the time she returned to the vehicle, three minutes later, a woman was standing by the window, beside Dawn’s daughter, who was still waiting comfortably.

“You’re disgusting,” the stranger said. “What a horrible mother. I’ve called the police on you. I have your license plate number. I’m waiting here to make sure they arrest you.”

There is a kind of moral vigilantism that has resulted from our “See something, say something” culture of fear. Perfectly normal, educated women are being arrested for a judgement call. The kind of thing I, and my generation, did all the time. Yes, I left my babies sleeping in the car in the garage when we got home from a long morning. The garage door was open and i could see them through the family room and hear when they started to stir awake. I’m pretty sure I left them in a locked car for a few minutes while running into a store, in fact it was such a commonplace thing, we didn’t think twice about it.

I remember feeling good that I had never actually locked the keys inside the car with the baby, something a few of my friends did. But when that happened to them, bystanders would help pop the lock, not call 911.

This was over 30 years ago, and in New England. But have stranger kidnappings increased since then, NO – only sensational media stories of car-jackings, and sleep-deprived parents forgetting their child in the car while they spent the day at work. Yes, we hear about the parent who walks into Walmart, leaving the baby in a car that quickly heats up over 100 degrees, resulting in death. That is ignorance, that is depravity, and it is a crime. Just like the parent who leaves guns around for that toddler to pick up…these are not accidents. I can get pretty judgmental about it.

Instead of pointing a finger, I would hope that I would react more like the woman at the end of the article. The one who helps a young mom empty her cart and plays peek-a-boo. Because the oceans are rising and mother earth needs all the help she can get, here are some free Earth Day games for your children. http://www.primarygames.com/holidays/earth_day/earthday.php

Be kind to each other.  IMG_2489

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The other day I was being escorted to my car with a cart filled with bags of groceries, when the well meaning young man asked me if I had anything fun planned for the evening. Take note Northeners – here in the South, grocery clerks don’t even ask if you might need help out to your car. They just commandeer it.

Instead of fluffing him off, I said, “Yes, it’s the first night of Chanukka, do you even know what that is?” He smiled and said that he did, something about oil, right?

Leave it to my brother Eric to send me the real origin story of of this minor level Jewish Holiday that has scant hope of ever living up to Christmas.

A camel walks into a bar. I know, y’all thought it has something to do with a grand fight, the Maccabee brothers take on the holy Roman Empire. But according to this, the first time Chanukka is ever mentioned is in a Jewish law text, tort law no less. Back then, the rabbis were the chief judges and executioners of the land. And they made a distinction about fire damage claims in this Mishna:

If a camel knocks over a lamp, causing a fire, the rabbis say the camel driver is responsible if the lamp is indoors; but if the lamp is outside a shop, the shopkeeper is liable. Rabbi Jehudah provides an exception to this rule: The shopkeeper isn’t liable if the lamp is a “Hanukkah lamp.”

Some 250 years after the Maccabean Revolt, the rabbis explain why the menorah is lit, and it has more to do with a rededication of the Second Temple. Josephus first called the festival “Lights.” But in fact, like all traditions, it most likely originated with a newly monotheistic people trying to accommodate pagan rituals; “The more likely explanation is that Jewish households adopted the practice from pagan ritual, following which the authorities gave the practice a “Jewish explanation” after the fact. The Zoroastrians of Persia for instance marked the Winter Solstice with a festival of fire, called Chaharshanbe Suri, which predated Hanukkah and fell at about the same time of year.”

So thank you Iran! And that explains why we have so many damn lights all over everything at Christmas! And thank you Rabbis, for wanting to emphasize a victory for our people, when so many times we suffered defeats like Masada.

The Groom said last night, “I Like Chanukka!” After all, you get to eat anything fried in oil right! And the Bride said guess what, “We’ve got six more nights to go!” But of course I had to remind that grocery clerk of the Adam Sandler movie, and the eight “crazy” nights, when he thought it lasted “…like a month or something.”

Still, I wonder why some people spell it with a “C” and some with an “H?” What do you want for Chanukka? IMG_1880

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…or Cannabis. Whatever you happen to call it, weed is on the rise.

I wanted to see Venice when I was visiting the Rocker and Ms Cait in LA before Thanksgiving. Did I tell you they moved from the Jersey Shore? A career in composing music for the film industry compelled their cross-country caravan. The https://www.walkscore.com number is high in their charming neighborhood of Silver Lake. But I just had to see Venice Beach, and the boardwalk wasn’t what I had imagined. Granted it was a Saturday so everybody was out enjoying the weather, the non-stop beautiful weather of Southern California.

Along with skate boarders, roller bladers, and sightseers, were bright green signs for weed clinics with guys in green scrubs hawking their wares. It was like a carnival side-show. The Rocker told me it’s fairly easy to get an Rx for cannabis, you can walk right in, and I could say maybe my arthritis was acting up, and voila. Of course if I did, and tried to carry said package back home to VA, I could have been thrown in a federal prison!

Which illustrates how paradoxical our laws are about this substance. Anyone can tell you that weed is actually safer than alcohol, or tobacco, although there’s not much evidence-based science out there in this country. We have a President who wrote about his younger pot-head days, and I dare you to ask anyone between 18 and 70 if they ever lit up a joint.

Now we have Sanjay Gupta,MD who might as well be our Surgeon General, exposing how weed is used for intractable seizure disorder in children on CNN. And today, even in VA, a legislator would like to decriminalize small amounts of marijuana for personal use. I came across this proposal in the House on my Twitter feed:
http://www.nbc29.com/story/11854265/morgan-pushes-to-decriminalize-marijuana

“I really don’t care. I mean, I’ve been here a long time,” he said. “If my constituents want me to retire, it’s okay with me. I’m not saying I want to; I didn’t say that at all. But I think what I’m doing is the right thing and I think that’s why they sent me here.” Delegate Harvey Morgan (R)
“Morgan’s Republican colleagues say they will quickly kill the measure.”

Maybe it’s because he’s been in the thick of politics for so long that he realizes a conviction on a drug charge can change the whole trajectory of a person’s life. That we are wasting our country’s youngest citizens by throwing them in jail for non-violent offenses that his own peer’s children can circumvent because they have money and privilege.

Maybe some measure of wisdom really does happen with age, even in the GOP.

It may be awhile before we see weed clinics popping up in Virginia Beach. Medicinal, recreational or otherwise, it’s been a long time coming. I’ve said it before, solving the drug problem in this country is a public and health policy issue, it’s not a war to be won. IMG_1817

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On our very first outing with my new baby grandson, the Bride and I were perusing Lululemon in the Hill Center. It was a warm day, the door was open and a slight breeze blew colored leaves at our feet. The Bride was looking forward to practicing yoga in a few weeks and getting her post-natal groove on. While she tried on yoga togs, I had a nice time chatting with another grandmother from Kansas who was taking care of a two year old who just happened to be in preschool at the time. Then while checking out, the fit, handsome young man tallying up our purchases, looked up and had the nerve to ask us,

“What do you have planned for the afternoon?”

“Well, we’ll have lunch, then I’ll feed him (pointing to the stroller), then we’ll pick up the two year old from preschool,” the Bride said with a smile. ps, never ask a nursing mother anything about feeding her child, for the obvious reasons. And pps, never ask a woman, ever, what she’s planning on doing with her day, or for that matter what she did all day, because,
A) it’s none of your business, and
2) you don’t know her and you don’t really care anyway.

Maybe my Jersey came out, but I don’t like the implication. It’s a semi-paternalistic, passive-aggressive question that suggests we had nothing better to do on a weekday than shop and dine. After all, I couldn’t reciprocate, I knew what he’d be doing with the rest of his afternoon; he’d be right there behind that cash register asking inane questions.

Which leads me to this wonderful article my niece posted on Facebook about the Dis-EASE of being busy all the time. http://www.onbeing.org/blog/the-disease-of-being-busy/7023?page=1
I was guilty when my kids were little. The Bride had to write me a note about not having time for ballet, what with piano and horseback riding, etc. And the Rocker asked me not to schedule him for any more sports teams, before asking him first! I love the sentiment from the Persian culture, in their language they don’t ask how busy you are, which is what we mean when we say, “How are you?” They ask how your heart is doing

It is the transient state of one’s heart. In reality, we ask, “How is your heart doing at this very moment, at this breath?” When I ask, “How are you?” that is really what I want to know. I am not asking how many items are on your to-do list, nor asking how many items are in your inbox. I want to know how your heart is doing, at this very moment. Tell me. Tell me your heart is joyous, tell me your heart is aching, tell me your heart is sad, tell me your heart craves a human touch. Examine your own heart, explore your soul, and then tell me something about your heart and your soul.

Having a new baby at home cuts through that disease – we no longer need to appear busy, because in fact we are very busy. Nursing, cuddling, changing diapers all the while toilet training and teaching and feeding and loving a toddler, not to mention laundry and husbands and grandparents and friends who come to visit and cooking and…

There is a new yoga studio opening up in Nashville, specifically for young moms and children called Blooma.http://bloomanashville.com I’ve often said it was yoga that got the Bride through medical school. I’m pretty sure this new studio is just what the doctor ordered. Take that hipster Lululemon clerk.
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Ms Bean is following me everywhere, if she loses me again I might never come back, right? Like the Love Bug following her Mama around when she returned after five days; we had to watch her go out to the alley and bring back the garbage cans. At the zoo, the first few rounds on the carousel were thrilling, but then wait, Mama kept disappearing. It wasn’t until my grandbaby turned around to watch the Bride growing smaller and smaller in the distance that she’d had enough. Time to slow this thing down.

And the seasons they go round and round

I listened to some amazing This American Life podcasts on the nine hour drive home. I even enjoyed the interview on NPR with an author about a new book about the Koch brothers, “Sons of Wichita.” http://www.npr.org/2014/05/21/314574217/how-the-koch-brothers-remade-americas-political-landscape

And the painted ponies go up and down

But hearing about China, and the demise of their socialist system after a famine wiped out food supplies and farmers stopped growing crops for their collective farms and started planting for their families was fascinating. After the Cultural Revolution, the Chinese people lived by Chairman Mao’s little red book. It was the fastest and most sweeping political and social upheaval in history. Everyone lived for the common good of the Chinese people, a class system was virtually erased overnight.

We’re captive on the carousel of time

Then just as suddenly, with starvation came rebellion again. And so the savvy Communist leaders co-opted a kind of free market system – the Chinese term for ambition, “Wild Heart,” was no longer considered blasphemy. It was allowed, the Wild Heart was set free in every person to follow their passion, and a kind of well choreographed authoritarian capitalism was born.

We can’t return we can only look

Behind from where we came

I saw this morning that the Wild Heart is catching on in Tehran, where a bunch of teenagers posted a video dancing to Pharrell’s song “Happy.”

And go round and round and round 

In the circle game 

 

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Happy New Year everyone! Tonight I will dress to the nines and attend yet another hospital gala, and believe you me I’ve seen many a silent night auction come and go. Someone will get falling down drunk, someone will bid on a puppy they’ll have to return in the new year, and someone will start singing Meatloaf’s Dashboard Light song with alacrity. Electric slide here we go again.

But this morning I’ll kick back and cogitate on a word – meme. What is a meme anyway? We’ve all heard it and let it roll right off the back of our heads like we know what it means. Well, according to dictionary.com it comes from the Greek meaning “mimic” as in imitating a certain behavior; more recently, it is a bow to biology and gene theory. Think of gene cells, how they mimic one another.

meme

a cultural item that is transmitted by repetition and replication in a manner analogous to the biological transmission of genes.

or

a cultural item in the form of an image, video, phrase, etc.,that is spread via the Internet and often altered in a creative or humorous way.
Medicine meet technology! There was a picture of Beyonce that became a meme; meaning it floated around the internet in different adaptations: Beyonce at a football game; at a WWF match etc. Just Google “meme” and her picture will appear.
But I love it when literary and pop culture collide to invent a meme. I happen to love Lena Dunham. The “Girls” creator is never afraid to show her body or try to explain the existential trip of 20 something women living in NYC. She is the present-day equivalent of Carrie Bradshaw’s “Sex and the City.” This year, the character who plays Dunham’s mother attended an academic conference and told her daughter, “I never thought I’d meet so many other women who feel the same way I do about Ann Patchett.”
And there it is – feminist fireworks! Ms Patchett, the owner of my favorite Nashville bookstore Parnassus and writer extraordinaire, is now a meme. A meme who spans the generations. In the past I thought of Ann Tyler as my meme (or maybe my muse?). Her writing spoke to me. Sometimes I’d have to pinch myself just to make sure I wasn’t caught up in one of her novels come to life.
So tonight let’s not list all the great and minor things of 2013. And let’s not try to predict the trends and memes of 2014. After all, it’s just one night in five hundred twenty-five thousand six hundred minutes.  Let’s all take a deep breath, and stay in that electric slide moment. “If you are depressed, you are living in the past. If you are anxious, you are living in the future. If you are at peace, you are living in the present.”  Unknown

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We were not leisurely shopping on Cyber Monday. Oh no, we were desperately trying to make our way home via Key West airport. For some inexplicable reason, Southwest decided to cancel their flights out of our tiny island. One couple managed to score a Delta flight, while the Love Bug and her Mama hitched a ride to Miami with another Big Chill couple. The Groom left us a little early to start his ICU rotation. Only US Air delivered us on time back to the Blue Ridge.

I thought I would share some Tuesday morning quarterbacking memories with you. First of all, there was the butterfly. Or I should say thousands of butterflies http://www.keywestbutterfly.com

Right in the middle of Duval Street – a veritable hub of humanity with every imaginable language you could think of – we strolled into a magic garden; “50 to 60 butterfly species from around the world, along with over 20 exotic bird species, all under a climate- controlled, glass enclosed habitat.” The Bug was enchanted. The moving sea of fluttering colors caught all of us off guard, it was as if we were a part of a living and breathing terrarium. I turned to Bob and said, “This exceeded my expectations,” and it did!

Then there were the chickens. IMG_2235We spotted a rooster when we first got out of the car on our little lane, and every day after that the search for chickens continued. Our 15 month old toddler loved to find hens with their chicks and red-combed roosters lingering nearby. These gypsy chickens are free-roaming on every street and nest in the trees at night. It seems the combination of outlawing cock fighting in the 70s and buying chicken in neatly wrapped packages at a grocery store led to this laissez faire attitude toward poultry. They are so tame, they will eat out of your hand and let you pet their chicks!

We hopped on the Conch Train for the 90 minute tour of Key West. Keeping the Bug occupied and safe meant I only heard pieces of the island’s colorful history but we enjoyed the ride and the ice cream stop especially. Later, the Bride stayed home with the baby and we took in a drag show at 801 Boubon. Our MC was Desiree, and she was a grandfather! Instant connection, I have to admit, since we are both redheads. Hysterical night, including the part where Cait and I did a little back-up singing! http://www.nytimes.com/2011/01/09/travel/09hours.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

What more can I say? There was La Creperie and croissants galore. Salsa dancing and delicious Cuban food. Art galleries on every corner, and Serbian rickshaw drivers. Key West is a melange of Vegas, New Orleans, and Miami and I didn’t want to click my heels together.

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