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This morning, I awoke to a Tweet from Greta Thurnberg, the teenage Climate Activist from Sweden. This was her answer to #2019inFiveWords:

“Our house is on fire.”

You’ve got to admit, this young lady is consistent. She didn’t say the “Climate” is on fire, or the “Planet,” she said, “OUR HOUSE!” If I found my actual house was on fire, I’d pick up that little red fire extinguisher we keep in the kitchen and have at it. I’d dial 911. I’d clear all the people and pets out, maybe I’d take some family pictures. But come to think of it, most have been digitized, so I’d pick up my laptop. If I had the time that is…

Greta is trying to tell us this is personal. We shouldn’t get distracted with Impeachment Hearings when a true existensial crisis is looming. HA, I looked up how to spell the word cause I’d obviously misspelled it, and it just so happens that “EXISTENTIAL” is the 2019 “Word of the Year” at Dictionary.com:

adjective

of or relating to existence:Does climate change pose an existential threat to humanity?

 

I believe it does pose a threat; it keeps great minds awake at night. It creates actual floods since our seas are rising, polar ice is melting, and human floods of refugees seeking peace and a sustainable livelihood. Fires are killing koalas in Australia and decimating forest canopies in the Amazon. Our literal house, our whole world is suffering, and we have a President who mocks science, scoffs at facts, and jokes about windmills.

Our country has become a joke on the world stage.

And speaking of the world, our children have flown off to tropical locales for the New Year. And I know about the carbon imprint of air travel, but honestly, how else can we get anywhere? Sailing across the ocean like Greta would have used up literally ALL of their vacation time. So we must fight for the Climate while also doing what we can to take care of ourselves; putting the oxygen mask on the adults first so to speak. Which leads me to my five words:

Family almost always comes first. 

I’ve added a quantifier to my usual motto about family, “almost.” Women are more likely to be the caregivers in a family, to be the 3 am on-duty nurse, the round-the-clock scheduler, the chauffeur and chief cook. Yes, some things have changed since we raised our girls without limits and with great expectations. But some things have remained the same.

This past year I’ve learned to say “No” more often. I’ve figured out that self-care isn’t a sin, it’s a necessity. Our generation isn’t just in the middle of a sandwich – anthropologists like to call us “The Sandwich Generation” – I’ve felt like I’m in a “Club Sandwich.” Pile on the meat and cheese please, we are drowning in obligatory exercises of futility. And of course, this time of year doesn’t help.

What does help is JOMO (Joy of Missing Out), which is the opposite of FOMO (Fear of Missing Out):

Kristen Fuller said “JOMO” is essentially the “emotionally intelligent antidote to FOMO” and it is “about being present and being content with where you are at in life.” Some people are born with it, others learn to embrace it.” https://www.insider.com/what-is-jomo-2018-7

So my #2019inFiveWords is not just about setting boundaries and caring for myself, something btw the nuns wouldn’t approve of, but it’s also about saying I’m Enough! For a number 9 Enneagram that’s a tough road to walk. Right here, right now I can be happy! I was strolling with Bob and Ms Bean yesterday, who has fully recovered from her near fatal illness, listening to the birds and feeling the warm winter sun on my face, when Bob said, “Where should we go in 2020?”

And I may have been a teensy bit short with him. Virginia Woolf once said, “You cannot find peace by avoiding life.” But maybe in 2020, we’ll not only impeach, but convict and remove Mr T from office. Maybe we’ll stop chasing windmills and avoiding Climate Change. And I just may continue to embrace this ever-changing town I’m calling home. Even if it doesn’t have a Chinese restaurant open on Christmas day.

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Zoroastrianism. Did you know that this Persian religion was founded around 3,500 years ago and was the very first to worship just ONE god? This happened before Jesus, Buddha and Mohammed in the Bronze Age of Iran. Before Moses led Jewish slaves out of Egypt even. And when the big Z’s followers were nearly wiped out, Islam took over.

This Christmas Eve has me feeling sad. My dog Ms Bean is sick for one thing, really sick. We saw the Vet yesterday who was dressed in her best Santa sweater. She was kind and told me she’d actually had a dream about Bean last weekend. She said she rarely dreams about work, but that Bean was happy and healthy and sitting in her lap. In the dream.

“I see so many dogs, and here she is today,” she said smiling, holding Ms Bean in her arms while listening to her heart. I may not believe in heaven and hell, but I like to think that all dogs go to a beautiful, sunny, dog park when they die; that tennis balls abound and frisbees fly through stars.

My path to non-belief, or maybe “spiritual secularism” is a better term, has been tortuous. From being totally indoctrinated into Roman Catholicism as a child, to converting to Judaism at age 30, just before marrying Bob, I’d had plenty of dreams about the Pope and conversations with myself about the value of organized religion.

First of all, I didn’t want our future children to have to “pick and choose” their religion because we didn’t have the ability to commit.My life had been crazy enough with melded families after our Year of Living Dangerously. But my real decision to convert came right after listening to a rabbi speak about the Jonestown Massacre.

This mass murder/suicide event took place in 1978, the year before we married and the Bride was born. We were sitting in a Temple listening to a rabbi talk about how Judaism differs from other religions….mainly there is NO ONE MAN at the center of it!

Over 900 people killed themselves or were poisoned because of Jim Jones, an American cult leader who led his followers to Guyana. https://www.history.com/topics/crime/jonestown

Think about that for second:

  • Nobody to tell you to drink the Kool-Aid;
  • Nobody to die for your sins and promise eternal life;
  • No man in a saffron rob saying his dharma is the one true dharma;
  • No guy who told millions to kill infidels, so flying planes into buildings was fine.

Nope, for Jews celebrating Chanukah this week, a very minor holiday on the calendar, God is represented in many, amorphous ways – God was never a man. And the study of Torah only leads to lots of questions. Something I was taught in Catholic school we should never do, we didn’t question our nuns or priests. We were told to have “Blind Faith!” I was taught to memorize Catechism, which pretty much made me hate school.

Yes, Nancy, Pelosi I know “hate” is a powerful word… maybe we need a more powerful word for how we Progressives feel about Mr T.

He is a shining example of a cult leader, many of his evangelical faithful refer to him in the glowing language of a savior.

“The power of the evangelicals as a voting bloc is in their sheer size, and in their symbiotic relationship with the president.“Because they are a third of the Republican base, Trump needs white evangelical Protestants to get elected,” said Robert P. Jones, chief executive of the Public Religion Research Institute. “And because white evangelicals see themselves as a shrinking minority, in both racial and religious terms, they need Trump.”  https://www.nytimes.com/2019/12/20/us/politics/christianity-today-trump-evangelicals.html?searchResultPosition=2

He may mock women and the handicapped, pay off prostitutes and lie with equanimity, he may bend the constitution to fit his needs, but by God he’s still appointing conservative judges to life-long appellate benches.

This is the happiest season for some, but for me it’s a mixed blessing. “Mr. Trump’s re-election campaign announced on Friday evening that he would go to Miami on Jan. 3 to start an “Evangelicals for Trump’’ coalition.”

Thank you to my daughter who is following in her Daddy’s footsteps and taking care of the poor and injured today and tomorrow. Thanks to all the Christian and non-Christian first responders and medical personnel working this week. And a very special thanks to my Veterinarian.

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Bob will often recount that time I cried over a news report about a dog being thrown out of a car onto a highway.

It was at the end of the evening news – remember that quaint time of day we’d all turn to our favorite anchor person to sum up the world’s most important events? We didn’t have the New York Times or NPR on our phones. We weren’t glued to political coverage at odd hours.

We were just sitting there in our not/so/big house while the list of deaths in Afghanistan and Iraq scrolled across a screen, ending with that poor innocent dog. That’s what got me.

Well, it happened again this week. One morning I was watching Mr T walk up to a podium and scowl at his audience for the longest presidential pause in history. This in itself was intriguing; then without an introduction, not even so much as a, “Good Morning nice people of the Fake News,”  he announced the raid on an ISIS terrorist and he also mentioned a K9 was injured as a cave exploded. The suspect had fled with 3 of his children when he detonated his vest; civilians had been killed too. But a dog…and it was probably a German Shepherd dog like our Bones.

Why don’t they send robots or drones or droids into caves?

Last week I had a mammogram, because October is breast cancer awareness month, and I’ve been told that some Artificial Intelligence (AI) actually reads the test! It recognizes patterns in breast tissue and tells the radiologist what to report. Since my test was negative, I didn’t give it very much thought. Still, having an AI interpret a mammogram left me wondering what’s next. Maybe the government is afraid of a robot army? But robot doctors are fine.

Could a robot K9 sniff out cannabis? Nashville International Airport has 8 real drug-sniffing dogs!

A list released by the police department indicates that in the last 12 months, BNA Police have seized, approximately 600 pounds of marijuana, 800 THC pens, one pound of meth, six ounces of cocaine, and five ounces of heroin.

Chief Griswold says, “Our main focus is to make this a safe and secure airport and if you are coming through here with a large amount of drugs, some people might make this as a test thing to see if they can get something worse through, so we make those arrests and make sure they have a record on them,” said the chief.  https://www.wkrn.com/news/local-news/new-drug-k9s-at-nashville-airport-sniff-out-16-pounds-of-marijuana-in-mans-luggage/

I like the idea of a bomb-sniffing dog at an airport. Heck, I love dogs doing just about anything and will immediately melt to the sidewalk when confronted with a Corgi. I guess you could call me a severe dog lover.

Word on Twitter is that Mr T wants this injured K9 from the battlefield in Syria to come visit him at the White House. Isn’t he the ONLY president to NOT have a family dog? I would imagine dogs growl when they sniff him, most dogs can smell fear and inferiority and just plain craziness instantly. This brave canine would surely know he or she’s being used as a political prop, something to buoy his sinking ship.

Mr T should also stop using the phrase, “He died like a dog.” When it was Bones’ time, he went under our porch and wouldn’t come out. I had to coax him out with steak, and then we brought him to the Vet. There was no whimpering or crying, he was the such a beautiful, brave boy.

If you have a little love leftover in your heart, give it to a rescue dog and love will be returned tenfold. Here is my sweet, old Ms Bean in my office who would never hurt anyone but could kill a squirrel in 3 seconds.

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While some were on royal baby watch duty this past weekend, I was on the lookout for high fashion at the Met Gala. Remember last year when it was all churchy? Well, the theme this year was “Camp!” In other words, anything goes. Camp is defined as:

“…something that provides sophisticated, knowing amusement, as by virtue of its being artlessly mannered or stylized, self-consciously artificial and extravagant, or teasingly ingenuous and sentimental.
a person who adopts a teasing, theatrical manner, especially for the amusement of others.”

Since Celine Dion is not a native American speaker of our lovely English language, she thought “camp” meant to bring your sleeping bag and maybe create something with mosquito netting? But the Canadian songbird ended up with a feather fiesta on her head accented with long strings falling off her pencil-thin arms. Those 3,000 floor-length strands reminded some of spaghetti drying on a rack!

If I were to create my own “campy” look I’d have to borrow something from Camp St Joseph for Girls. My spin on “khaki shorts and white polo shirts” would look like a layer cake with 40 shades of beige. Topped off with pink pig tails naturally, enhanced freckles, and Keds – just white Keds and socks of course. I’d be sure to carry Bain de Soleil in my evening bag.

The Love Bug went to her very first sleepover birthday party on Friday after actually camping in the woods the weekend before. She seems to have inherited my theatrical nature because A – she didn’t actually sleep, and B – she wore a crystal necklace while politely informing her brother he wouldn’t see her again… (long pause) until the next day! Since the L’il Pumpkin has virtually never known a day without his big sister, this was distressing.

It did, however, amuse the adults in the room! “Dahling, I’ll miss you when I’m gone.”

In other big news over the weekend, we installed the fairy house in our garden to much acclaim. We served honey tea in miniature cups and held hands while we prayed for the tiny creatures who might take up residence. Great Grandma Ada provided more plants and the Love Bug created a small worm house nearby since we do seem to have an abundance of worms.

What does one wear to a Fun Fairy party? Well the campier the better! The Bride came from work in scrubs, the Groom put on his band tee after presiding in the MICU, Ms Bean was in her birthday fur suit, and the Great Grands? Well, they are always red carpet ready!

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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!

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Is this the Year of the Dog, or the Year of the Bird? Last night, a gorgeous picture of a Boykin Spaniel popped up on my Instagram. Liver colored, with soulful eyes, droopy ears and curly fur, it looked just like my very first dog. She was the sweetest, most lovable creature ever, although maybe everyone’s first love takes on a special significance over time.

The Boykin’s photo was courtesy of a National Geographic photographer I’m following who is shooting a series called the #yearofthedogs. His name is Vincent J Musi, “…a trusted friend to animals everywhere.” He doesn’t just capture their distinct personalities, he tells you a little bit about his encounter – like how much the dog may have drooled, while noting that he’s also drooled back in the day. It’s a witty and wonderful start (or end) to any day!

Meanwhile, in the middle of my Monday, I found myself at the Animal Hospital with the Bride and Groom’s older dog, the much loved G-man. I just happened to be playing super heroes with our L’il Pumpkin when I noticed Mr G really digging into one of his paws. Upon closer inspection there was blood on his dew claw; so without further adieu, we headed to the Vet. At that point the Love Bug came home from school and wanted to keep us company.

Her level of empathy is amazing for a 5 year old.

I’ll dispense with the gory details, Mr G is now wearing the cone of shame to keep him from tearing off his bandaged leg. The hardest part will be keeping the new puppy from trying to attack him, um play with him. Maybe I should visit our friend Robin’s pet store, “Come, Sit, Stay” to find Mr G a special treat?

What is it about dogs? Almost every picture I have of me as a child has me standing next to, or holding a dog. The Flapper’s first child, my half-sister Shirley, the one I never knew, used to raise Welsh Corgis. Of all the dogs in the AKC, I too chose Corgis to adore when my children were little, never knowing that Shirley felt the same way. German Shepherd dogs hold a special place in my heart, and let’s face it, ANY and ALL rescues, like Ms Bean and G-Man.

My niece Lynn breeds the regal Scottish Deerhound, a breed known for their sweet temperament. She’s in that category of Best in Show dogs, traveling the country with a plethora of hounds in the back seats. Come to think of it, Shirley’s daughter Karen loves to travel with her canine companions too! Hmm, now that’s a children’s book!

Every other dog you meet in Nashville is a Frenchie! I loved Musi’s photo of a French Bulldog named Larry, who is friendly in a “take over the world” kind of way. Y’all know my Francophile ways, so a Frenchie might just fit with us whenever and where ever the wind blows. Having one pup in a city townhouse is enough for now.

But I digress, because I was wondering about 2018 now that we are 3 months in, and it seems that this isn’t the Year of the Dog, even though I’m a dog addict. It’s the “Year of the Bird!”

“National Geographic, National Audubon Society, Cornell Lab of Ornithology, BirdLife International, and more than 100 organizations join forces for 12 months of storytelling and science to examine how our changing environment is impacting birds around the globe.”

However, I wasn’t entirely wrong because according to the Chinese calendar 2018 is the Year of the Dog! Loosely translated we should all have “prosperous wealth.” I’m OK with that, because a house isn’t a home until it’s covered in fur. Maybe my next post will be about birds, and the way Ms Bean just plucked one out of the air!? Happy Birding everyone!

Awwww poor G-Man.

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Last night I attended a course on “Writing and Publishing for Children and Teens.” It was jam-packed with good advice and important resources, but the most interesting thing to me was the “other” facilitator – an illustrator. Her name is Mary Reaves Uhles and I happened to pick up one of her picture books while waiting for class to begin – I absolutely loved it! Lots of shenanigans and different skin colors at a Grandmother’s holiday celebration:

“The Little Kids’ Table” by Mary Ann McCabe Riehle and Mary Reaves Uhles http://sleepingbearpress.com/shop/show/11704

At first I wondered if I should have been named Mary with multiple surnames, like all the nuns who taught me how to perfectly diagram a sentence, and probably set the stage for my love of reading and writing. Before popping into my class, I delivered two children’s books in Spanish to the Grands; one on Frida Kahlo and the other on Julio Cortázar! After all, they will be learning Spanish in school and why shouldn’t they think of art as a career choice? The Bride smiled at my obvious motive while she cooked up some delicious beans and rice.

One of the most important things I learned from Uhles is that when a manuscript is accepted by a publishing house, the writer has basically zero influence on the illustrator. For some reason I’d thought I would have to provide the artist along with my book, that writer and illustrator came as a duo, a married couple ’till death intervened. I might be able to suggest someone for the job, but nope, the editor gets to pick the person she/he likes. Uhles mentioned a friend who wrote a book about a family, only to find out it was finally published as a PIG family, which was not her intention, but hey…

I also learned I don’t have to rhyme, although I love reading aloud in rhyme to children. It’s like a melody that’s enhanced by harmony. But Dr Seuss seems to have cornered the market on couplets, still I’ll leave a bit of my idea for a another book on Buddha Bear. Y’all know Buddha was our wonderful part-Samoyed rescue who looked like a polar bear. One hundred pounds of pure love. https://mountainmornings.net/2011/11/03/to-a-good-dog/

Buddha Skates Across the Pond

Snowflakes settled on his nose

As Buddha stepped outside to find

A fox left tracks in the tall sea grass

And chocolate milk was on his mind

The school was closed, so back inside

He jumped to pull a crazy quilt

From Lena’s bed, “Up, up, up, sleepyhead!”

He begged with paws of icy silt

I envision a series, Buddha in the Morning, Buddha at the Beach, Buddha Gives Chase, Buddha on a Plane, etc. Which reminds me, when we arrived in Mexico, a police officer was strolling through the airport with a proud German Shepherd dog. who started sniffing all around my bag. Oh Oh, was I carrying some contraband into the country? We always thought Buddha was a drop-out from a K-9 program. It turned out this drug-sniffing dog had smelled my half of a ham sandwich from Starbucks. Needless to say, it was confiscated.

Our current combined pups:  Guinness, Ms Bean and Maple the newest IMG_2040

 

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