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Posts Tagged ‘Dogs’

Herb plants are potted and vegetables are in the raised bed. I’ve added a new phlox to the garden and even sprinkled some flower pots about just for fun. As much as gardening is hard work, somehow this year I couldn’t wait to dig my hands in the dirt. And I’ll blame it on the Zoom Pilates, my body hardly suffered from all that bending and hoisting.

Which leads me to ask, what do you do just for fun?

I’m currently reading a book about fun by Annie F Downs; “THAT SOUNDS FUN” or The Joys of being an amateur, the power of falling in love, and why you need a hobby! The Grands and I did a quick trip through Parnassus Bookstore and I was drawn to the local author table. I rarely need to buy a book because of Bob’s monthly gift from the store’s signed first edition club, plus my family and friends revolving free library. But I was drawn to the title after this past pandemic year.

Fun can be big or small, it can be planned or spontaneous. For example, the Bride lets us know when she’s working a day shift and the Groom is in the Covid ICU. This is bound to be a wonderfully fun day for me because I get to puppy sit! I mean, who doesn’t love a puppy? Especially one with big pink ears who looks like Winston Churchill! In fact, today our little Frenchie is on the scene.

So gardening can be a chore, and puppy sitting could be an obligation, it just depends on your attitude. Like cooking, for instance.

I can honestly say that I used to adore cooking, especially for loved ones. It’s my “love language” I’ve been told. But EVERY single day, breakfast/lunch/dinner for a year, and usually just for the two of us… has become a bit mundane. And I like prepping and chopping and such solo, it’s meditative for me. But, since Bob has discovered sourdough, we have to work around each other in the kitchen.

If I’m doing Zoom Pilates in the morning, and I’ve figured out in my mind what’s for lunch and dinner – yes, food is often what I’m thinking about on the yoga mat – then I’m a happy camper. Last week I’d roasted a big pork loin and delivered it to the Groom because the Bride had an evening shift. He was happily surprised to have dinner delivered along with the above mentioned puppy. Then the next day the Bride told me the truth.

They are trying to go meatless for the month of April!

I mean the whole family has decided to tackle Climate Change by changing their diet. I did see it coming; the Love Bug loves pasta with butter, period, and has already delivered a speech to her class about making Mondays meatless in their cafeteria. Still, it was a shock. It was like my daughter telling me she had to stop ballet classes when she turned 10. It was interfering with her schoolwork!

This weekend the Bride made meatless meatballs with chickpeas that were kind of like falafel. And she suggested we join them on a Zoom call with their friends (other doctors and environmental lawyers) about the agricultural impact of Climate Change. We learned that often rain forests are clear cut to make way for cattle grazing – and the more cows and sheep we consume, the more methane these animals produce.

“…global greenhouse gas emissions will need to fall by 40% to 50% in the next decade. Scientists say the only way to achieve that reduction is to significantly increase the amount of land that’s covered in trees and other vegetation and significantly reduce the amount of methane and other greenhouse gases that come from raising livestock such as cows, sheep and goats.

https://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2019/08/08/748416223/to-slow-global-warming-u-n-warns-agriculture-must-change

Bob and I were not only intrigued, we were mortified. At least we are open to learning something new from our children. Ever since Bob turned 40 I’ve been trimming away red meat, making turkey meatballs for health reasons. Now, we can factor in a healthy planet for future generations. I only have two caveats – the production of cheese is considered to have a negative impact on the environment, and so is the farming of shrimp! These are two steps too far.

Tonight we’ll play Super Boggle and I’ll make veggie burgers just for fun.

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We all know that special somebody, the guy who will always play devil’s advocate. One could say that the previous administration held a daily master class in What Aboutism – in other words, accusing the other side of rotten deeds in order to take the pressure off of their own nefarious activities. Remember when wind power was really starting to gain hold in our national grid, then somebody said,

“But what about all the dead birds!” Now that was classic because it implies that the speaker was really concerned with the environment. What a textbook con artist ploy.

Whataboutism is considered a form of the logical fallacy called tu quoqueLatin for “you also”—more like “And so are you!” in contemporary speech. The idea, here, is that a person charged with some offense tries to discredit the accuser by charging them with a similar one or bringing up a different issue altogether—none of which is relevant to the original accusation. It’s basically like blowing a raspberry at someone and saying, “I know you are, but what am I?” Classy, right?

https://www.dictionary.com/e/whataboutisms/

It is the Beavis and Butthead of debate, creating discord and blame in order to steer the conversation elsewhere. Case in point – my desire to buy a house, not a plane or a boat. I want to plant roots before I die, I’m tired of all this transplanting. If I say, “Let’s buy something in California,” I hear, “But what about all the wildfires… and the earthquakes!” If I say, “Let’s buy something in Hawaii,” I hear, “But what about the volcanoes?” Let’s not even mention Tennessee, all those Republicans! I realize that stasis is easy and change is hard, but what about my feelings??

This morning the sun is out, and after a week of temperatures in the teens, it’s going to be mid-60s today. Positively convertible weather. And the Senate is about to interview some witnesses from the January 6th insurrection. What to do, what to do? The journalist in me wants to hear about all the nitty gritty failures of the Capitol security system. Why did it take so long for help to arrive, what’s with the Pentagon? But the Bride is home today and Bob is planning to walk Ms Bean and what about my desire for some Vitamin D? A little sunshine is good for my psoriasis too.

Long ago I banished the “woulda, coulda, shouldas” from my vocabulary. Those words only lead to shame and blame, and I for one had enough of that in Catholic School. But, I can still get sidetracked by a good What Aboutism. Mostly as the recipient, so I’ll try and use this ploy myself, in order to master recognizing the technique, and thereby pointing it out to the people who trade in it. Let’s practice What Aboutism for a few minutes.

What About these gender reveal parties?

My generation had baby showers with lots of yellow baby clothes. We didn’t have ultrasounds to announce a baby’s sex, we were surprised each and every time. Does having a gender reveal party mean you have to have another baby shower later? Isn’t that just greedy? I actually “get” why people would want to know the sex of their soon to be baby – what I don’t get is making a spectacular show of the news to plaster all over social media. Plus, they are dangerous, and… Covid.

Last Sunday a gender reveal party killed the father of a fetus in Liberty, NY when his improvised explosive device backfired. The man’s brother was helping him and said it was, “The freakiest of freak accidents that I could ever imagine.” STOP right there! Most emergency departments know all about July 4th freaky explosive accidents. They write all about them in journals. People lose eyes and fingers all the time!

Gender reveal parties have also started wildfires in California and Arizona. In my mind, these parties are detrimental to the health and welfare of our environment – not to mention the lives and limbs of those who play with grenades and colored pink smoke bombs and cannons. Kind of like MAGA hatters who play with flags and fire hydrants and guns.

What About making an old fashioned list? You know, that list of people to call once the baby is born, or email, or text or whatever. Make that list up early and send everybody an email, or send them pink or blue cupcakes if you really must know if it’s going to be a girl or a boy. Or a “they.” Personally, I like a bit of a surprise.

I mean, What About just NOT knowing? It’s like getting a pup-cup at Starbucks!

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Yesterday was a “Snow Day” for us. Luckily enough, while most of Nashville remained shuttered and iced over, both parents were required to work at their respective hospitals. Not only did we get the little Frenchie pup for the day, but the Love Bug and the not so little Pumpkin arrived too, ready to make their first actual snowman. Having nearly four-five inches of snow fall is quite a first for this part of the South, but having below freezing temps all week meant it would stick around for awhile!

After creating a volcano in the snow, building a snow “person,” and having a snowball fight, the kids were ready for some warmth. I made grilled cheese sandwiches and butternut squash with kale soup for lunch, followed up by a recipe for “S’more Cookies.” We don’t exactly have “quiet time” at Nana and Pop Bob’s, but the Pumpkin managed to demonstrate his reading skills. Listening to him read Calvin and Hobbes aloud while giggling reminded me of how much the Rocker loved those books as a child.

We may have watched a little Disney on TV, but I was in a total news blackout all day. Last evening, I noticed a White House reporter I follow on Twitter posted a vintage travel poster of Cancun! Mexico?! I was stumped, until I read further. Poor Ted Cruz, why can’t people understand he was only leaving his country to make a better life for his kids. I mean I understand dreaming about palm trees, I totally get it Senator.

But leaving your little Poodle behind, alone in a freezing cold house without any water – now that is a crime!

When our house flooded in Rumson, Bob and I were in Las Vegas for a medical conference. In fact we arrived at our hotel, turned on the TV and found out that this “No Name Storm” was devastating the Jersey coast. I never unpacked, we tried all night and the next day to fly home but airports were closed. The house-sitter-baby-sitter, Bride and the Rocker were evacuated by a dear friend who was married to a firefighter, but they left our two Corgis in the laundry room with bowls of food and water.

The Laundry Room! Only the garage and the lower level of our rambling mid-century ranch was flooded, the water never reached the laundry room, and Tootsie and Blaze were fine, despite their short little legs. Our friend had cats and made the split second decision to leave the dogs behind. One wonders what went through Cruz’ risk-benefit analysis of the emergency situation in Texas – let’s see. No heat, check. No water, check. Let’s blame this on the Green New Deal, the 10% wind power failure, put our tail between our legs and board a plane for Margaritaville.

“Snowflake will be OK, maybe the security detail guarding my house will check in on the poodle?”

And btw, why would a Republican-Trump-type name his dog “SNOWFLAKE” anyway? That would be like Biden’s German Shepherds being named Filibuster and Insurrectionist! Talk about Cancel Culture, I mean every snowflake is different and when you add them all up you get a village of snowpeople!

Cruz needs to do a Ted Talk for Texans. Although when your GOP becomes a sad, angry group of old white men who would rather shame and blame and conceal their weapons rather then work out a sustainable energy policy for their state you may want to check yourself. And admit it, we know the optics of you at the airport with a bag packed for some sun and fun is really what you regret. Getting caught demonstrating your callousness. And the picture of your Poodle sitting in the doorway, home alone, will last longer than a snowman in the South.

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We’ve been doing a bit of grandpuppy sitting lately. And today I forgot we had a scheduled Pilates class when the Bride’s Frenchie, Watson, showed up for some stretching too. He’s learning his polite dog skills and usually scratches the door for a potty break. Poor Ms Bean has learned to give up her dog bed and reluctantly give in to playtime. But she still doesn’t understand why Watson gets to eat lunch and she doesn’t!

I only had to get up twice to let the dogs out, so I missed out on our “stomach series.” And my tummy thanks them. Then the feminist in me was triggered when I read a text about another interloper – only this one wore heels and red lipstick. A Tweet wondered why White feminist writers were not calling out the latest Republican NRA devotee to Congress.

Elected this Fall, the freshman House member from Georgia is a known QAnon conspiracy theorist, and full blown pro-Trump insurrectionist. Marjorie Taylor Greene doesn’t wear face paint or Viking furs, she strolls through the Capitol with impunity carrying her concealed weapon around the metal detectors. She has verbally assaulted her colleague, Democrat Cori Bush, causing Bush (who is Black btw) to move her office further away from Greene in the interest of her staff’s safety. What other disrespectful and incendiary things can one congresswoman do?

“Ms. Greene suggested in 2018 that a devastating wildfire that ravaged California was started by “a laser” beamed from space and controlled by a prominent Jewish banking family with connections to powerful Democrats. She endorsed executing Democratic lawmakers, including Speaker Nancy Pelosi. She served as a prolific writer for a now-defunct conspiracy blog called “American Truth Seekers,” writing posts with headlines including “MUST READ — Democratic Party Involved With Child Sex, Satanism, and The Occult.” And she argued that the 2018 midterm elections — in which the first two Muslim women were elected to the House — were part of “an Islamic invasion of our government.”

https://www.nytimes.com/2021/01/29/us/politics/marjorie-taylor-greene-republicans.html

Imagine my surprise on Holocaust Remembrance Day to see “Jewish space laser” trending on Twitter.

But the feminist in me wasn’t surprised. Sarah Palin wrote the playbook for conservative Christian women running for office. The largely male, White Republican party thought oh great, we need the new blood, we need women, let’s just see how far they can go. The old GOP didn’t count on the public electing delusional and destructive Breakers. And yet, here we are. Let’s not forget another gun-toting-loving woman Rep from Colorado, Lauren Boebert.

Boebert also vowed to carry her Glock all around the US Capitol and in the streets of Washington, DC. So far she hasn’t assaulted other members of Congress or said that the murder of schoolchildren in Parkland was a hoax.

Sometimes you can think something abnormal is a “one off,” but after January 6th, we would be deluding ourselves to think the enemy is not already within the gates of power; and Marjorie Taylor Greene is flush with power. Does it make it better if it’s women flaunting the rules, brandishing guns, instead of men?

“… (Greene) issued what amounted to a threat to top Republicans who might be contemplating punishing her, warning that they would pay steep consequences.

“’If Republicans cower to the mob, and let the Democrats and the fake news media take me out,’” Ms. Greene said, “’they’re opening the door to come after every single Republican until there’s none left.’”

Greene’s choice of words here is instructive – letting fake news “take me out,” sounds ominous enough, and then her facile reference to a Holocaust prayer by Pastor Martin Niemoller:

First they came for the Communists
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a Communist
Then they came for the Socialists
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a Socialist
Then they came for the trade unionists
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a trade unionist
Then they came for the Jews
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a Jew
Then they came for me
And there was no one left
To speak out for me

From space lasers to paranoid thinking about Democrats opening every door to punish Republicans who only want to overturn an election. Seditionists. Using anti-Semitic tropes while looking totally rational is a skill set we’ve seen before.

If Republicans can’t clean their own house, well maybe they need to watch Watson as we crate train him? Amirite Ms Bean?

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A Southern summer is upon us. You can smell jasmine in the air. In this Time of Coronavirus, the days seem to creep by slower and more deliberately. First up: watering the garden right after breakfast because later in the day would be miserable; temperatures soar past 90 and the humidity is at extreme beach hair levels.

I’m feeling confined again, not just from this pandemic but also from the Nashville weather.

Luckily, Bob and I did manage to get out of the house this past holiday weekend. The Bride and Groom were cooking hot dogs and veggie burgers so we sat on one side of their expansive front porch. Two old grandparents in a pair of rocking chairs! After a week of hugs and kisses in Florida I’m bereft, we are again consigned to making a beating heart with our fingers and blowing kisses. Our first socially distant Fourth of July.

Even in the shade, and with fans whirring above our heads, sweat ran down my back. Even their two rescue dogs snuck back into the cool, air-conditioned house, abandoning food and family on the porch.

The real excitement came earlier in the day while I was assembling a vegetable tart. The Bride texted me – “I’m going to West Elm to look at rugs, wanna come?”

You betcha! A big, beautiful store? Why I haven’t been inside anything but a Whole Foods in months, during “senior” hours. Bob gave me his quizzical look, the one that says do you really want to risk your life over a bunch of tchotchkes? But I DID. I wanted to get out of the house, alone in the car for awhile, and wander around this hip, modern furniture store on the fancy side of town. With my daughter. Wearing masks of course. And it was delightful.

Everyone in the store was wearing a mask, and it was very early so there were just a few customers. The soaring ceiling gave me an extra level of comfort. I sat in swivel chairs. I picked up dishes even though a sign said “touchless shopping” was appreciated. Mea Culpa. We looked at rugs, all kinds of rugs; some with wool from New Zealand and some that resembled a Jackson Pollock painting. We were looking for an 8×10 to go into her new library – shelves had been built after all, and she wanted a cozy rug.

A soft, cozy rug to entice her little digital natives to curl up with a book.

But then I spotted one man in the store, walking around holding a mask in his hand. It wasn’t on his chin, or over his mouth right under his nose, which is another pet peeve. I guess he was too lazy to actually put it on on his face? He trailed behind his wife and a store employee, both in masks, and I had such a visceral feeling of contempt. Is he stupid? Does he feel like the rules – specifically for a mask mandate in public – don’t apply to him? He was not abiding by this social contract, he was threatening all our lives.

My daughter had just finished an evening shift in the ER, she had worn an N95 the night before for eight hours straight, and we were wearing our homemade cloth masks in the store. Our first time in a store. The least he could do was #MaskUp. To be clear, most people in Nashville are now wearing masks in public. We are still in the business of making masks for neighbors, in fact, the Grands like to count the number of masks they see whenever they ride in a car.

I really wanted to confront the mask-in-hand man, but I just steered clear. After all, what if he was a “Florida Man?” What if he started yelling at me, accusing me of taking away his freedom? What if he called the police? After all I’m a “Jersey Girl” so I wouldn’t back away from a fight.

I wonder, is a “Florida Man” the male equivalent of a “Karen?” I know lots of lovely Karens and hate this sobriquet for a middle-aged, white entitled woman; it seems like just another sexist remark. Maybe we should all stop using mean, stereotypical words to describe the human race!

Besides I just finished a Qigong class with my Florida man via Zoom. He lives in Gainesville and is absolutely kind and generous! I’m sure he wears a mask in public. And now I have to set up the yoga mats for Pilates Zoom with Bob.

Come to think of it, this hazy, lazy summer is starting to get busy!

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At daybreak, I hear Ms Bean’s clickety paws on the floor, and the bedroom door closes. If I’m lucky, I might get another sleep cycle. When I wake from my Covid dream, the one about keeping Great Grandma Ada away from the crowded dining hall at Camp St Joseph, I have to change my nightgown. Bob likes our bedroom freezing cold at night, and I’ve been sweating glowing a lot lately.

Breakfast is easy; but first, coffee. I know Bob loves me because he keeps the Keurig carafe filled with water. I need to wake up with a big mug, my only caffeine fix of the day. And I like to watch a few cable news networks in the process – how many more deaths, what state is seeing a spike in virus infections, what does, “Defund the Police” actually mean?

Breakfast is a banana, covered in vanilla yogurt and granola. My favorite Hudson Henry granola from Virginia, the orange bag with pecans and chocolate. We order it in bulk, direct from the company. I pour myself a big glass of green iced tea, and flip open my laptop.

Bob eats Eggo waffles most days and doesn’t like watching the news in the morning. He’d much rather watch Rachel Maddow at night; we are the exact opposite in our daily news consumption. I wouldn’t be able to sleep if I watched Rachel before bed. Or if I did, my Covid nightmares would get worse.

This morning, he’s in the living room with classical music and his iPad. Soon, he’ll be outside watering the garden.

In my office, I check in on Twitter, the BBC, and the New York Times, in that order. Did you know that Winston Churchill was a racist? An idea for an essay is percolating in my mind. I look up and out the window, something has caught my eye. Beyond the parking lot across the back alley, a shirtless man keeps popping up doing jumping jacks. Intrigued, I stand to get the full view – eight push-ups on the ground followed by the jump.

Some people miss the gym more than others.

Around 9am Bob pops in to say he’ll be walking Ms Bean, and I hear her happy joy circle dance by the front door. He yells back, “By the way, I fed the starter.” My cell is off and Bob knows not to disturb me when I’m writing. How do I know? I know this because I overheard him tell a friend that Tuesdays he’s on his own in the morning! Well until 11am anyway.

We used to drive Ms Berdelle to 11am T’ai Chi at the Y on Tuesdays, but now we set up two yoga mats on the floor in the living room. Bob has decided to join my Zoom Beginner Pilates class. He’s read my post and gives me feedback like any good editor while we gather foam rollers, balls and exercise bands, the tools of the senior set.

During Pilates I find out there’s a fire burning in Tucson, where my instructor’s mother lives, and she had to be evacuated last night. I try to concentrate on cracking a walnut between my shoulder blades, sticking my tush out, and what I’m going to make for dinner. I try not to think about climate change.

After Pilates Bob asks, “Do we have any plans for lunch?”

Luckily, I don’t have any plans for lunch, so we decide to walk down to the Vietnamese restaurant and see if there’s a table on the socially distant patio. We haven’t been out to eat in three months. Unluckily, all the tables, which is maybe half of the usual tables, are occupied so we pick up two ready made salads and walk home. I really miss going out for lunch.

Long ago Bob told me I was making him fat because I’m a pretty good cook, a backhanded compliment for sure – ever since that day, whenever I cook something for us to eat, he gets to make his own plate. You see, somewhere along my feminist learning curve I decided that I was supposed to plan and shop and cook a delicious dinner every single night… for 41 years… but not breakfast or lunch.

I never got the memo that I didn’t have to cook dinner. I still look with wonder at younger women who say they never cook. I mean, is that even possible?

After lunch we decide to make a Shipt order on my computer. Bob likes to do this with me, he drags in another chair so we can sit side by side while we discuss the status of milk in the refrigerator. We would rarely go grocery shopping together in the past, but he needs more bread flour. Bob is now on his fifth try at perfecting sourdough bread, in my vintage Dutch oven.

“You should see, my starter is growing!” Bob tells me proudly and we discuss the merits of sourdough baking – damp towels, parchment paper, bubbling.

The afternoon is upon us and it’s time to start our day, so we go back upstairs to shower and I change my yoga pants and floss my teeth. I’m responding to comments on social media about my blog on my phone and doing laundry when I hear a timer go off. It’s time for Bob to “do something” big, there’s lots of noise in the kitchen. I think he’s making the dough, or maybe it’s time to “stretch and fold.”

Then my phone bings and we have to drive-through the pharmacy and get a case of wine curbside delivered.  We suit ourselves up in masks and head for the car. As soon as I start the engine, my cell rings so loudly on blue tooth that we both startle. Four people call us in that 15 minute round-trip ride. A brother has a tax question, a grand daughter has a bee bite, a neighbor has a medical consult, and what color gray should the Bride paint her new bookshelves?

We arrive home and I Google “panzanella” salad. What a great Italian idea for the heel of a sourdough loaf of bread! It’s also close enough to 5 o’clock somewhere to pour a cold, glass of unoaked Chardonnay. But first I must feed Ms Bean.

Then I tell Bob to pick some kale, and I pick some tarragon. Chopped garlic and tarragon, mixed with a little honey mustard and salt and pepper, then add Balsamic vinegar and some good EVOO. I wash and halve some cherry tomatoes, tear up the kale, and Bob’s picked a pepper too. I improvised and threw in some leftover pasta salad and added some cubes of Swiss cheese, but any hard cheese would do. I combine the chunks of bread that I’ve dried a bit in a hot oven with the veggies and pour the vinaigrette over it all.  https://www.thekitchn.com/how-to-make-panzanella-italian-bread-salad-recipe-206824

We had to dance around each other in our galley kitchen since Bob was kneading or rolling dough while I was assembling the salad, but he pronounced it my best summer salad evah!

Time for another stroll with Ms Bean. She’s super excited because I’m joining them. We’ve relaxed our puppy sniffing rules a bit, but we still don’t stop to pet other dogs. Sometimes we talk, but half the young people in our neighborhood are not wearing masks. How can people be so callous? Our Mayor has decided to keep Nashville at Phase 2 of re-opening, but we’re staying home in our own Phase 1 for the most part.

The bread is sitting on the counter rising, and we’re ready to wind down. Tomorrow morning the sourdough bread goes in the oven. We might play Scrabble or watch Netflix tonight. Or talk to the kids on the patio across the way, they are both residents at Vanderbilt. Our kids are driving to the beach for a well deserved vacation from Covid.

We could all use a vacation about now.

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Yesterday, Bob was outside the front door doing some weeding. Our raised bed of vegetables is on the south side of the house, not within the confines of our fenced-in garden. I was stringing a few pearls together in my first pandemic necklace when I heard him yell, “Honey, come here, quick.”

He told me all about the fat and healthy red fox that had just strolled around the front corner of the house under a holly bush. They were an arm’s length away from each other. Of course Bob saw him (or her) the very second his hand was pulling up a weed – as they locked eyes I’m sure they were both shocked! The fox immediately took off across our not/so/busy street and around an apartment building.

Imagine that, in a city of a million and a half people, nature can still find a way.

This is day #13 of quarantine. I’ve stopped watching the White House Pressers about the Coronavirus, they only serve to bolster Mr T’s fragile ego. He is selling us a fool’s paradise, and I for one am not buying his lies.

But I am crossing off the days on my old-fashioned paper calendar, eager to put each day behind me. Luckily Ms Bean requires a slow-walk each and every day, sometimes three! And now that the sun has returned and Spring has arrived, these meditative walks are a kind of salvation.

They are a way to still the noises in my head, all the “what ifs” and “if onlys.” A stroll around the neighborhood tethered to Ms Bean keeps me here, grounded in the Present. This morning, the sun has come up and the temperature will climb to 80 degrees. The rain has stopped for now. And while drinking coffee and reading my online papers, I noticed a tiny headline: “Yale Happiness Course Takes Off.”

It seems that since December, this online course titled “The Science of Well Being” has enrolled 1.3 million people worldwide. https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-52055242

Now, when over half a million people around the world are infected with the Coronavirus, and everyone is isolating themselves to flatten the curve, and the Bride is donning her PPE and caring for patients in her ER, and the Groom is planning to make ICU beds appear all over his hospital, and we can’t visit Great Grandma Ada and Hudson, and we can’t hug the Love Bug or tickle L’il Pumpkin…

Now more than ever, I have to keep hope alive.

“People in these situations tend to either look backwards for solutions or ruminate about possible futures: Will I go back to work? Will I be able to afford getting sick? Can I support my family if they get sick?

“While both those abilities are very adaptive in solving immediate problems or challenges or an immediate threat, they’re very harmful in situations like the one we’re in the middle of where the threat is ambiguous, the duration is unknown.”

It’s important to mention that only here, in the US, are people worried about hospital bills. Only here, in our great country, would someone not seek emergency medical treatment because they are afraid it would bankrupt them.

While waiting for the spike of this curve, we have to keep hope alive. And one way to do it is to stay in the PRESENT. Mindfulness isn’t easy during a pandemic. I notice every little flower on my walks, every flowering vine that threatens to engulf a mailbox. I would usually bring my phone with me, to take pictures, but it’s better if I leave it at home and stay present.

CONNECTING WITH OTHERS is another way to support our sanity. We’ve been Facetiming with the Rocker and Aunt KiKi. They have dueling desks set up in their California home and have had Zoom conferences with colleagues. The Bride turned me onto Marco Polo, an APP that’s like video texting, and we’ve been having fun with friends just capturing a snippet of time each day. Steve sent us video of a huge hawk in his yard yesterday! And of course, we talk on the phone too.

Yesterday we walked around the Bride’s neighborhood looking for teddy bears in windows. It was so hard to stay ten feet apart, to not touch the children.

The third linchpin of well being is a daily PRACTICE of GRATITUDE. Bob and I have been doing this on a pretty regular basis before bed. I can’t watch the news at night these days, but I can recall small pleasures during the day, things that bring me joy. Sometimes it’s just the sound of Ms Bean snoring, or a tulip that popped up under the cherry tree. Sometimes it’s the young man who delivers a restaurant meal. We can always name three things we’re grateful for.

Like the red fox foraging under the holly.

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I heard the clickity-clack of Ms Bean’s toes pacing around the bedroom, followed by flashes of lightening and thunder. I had no idea what time it was when Bob’s cell started blaring like an Amber Alert. Then came the sirens. It was 12:45 am.

That night, Bob had gone out to a neighborhood association meeting. I was disgusted with politics – Amy had dropped out, then Pete – and I’d become habituated to the  non-stop storm weather coverage. Tornado watches were nothing new in Nashville. Following all the transplanted, tough northerners, I barely paid attention to the predicted path of what might become a twister.

Instead, I tuned into The Hunters, on Amazon Prime.

Bob usually wakes up fast, but he must have been in a deep sleep cycle because it took his screeching phone to get him up and out of bed and into his office. The TV anchor said, “A tornado has touched down in Nashville, get to your safe space immediately.” And just like that, the darkness enveloped us – lights, TV, street lights were all gone and all we could hear were the sirens. “Get Dressed,” he told me in a way that meant this is an emergency, do what I say, I’m the doctor (for Dr Who fans).

I pulled on a pair of pants under my nightgown, got my robe and went downstairs with Ms Bean nearly attached to my knees. Our only space without windows, since we don’t have a basement, is under the stairs at our game table. I could hear the wind rattling the windows, and the blinds upstairs went whooshing. Bob said he heard a freight train, but all I could hear were the sirens and the windows and the whistling in my ears. As I sat down like I was ready to play a game of backgammon I realized I only had my bedroom slippers on…

So I went to the front door in the dark to find a pair of boots. After all, if we were buried in this house I’d need to be able to walk out to whatever was left. I could hear hail pelting the windows and the doors. And then, just as fast as it started, it was over. Maybe it only lasted a minute or two, and I felt like we were tickled by the tail end of hell. I could hear the emergency alarm from the apartment complex across the street, and the sirens kept blaring for another half hour.

The Bride woke us at 6 am. Were we OK? She wanted to come to us but streets were blocked.

I put some Aussie Bites and iced tea out on our picnic table, people stopped by to tell me their stories. One girl was from Oklahoma and she slept through everything! When we walked Ms Bean that first morning, everyone on the street was in shock. Ms Berdelle’s son Scott was staying with her thank God, so many of her big tress were down. One crushed her friend’s car. All her clerestory dining room windows were broken. Another friend, the girl who loves my chicken soup, wondered if we had a tarp, one of her windows was gone.

Then I turned a corner and debris was everywhere, windows were blown out of fancy, three story condos. It felt like I’d entered a war zone.

Yesterday we were part of a cleanup crew. Pulling mangled pieces of steel off sidewalks, picking up roof tiles and chunks of insulation, sweeping sidewalks. My arthritic knees did about as much bending as they could do. Tears had been close for a long time, our house was fine, we had only lost power along with the rest of the city. But seeing neighbors come together, giving out water, setting up food and charging stations, rolling up their sleeves to help, that’s when it hit me. It’s the kindness that gets me every time.

I still cry now. For the horrible loss of life. For the people whose homes are condemned. For our neighborhood non-profit, Crossroad Pets, a pet store with a purpose. Their building was hit hard. https://crossroadscampus.org/

They take in stray animals for adoption and train local, disadvantaged youth in grooming and general animal care. Many of their employees have aged out of the foster care system, and y’all know I was once a foster child. If anyone is looking to help out with donations, Crossroads could sure use your help.

I want to thank so many of you for reaching out to check on me and the family. The Great Grandparents live 8 miles away and are doing fine. We’re camping with the Bride and Groom until the power comes back. The Bride saw a man with carbon monoxide poisoning, so remember to keep those generators outside if you’re lucky enough to have one. And always look for people helping people.

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When I first met Wendi, she was holding her baby boy. Her smile was like sunshine as she showed me around the property. We had finally moved to Virginia, and when the Bride and I first saw the house, she had been away on a business trip. My soon-to-be landlord was a fabulous designer, she flew all over the country installing the dreams of her famous clients.

Strangely enough on that crystal clear day in Charlottesville, Wendi was in New Jersey.

But at our first look, her husband, wanted us to rent their guest cottage. He knew the Bride was starting at UVA Medical School, and he was psyched about our Duke connection. As he led us through the main house and into the dining room, where an old Dutch master-like portrait of a man with a beard hung over a sideboard, I wasn’t prepared for this revelation.

“There’s a building at Duke University named after my ancestor,” he said pointing up to the painting, “It’s the Allen Building.”

In fact, Bob and the Bride were well acquainted with the Allen Building. Turns out it was named after a good friend of JB Duke in the early 1920s, a man from Warrenton, NC – George Garland Allen. Allen had started out as a bookkeeper for the American Tobacco Company in 1895, working his way up in the Duke organization.

My new landlord’s Great Grandfather, on his Mother’s side, had been known to say it was easier to accumulate his wealth than it was to give it away.

This didn’t stop us from moving our Welsh Corgi along with big Buddha Bear and Bailey Dawg (the Bride’s Lab) into the smaller “cottage” on their property. Wendi welcomed us with open arms, in fact she collected a menagerie of dogs too – from a sublime Great Dane to another ridiculous Corgi! When we finally built our house overlooking the Blue Ridge, Wendi had 2 small boys, and 2 matching Labs.

In contrast to her husband’s Southern lineage, Wendi was a California girl. She didn’t come from money; she had been a nanny in NY and then went to school for design. She built her own business from the ground up, and juggled 2 children with the demands of her world-wide clientele. I remember distinctly when she told me about this woman who would come in and cook you a week’s worth of meals on a Sunday and put them in the freezer.

Aha, so this was how working women who might jet off at a moment’s notice took care of their family. This was before GrubHub.

Wendi would throw great Gatsbyesque parties around their pond behind their home. She sent her boys to the public school and became one of the fiercest football moms around. She loved keeping tabs on the Rocker, and made sure her boys knew all about his band. When the Parlor Mob stopped by on a swing through Virginia, she treated them like royalty. When I became secretary of the local book club, she’d make a point of attending if she was in town.

She was one or two decades younger than most of us; a doctor, a few lawyers, a few teachers, and me, the one who could make an email list-serve. Wendi’s California blonde exuberance would always add the fun component to our gatherings. After her divorce, she started a new business of high-end consignment pop-ups that housed many of the pieces Bob and I couldn’t carry with us to Nashville.

Last month, after saying goodbye to her oldest son, who was heading to Australia for his college semester abroad, Wendi died tragically, she was only 53 years old. That baby, that I first met on her hip, is now in high school. When my old friend and neighbor called to tell me the news, I was shaking. How can this be? Didn’t I just talk with her about our trip to Tulum? Didn’t I just see beautiful pictures on Instagram of her December holiday in Puerto Rico? She’d found a new love, and life was looking good for my friend.

How can a light like that be extinguished? My lovely, vibrant Wendi, how can this happen? I hope you knew how many people loved you. Your outstanding sons are your legacy, your Valentines in football jerseys. Sleep peacefully dear heart.

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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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