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Posts Tagged ‘Family’

Hey Alabama, do you really know me? My generation didn’t discuss abortion, like we didn’t discuss cancer. It was 1967 and I was a budding feminist; I hated having my skirt length measured in high school, and couldn’t believe we had to wear skirts on the streets of Boston when I went off to college. Boys could always wear what they wanted, go wherever they wanted, and say or do anything. We girls had our reputations to think of, it seemed everyone was thinking about this. So many rules about our bodies.

I couldn’t wait to shed some of those rules – in the words of Henry Higgins, “Why can’t a woman be more like a man?”

When I walked into the UMass hospital with belly pain, I was shocked to find out I was pregnant. The word bereft comes to mind, why couldn’t the young doctor DO something? I almost think he felt sorry for me. So I did what many young girls did in that situation, I thought I’d better get married. After all, abortion was illegal in 1967.

But when I outlined my plan to marry some frat boy from MIT, my big sister had a better idea. She asked me if I really loved him, and that’s when I broke down crying in the stupid phone booth at the bottom of the stairs in my Beacon Street dorm. She told me to come to New York.  I had an abortion.

It’s true we don’t owe the world our abortion stories, because being able to control our bodies is an elemental human right. I was a teenager, a Freshman in college, I couldn’t support myself, let alone a child. I didn’t end up in a cult, or as Mrs. Frat Boy in a cul-de-sac in Colorado. Did I feel shame and guilt? You betcha.

That’s why I married somebody else pretty quickly;  my step-father had just died, I needed an anchor. I married a law student, because I was still bereft and unmoored, and my starter marriage lasted 4 years.

I’m pretty sure if you count all the women of my generation who had abortions, it would look more like 2 in 4, or maybe 3? We went to Puerto Rico, we went to Europe, we went to brownstones in NYC, and we went to back alleys in Boston – depending on our socio-economic status. We had bought into the idea of equality, until it was too late. The wealthy will always be able to get what they want, the poor will always suffer.

If you were the result of an unwanted pregnancy that turned into a wonderful adoption story, good on you. But you probably left a scar that never heals in your birth mother’s womb. If you were the result of an unwanted pregnancy, and you were raised by your teenage mom, and her mom probably, good on you. That was your mom’s choice. Some of you succeeded without a father, and some landed in the foster care program, which is where I landed as a baby in my Year of Living Dangerously.

Even though the Flapper always told me, “You’re the only child I ever planned,” I was born because of a lie. A doctor thought my father had lost the will to live, so he advised the Flapper to have baby number 6, me! I may have been wanted, but that didn’t change  our circumstances. My father was actually losing his brain to a glioblastoma, I was 7 months old when he died.

Women need reliable, comprehensive, reproductive healthcare. We don’t need a bunch of white men in Alabama telling us we could be imprisoned for a miscarriage… it’s no longer 1967. And I’m not sorry I postponed motherhood, it was my choice.

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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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This was not your burn-your-bra-along-with-your-draft-card kind of weekend, then head for Canada. No.

This was the biggest single thing to hit Nashville since the advent of Country Music Awards. The NFL Draft on Broadway not only sacrificed some of our cherry trees, it drew overall 600,000 football fans across three days to the Honky Tonks, who spent well over $100M on merch, booze and housing. That’s a lot of cowboy boots!

And to round off the festivities, the Rock and Roll Marathon saw 30,000 runners sprinting up Rosa Parks Blvd, followed by Parrot Heads that evening at the Bridgestone Arena. It was a perfect storm sort of Spring awakening for this city and I was glad the Bride only worked the first night; with rain dampening the Draft, her ER shift went smoothly – one scooter injury here, one drinking injury there…

Then she and her family did what most natives and transplants alike did, they flew the coop. It was the first camping experience for the Grands and they loved it, scary stories and all.  A great way to dodge the Draft!

It wasn’t quite that simple for us because I got a severe case of the stomach flu. My daughter tells me it’s going around, which doesn’t help much. It knocked me out for 3 full days and nights, just when we were going to tackle all the boxes we’d shoved into all our closets so we could hold a Seder like Alice’s Restaurant; you know Arlo’s song, where you could get anything you want, except bread of course, there were no baguettes to be found, only matzoh.

(Here I could digress about how we used to attend Torah study in the Berkshires with Arlo Guthrie, but I won’t 🙂

My brother, Dr Jim, tells me that the Draft used to be a bunch of old, white guys sitting behind a big white curtain that would open to reveal all the new college picks in about an hour in each NFL city. Open and shut. That was back in the roaring 80s, when my brother Mike was President and General Manager of the MN Vikings. Today, from what I could gather between bouts of nausea, the Draft looks like Hasty Pudding skits put on by grown men. Guys dressed like Cardinals, or gunslingers, parading through the streets re-enacting some arcane tribal ritual. I didn’t get it.

But the team owners still charged fans 20 bucks back home, just to sit in their stadiums and watch the Nashville Draft on a jumbotron. So, you could dress up like a Patriot and stay in Foxboro, MA. Maybe I do get it.

As Passover was ending, another mass shooting was happening at a Chabad in Southern California. A research analyst at the Southern Poverty Law Center has this to say:

“ ‘We’ve started referring to them as the apocalyptic community, these online groupings that are marked by a sense of urgency’ about the perceived threat to white dominance.”

Lori Gilbert Kaye is the name of the woman who was shot protecting her rabbi from a nineteen year old with a gun. The rabbi insists it was a miracle that the terrorist’s gun jammed, preventing more from being slaughtered.  A border patrol agent who had recently discovered he wasn’t really Italian (a family joke) gave chase. The young killer surrendered to the police, wonder of wonder.

We can only imagine what would have happened to him if he was Black.

We can talk as much as we want about apocalyptic hate groups being radicalized online, but you cannot ignore the facts – New Zealand just banned assault rifles after 50 people were murdered in a mosque.

It’s time we Americans stopped dodging the truth. Stopped re-enacting Gunsmoke while our sons and daughters are actually martyred in places of worship, schools, theaters and malls. Our landscape has become a battlefield and our elected officials have no moral courage.

This was our Seder table, where we opened our door for Elijah.

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The big move was done in little pieces. We ferried small things over in our car piece by piece, the ubiquitous Pod was delivered and emptied by a team of BellHops, then finally Music City Movers emptied our townhouse. Ten days later I threw a Seder for family and friends – 17 altogether. To say I’m exhausted would be missing the point; I’m feeling like I got hit by a truck and I don’t have the flu….

Remember that book we all read years ago, required reading in every high school English class, “The Things They Carried.”

Twenty years ago, writer Tim O’Brien released a book of stories about young men and war, his war, Vietnam. Among many other things, he listed the weight of each soldier’s clothes, canteens and can openers. From the book: Every third or fourth man carried a claymore antipersonnel mine, 3.5 pounds with its firing device. They all carried fragmentation grenades, 14 ounces each. They all carried at least one M-18 colored smoke grenade, 24 ounces. Some carried CS or tear gas grenades. Some carried white phosphorous grenades. They carried all they could bear and then some, including a silent awe for the terrible power of the things they carried.

https://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=125128156

I’ve been reevaluating all the things I’ve carried around with me from my glory days as a new wife and mother in Massachusetts, to moving back to NJ when the Rocker was just 2 and unpacking was almost impossible, to building our small house overlooking the Blue Ridge in Virginia. Then finally the fantastical move to Nashville, leaving Bob to sell most of our furniture to the new owners of our house, while I stayed here on Nana duty.

Unlike Great Grandma Ada, who cocooned in her home for fifty years collecting the things her two sisters left behind, I’ve had ample opportunity to prune and shed the things that were weighing me down.

I still carry: some of the school papers from my children; the Bride’s baby dresses; a big, antique French cupboard; the heron and guinea hen prints, the kilt I was wearing when I first met Bob; my 1960s avocado green mixer; my 60s blue Dutch oven, the one I found in a store in Cambridge, MA, the same store I’d see Julia Child shopping in from time to time, it’s a heavy workhouse of a pot that found its way back into my heart during Seder prep; the oil painting the Bride did of us on Windsor Pond; the Rocker’s self-portrait from high school. All the old photographs.

And my beautiful desk, the one I’m writing on just now. I’ve missed it for 2 years.

I’ve carried all I can bear, but still the Bride insisted on “Marie Kondoizing” me. She dumped piles of clothes on my bed and asked me, one by one, if they sparked joy?! “Mom, you have two similar black Eileen Fisher dresses, which ONE do you want?”

I was resistant at first, but then I saw how my style, me weight, my essence had changed over the years. No woman wants to be stuck in the same hair style their whole life, and I could finally see that “Pittsfield-me” was too Laura Ashley, “Rumson-me” was too Lilly Pulitzer, and “Nashville-me” is something entirely different. I thanked my dated clothes for their faithful service and bid them farewell.

Bob has always traveled light, and so he was happy to see the Big Purge, but to my surprise he kept a few sentimental things of his own.

We are ready to tackle the garden now, to plant and transplant, to install the fairy house. I hope y’all had a wonderful Passover and Easter weekend and you’re looking ahead to blue skies and warmer days. Ms Bean has her favorite sunny spot on the porch, and I just might join her!

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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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While my brother Dr Jim was getting punished with a foot of snow in MN, Spring has sprung here in Nashville.

We’ve been busy collecting the daffodils in Ms Berdelle’s secret garden, and practicing Quigong on her patio. This past weekend I enlisted my young neighbor, Ashley, to give this ancient form of exercise and healing a try; but when she asked me what Quigong actually is, I was at a loss. I’d only studied T’ai Chi in the past and since today is Tuesday, I’ll be aligning my Chi pretty soon!

Still, Berdelle’s son is a Master of Quigong, and luckily he was visiting and the weather has been cooperating, I was game to give it a try:

When you start practicing Qigong exercises, the primary goal is to concentrate on letting go, letting go, letting go. That’s because most imbalance comes from holding on to too much for too long. Most of us are familiar with physical strength of muscles, and when we think about exercising, we think in terms of tensing muscles. Qi energy is different. Qi strength is revealed by a smooth, calm, concentrated effort that is free of stress and does not pit one part of the body against another.  https://www.consciouslifestylemag.com/qigong-exercises-healing-energy/

If that sounds like a song from a Frozen movie you’d be right. This is less like a Pelloton workout and more like a meditation on harmony, with birdsong as background music. When our Yin and Yang energy becomes unbalanced (or as Dr Jim would put it, we are too tightly or too loosely strung), it’s important to LET GO of everything that is holding us back and weighing us down.

Since Great Grandma Ada’s NJ house has just gone on the market, I’ve noticed a change in her – realistically she knows that her “collections” have served their purpose and she doesn’t need the hundreds of dishes, pots, silver and heavy furniture she has accumulated over a lifetime. In fact, she has sent the Steinway Grand piano out to California for the Rocker to enjoy!

But emotionally, she is still coming to terms with this new reality. Who are we without all our stuff?  

When I studied Buddhism at UVA, our class was told to write down words to describe who we are: Woman. Mother. Writer. Wife. Gardener. Chief Cook and Bottle Washer. (I wasn’t a grandmother yet)… but you get the point. How do we define ourselves? Irish. Democrat! Progressive! Feminist! Then our teacher told us to erase all those words, and some people had plenty of descriptors.

We were looking at a blank page.

The point was to empty our minds of all our labels, labels meant to divide us socially and politically, to create havoc and borders and even war. This past week we watched House Democrats try to come up with an Anti-Semitism bill that devolved into an anti-hate bill and lost its legs – criticizing a policy of racism and apartheid is not the same as hating a people for their ethnicity. Or spreading stereotypic garbage for that matter.

Is it possible to become one with the human race? To meditate and find the flow that connects each and every one of us to the earth and other living things. When I look into Ms Bean’s soulful eyes I see unconditional love. When we look into a new baby’s black, blue or green eyes we experience that same tenderness.

For some this is a very hard exercise, to give up everything we think we know about ourselves. We might feel like a ship stuck at sea with no harbor in sight. But for some, it is the very definition of freedom.

The Bride was asking me about Great Grandma Gi the other day. She wanted to know how and why the Flapper came to love Buddhism because she is seriously studying Yoga. Born in 1908, my Mother had a long hard life – she was abused as a young girl, had to relinquish two of her children for a time, and then her sixth and last child, me, after our Year of Living Dangerously. She survived a horrific car accident and buried three husbands. But her strength was a direct result of her suffering.

Gi was not a fabulist or a pollyanna in any way. She worked hard and constantly told me that every person has a story. Studying the interaction of mind and body became her religion in late life; just as integrative medicine, blending Western science with Eastern philosophy, has become accepted by wellness experts in America.

In this Year of the Pig, I will try to meditate, to breathe and to plan on letting go.

“I will practice coming back to the present moment,

Not letting regrets and sorrow drag me back into the past,

Or letting anxieties, fear or craving pull me out”

Thich Nhat Hanh 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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