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Posts Tagged ‘Family’

It was one of those rare opportunities lately for me. We were meeting Bob’s cousin from NY and his girlfriend for dinner at a trendy restaurant downtown. I had to run upstairs and get “beautiful.” It was an excuse to put on makeup!

I remembered the Flapper saying she had to, “put on her face.” Nelly, my foster mother, would only occasionally get dolled up since I am convinced she had agoraphobia. Still, on those rare occasions when she did venture out, she appeared like a Geisha – white face powder and red lips.

My routine now is pretty similar to Nell’s; some tinted moisturizer with an occasional dusting of mineral powder, a lip balm, with the addition of eyebrows; as in, she had them and I don’t. Well I do, but they are blonde. Still, just the basics. With Great Grandma Ada it’s all about the lipstick. She likes a bold lip.

Attending a Catholic school meant I had to learn the beauty basics fast in high school. In the 60s, I would take my “pin money” to White’s Pharmacy or Newberry’s and buy the latest white lipstick and blue eyeshadow!

I’d been told that it was always important to have “pin money.” What a quaint, ancient expression that referred obliquely to a woman having some financial independence. The term originated at the turn of the 20th century when women were fighting for the vote, and God forbid we might lose our hats in the process; hence Gibson girls were told to keep some change on their person for hat pins!

During the Flapper’s roaring 20s, it meant money for a cab in case your date was getting too fresh…

I didn’t grow up with huge beauty emporiums like Sephora, or tutorials on shading your face to create angles on YouTube. Side note – I just watched my first “influencer” teach me how to make “beachy waves” with a curling iron… it took her almost an hour and included many products! I’d just rather go to the beach though. Cheaper and simpler.

Of course, we didn’t have to be Insta-ready for a picture to spread like wildfire on social media, for all our friends to judge us.

We didn’t know how fresh and pure our skin was, so we spread on the orange gel, Bain de Soleil, and baked into bronze goddesses under the sun. We didn’t focus on the “size” of our pores or look ahead to future basal and squamous cells.

We didn’t even know that makeup was tested on animals. We thought that the bunny died only if one of us became pregnant. That was the test, there was no peeing on test strips in the privacy of your own bathroom. That dead bunny was the watershed moment for many of us.

Because I was a redhead, my skin was deemed super sensitive, everybody knows this. Nurses told me when I first tried nursing my baby. Doctors told me after stitching up the C-section wound. When I was diagnosed with psoriasis, I was reminded yet again…

But it wasn’t until I saw the youngest Kardashian (Kylie Jenner) on the cover of Forbes that it hit me. The beauty business is BIG business. https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbesdigitalcovers/2018/07/11/how-20-year-old-kylie-jenner-built-a-900-million-fortune-in-less-than-3-years/#4a7b63dcaa62

You need more than pin money to keep up these days. Imagine that as a teen Jenner was developing these “lip kits” to plump up lips. I never worried about my big upper lip, it was just a part of me and if I wanted to change anything it was to gain some curves and not look stick-straight, “like a boy.”

When the Bride was teased about her gorgeous rosebud lips in middle school, I cringed.

We didn’t know how trendy such lips would become – that a big upper lip is now considered an Elvis asset. That women inject their lips with fillers for this effect is fascinating to me. I want to tell the Love Bug to love herself just the way she is, not to compare herself to others. She will have to deal with being a tall girl in a world where women are told to keep quiet still, and stay in the background.

And when they do speak up, like Dr Ford, they are vilified.

If there was ever a generation to lead a beauty revolution now is the time. Let’s clear out our makeup drawers ladies and accept our grey hair and wrinkles. Let’s stop searching for that magic potion of youth and put our pin money where our head is – in the stuff that will soothe our souls. In books, music and art.

Beach hair and wrinkles #nomakeup, this is what 70 looks like.

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Ukiyo-e is Japanese for “pictures of the floating world.” It usually refers to scenes from everyday life, and was an art movement that inspired the early Impressionists. Imagine those prints of ocean waves, islands and cranes you once saw hanging in your grandmother’s home. Not this nana though; I’m more of an early 20th Century French advertising print sort of girl.

Still, with this torrent of spring rain, I’m beginning to feel as if I’ll be floating down to the Cumberland River any day now. Last night, during a rain-free respite, Bob and I visited our local Art Crawl – less a walk-about town and more an old factory brimming with live music, food trucks and artists of all media! We were especially taken with the paintings by Shane Miller. I asked if he works from a photograph or does he haul his easel outside? He said the photographs are all in his mind. https://www.shaneartistry.com/

He layers oils onto canvas in order to evoke a dreamscape. I could envision an expansiveness, a floating vista that spoke to a primordial self. I know, it sounds weird. But think about your happy place – the beach? The mountains? A long landscape of wheat grass at dawn bordered by a forest? Now stand back and squint your eyes to blur that image down into its essence. There, if you are lucky, you may find his work.

Our cousin, Stevela, is visiting his Aunt Ada (and us) from NY. He is an orthopedic surgeon who is grappling with retirement and recently started painting. What does a doctor do when he or she is no longer doctoring? Some like to pick up garbage in the neighborhood, while others might pick up a paint brush.

This is our second year in Nashville, and it was our very first Art Crawl. We told Steve that a visit to the Frist Museum is well worth it since their Mellon Collection of French Art (Van Gogh, Monet and Degas) just opened. We’ve seen it already with the Grands, where a docent told us that Van Gogh tried out being a missionary for a few years but failed. He was disabused of the notion that everyone has good intentions.

So he went back to France. “For my part I know nothing with any certainty, but the sight of the stars makes me dream.” 

Did you know that Diego Velazquez liked to paint himself into his Baroque paintings of royal families?  In Las Meninas you will find him painting in a corner, like a play within a play.

“…Manet went to Madrid to look at Velazquez’s work and later wrote to his fellow painter, Henri Fantin-Latour: This is the most astonishing piece of painting that has ever been made. The background disappears. It is air that surrounds the fellow.”  https://www.theartstory.org/artist-velazquez-diego.htm

I was lucky enough to hear Edward Friedman, the Gertrude Conaway Vanderbilt Professor of the Humanities, speak about analyzing literature to a group of Great Grandma Ada’s friends this week. He compared writers to painters.

He was using Las Meninas and “The Story of the Bad Little Boy,” by Mark Twain, to illustrate his point – the narrator can be reliable or unreliable. Twain is omniscient, his opinions float in the background of his narrative like the Mississippi River, brown and brooding.

I knew that my stories were all different colors swirling around, flowing fiercely sometimes and meandering at others. I knew that my palette was my laptop’s keyboard. But I had never heard the intersection of writing and painting so beautifully expressed before I met Prof Friedman.

Am I dreaming, or did the rain stop?

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The rain had stopped for a few hours, so I ventured outside to check out the anniversary shenanigans of my favorite boutique in Nashville, Alexis and Bolt. A mere block away, we have a special relationship since they opened and we moved here about the same time two years ago – has it been 2 years? Early on Bob helped them out with a little problem that first week, while walking Ms Bean, and then told me I’d love the shop!

Bob never encourages me to shop so I knew I would love it. Dogs are always welcome too.

There were huge balloons and signature cocktails and the best Bolt Babes to celebrate their commitment to style and the neighborhood. But just as I was walking down our alley I heard the most mournful screams for help. I started running, taking out my phone to dial 911 when I saw a few women standing at the back of a Ford pickup truck with a trailer attached. As I got closer I could see a young man on his knees with his thumb caught in the hitch.

I saw something that looked like a tiny food truck halfway off the other side of the trailer.

It took just a few seconds to understand that the young woman was pleading with passers-by to jump onto the trailer and thereby see-saw the lock open to free his hand. I don’t remember dropping my bag, but I did jump up there and stood in a tight line of women, like Rockettes getting ready to kick. We jumped in unison and he rolled away.

My EMT training of 40 years ago kicked in and I told him to lay down and covered him with my coat while the woman-in-charge-owner-of-the-trucks raised his legs above his heart. Someone had called 911 and I’d called Bob who was just a few houses down the street. Thankfully his thumb was still attached but looked badly broken.

Bob did his thing, ordering ice from the fish store and making sure all his other fingers could move. When the ambulance arrived his color was back and he could stand up fine.

Never underestimate the power of a group of single-minded women. We worked in unison to rescue his hand while the owner of the tiny truck and the big Ford pickup told me that so many guys had just walked by when it first happened, while she was pleading for help. I wondered what they were thinking, is this a scam?

Bob and our neighbor Ron helped push the tiny truck into position on the street, but it was not a food truck after all, it’s a flower stall on wheels called Taylor’d Crowns where they make beautiful tiaras on the spot with ribbons and baby’s breath to make you feel like a medieval princess. I could imagine that every single girl at a Nashville bachelorette/hen party will want to wear one of her creations! https://taylordcrowns.com/

And the funny thing is, the tiny 1969 Citroen H van is from France and her name is “Gertie,” Grandma Gi’s name was Gertrude.

My sister-in-law Jorja was just talking with me the other day about the Flapper, aka Grandma Gi. She’s been sending us both signs lately! Sometimes it’s a recipe and sometimes it’s an angel making flower crowns.

Let’s encourage our daughters to not just BE nice, but to alway DO the “right and proper thing,” as my brother Mike would say. To strive to be their authentic selves; tell them that not everybody has to like them. And that’s OK.

These two could use some flower crowns!

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When I was a student at Sacred Heart School, I would sit with my hands folded on my desk per the nun’s orders, and stare out the window at the Cadillac dealership across the street. In between daydreams and catechism, I’d count the bricks on the wall of that monstrous building. The bricks were that siena color, formidable and cold. I couldn’t wait for the bell to ring, to rush outside and stand there on the sidewalk across from that brick wall, waiting for my school bus. For freedom.

Call it a fence, a barrier or a wall, call it whatever you like, our government has ground to a partial halt because of it.

When our children were young, my good friend’s husband returned from Germany with a piece of the Berlin Wall. His name was Gunther and he’d been born in Germany. To hear him tell it, there was a party in the street and pieces, chunks of crumbling cement were strewn all over the place. It represented so much more than an end to the Cold War.

The Wall was a metaphor for Rockwell’s four freedoms – “Freedom of Speech, Freedom of Worship, Freedom from Want and Freedom from Fear.”

Taken from one of FDR’s speeches to gain public approval for our entry into WWII, Rockwell’s paintings were purely propaganda; they raised $133 Million dollars in war bonds. As I try to understand the Trumpeteers among us, the Freedom from Fear image resonates with today’s imagined crisis at our Southern border with Mexico. A white father stands in the foreground as his wife tucks their children into bed.

Fear is a totalitarian government’s bread and butter.

When Mr T tells his followers that rapists and gang members are setting up caravans to invade our country, they believe him. Today’s illustrator might paint the image of a white father in that same child’s bedroom, within a walled-off, gated community holding a rifle. After all, in the art of Mr T’s deal, it pays to keep his customers afraid.

Barriers, man-made and natural, can keep people in or out, depending on your perspective. Nomads and cowboys and cowgirls hate fences, farmers love ’em. I was surprised in Key West to see a small chicken coop behind a house in the historic district, after all, hundreds of colorful roosters and hens roam free in the Conch Republic.  Then Bob pointed out that not only was the chicken coop door wide open, so was the wall surrounding the yard.

I wondered aloud what keeps those chickens hanging around; and I wonder why all the other chickens haven’t invaded their coop?

We returned to a freezing Nashville this week where Winter Break is over and children have been heading back to school. Our grandchildren loved returning to school, where they needn’t sit still with hands clasped counting bricks. I can only hope that all those 8th Grade trips around this already great country to our nation’s Capital are NOT cancelled.

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I’ve got black eyed peas soaking on the kitchen counter for luck. Yesterday, Bob and I ran away to a lake with our BFF Big Chill friend Al for a hike in the woods, and then delivered a little brioche cake to Grandma Ada and Hudson. We cheered on the losing Titans next door last night, and have been listening to the “sound check” for Nashville’s famous New Year’s Eve celebration all day, which will be right down the block!

And all that was after cowgirl boot shopping with my cousin/friend Anita, and finishing up at Blake Shelton’s Ole Red honky tonk for drinks. The end of 2018 has proven to be wild and wonderful, not counting our deranged Cheeto-in-Chief, and today it’s downright balmy out there, at 68 degrees!

Now y’all know I hate making resolutions, but I thought I’d share my one piece of exciting news – our gym (YMCA) is starting a Pickleball league in the new year! So here goes nothin. Wednesday morning, this old basketball, ex-tennis, racquetball, and recovering-paddle ball player is willing to give it a try – I will show up and hopefully not injure anything.

Better to look back while we can, as we slide into 2019 all bubbly and rain-soaked, and think about the top three personal accomplishments of the past year. Here are mine in no particular order:

  1.  Getting Great Grandma Ada and Hudson moved and settled successfully into town.
  2. Discovering our beautiful new niece Tamara and her family.
  3. Traveling to Italy with our oldest and dearest friends for our 70th birthdays.

2018 just may be a hard act to follow. But Bob and I got back into the gym this morning and we watched all the new members signing up with such hopefulness. I’m hopeful too: Pickleball I’ve got your number and we will be friends; hopeful that we can move this country back from the edge; hopeful that love and decency will win.

Come on 2019, Bring. It. What were your accomplishments?

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It doesn’t matter who designs a border: Russia divided Berlin; the British carved up the Middle East and India; and we Americans decided that Texas would not become part of Mexico. Imperial powers have drawn lines based on ethnicity and/or religion for centuries, and bloodshed is the usual outcome. This past weekend, as we caught up with post-Thanksgiving errands and pre-Holiday shopping, migrants were tear gassed on our California border.

My immediate thought was “Kent State.”

And inbetween cyber-shopping with a bad head cold, I read that Russia thought this would be the perfect time to seize three Ukrainian ships! It seems that the ships were headed down the Kerch Strait, minding their own business, near the Russian-annexed waters of Crimea…ie Moscow crossed that border awhile ago. Vlad figures Nikki Haley has one foot out the door at the United Nations, and Mr T has his hands full with his paranoia and his “caravan,” so why not now?

I will often turn to poetry when the world is too much with me, and right now “The Waking” by Theodore Roethke fills the bill:

“I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.   
I feel my fate in what I cannot fear.   
I learn by going where I have to go.”

And I look at the travel section of the BBC and dream about a great escape. My whole family would like to visit Iceland and I’m not sure why; certainly the stark, brilliant scenery is one thing, but like traveling itself, it’s the people who can delight and inspire you.

There is a certain philosophy in Iceland that is similar to Great Grandma Ada’s mantra, “It will all press out.” Of course you must say this in Yiddish, and since her father was a tailor from Minsk, it makes sense. Icelanders call this , “Betta Reddast” which means basically that everything will work out alright in the end! For a very cold nation, they are an optimistic bunch. http://www.bbc.com/travel/story/20180603-the-unexpected-philosophy-icelanders-live-by

And although Iceland is not likely to start a war over a borderline, they do have a natural, geographical phenomenon that is pushing the country apart ever so slowly. Climate change is threatening to submerse major cities around the world, but the good news is that Iceland is growing… if you don’t mind a little earthquake here and there.

The country sits on the rift between the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates, and those plates are slowly moving apart, widening Iceland by about 3cm per year and causing an average of 500 small earthquakes every week.

Our beautiful new niece and her family crossed the North Carolina border to visit us Thanksgiving weekend, and I’m hoping my virus didn’t return the favor when they traveled back over the mountains. Can you see the Bat Building in the reflection?

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Mr T is thankful for something this Thanksgiving. First and foremost his family, and why not? They are feasting at Mar a Lago surrounded by courtiers, in gilded glamour. Then right up there next to family, the Commander in Comedy of the Absurd said he’s thankful for himself!

“When asked what he is most thankful for, Donald Trump says the ‘tremendous difference’ he has made to the country. The US president made the comments after a Thanksgiving phone call with troops in which he compared the migrant caravan in Mexico to the fight against terrorism in Afghanistan.

Well for once I agree with him, partially. Family is everything to me. Maybe because i had to share two families as a child? Maybe because I was taught food is love, and so I adored cooking for a big family meal. I still cook for four all the time, so creative recipes for leftovers is my jam. Like this one for a Filipino Turkey Silog (garlic fried rice with eggs) from the NYT: https://cooking.nytimes.com/action=click&module=nav&region=logo&pgType=guide

I’ve always loved Thanksgiving because the Flapper would bake delicious pies, and my cousins came over and we’d run down to the baseball diamond and throw a ball around. This morphed into our second family of friends, the Big Chill Thanksgiving, where everyone cooked something together on the day of Thanksgiving, and then we’d play touch football in the mud, usually.

There was no religion, no prayers, no gifts, no costumes; just really good food, friends and family. A friend said her family tradition was to have creamed pearl onions on the table. When I told the Bride our tradition is to have pickles on the table, she asked if we could have olives too. So now we have a new tradition.

I made a traditional cornbread stuffing, Bob baked the turkey and the Bride did everything else. She bravely hosted 18 people yesterday from age 94 to 4! The Big Chill was represented and the Groom’s parents flew in. The Rocker and Aunt KiKi came from California and this year we met our new cousins from North Carolina, two of the sweetest teenage boys. I was wishing for more kids crawling around under the dining room table, but that will come. And politics never came up!

We didn’t watch football, we watched Star Wars instead. Hope your turkey day was filled with family, laughter and love too!

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