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Posts Tagged ‘Family’

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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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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