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Posts Tagged ‘Grandparenting’

We are all figuring out ways to come together while apart.

Bob and I shared cocktail hour one night in a parking lot with neighbors. Some of us sat on tailgates and some got comfy on camp chairs. While keeping the appropriate distance, we got caught up on local gossip – the last time we’d seen each other we were cleaning up the streets after our Tornado.

I like to capitalize Tornado because it seems weighty, and it was my first time cheating death by Mother Nature. And we cannot forget Nashville was already reeling, before our “Stay at Home” order; some of us had no roof, or a home for shelter.

Yesterday we ordered cupcakes from our local bakery, The Cupcake Collection. Mignon is offering curbside delivery! https://www.thecupcakecollection.com/  They had just started up their business again, after losing a good portion of their historic house to record-setting winds last month. I remember the Bride’s Italian Nanny, Giovanna, loved red velvet cupcakes. But we were hoping to celebrate Great Grandpa Hudson’s 94th birthday with some sweet potato cupcakes.

Hudson was a redhead when he was young. He lied about his age to enlist in WWII and served on a ship in the Pacific Theatre. He is the only grandfather my children have ever known since my father died when I was a baby, and Bob’s father, well, he was of no use. My children never met him.

Hudson still serves as Ada’s co-star in Nashville. But when we would visit them in NJ, he was always the fix-it guy, having actually built a hospital in Ghana once upon a time when he was a missionary. He carved gigantic totem poles, fixed furniture, the pool every spring, and any plumbing or roofing problems that might pop up. He was the husband/handyman every woman ever wanted. Over the years, he’d officiate at more weddings than I can count, including the Bride and Groom’s.

We sang the Happy Birthday song to Hudson through a glass window in the vestibule of their assisted living facility. I’m not really sure if he could hear us. Only aides are allowed in and out, but we could talk with Ada through our cell phones. Her spirit is incredible, this virus cannot diminish that resilient light. “How are my babies?” she asked me. So I told her how the Bride is home-schooling, that she has enough PPE for now, and about Dolly Parton’s gift to Vanderbilt. Dolly for President!

She said she likes my red hair, and I told her it was pink leaning toward fuchsia. Leave it to me to decide to color my hair when I won’t be able to see my stylist for awhile.

Bob and I have figured out how to use Zoom, it’s actually pretty easy. I can still take a group Pilates class once a week through my iPad. I only need a yoga mat and a foam roller. I almost don’t recognize myself in that gallery window box – who is that purple headed lady?

Some of you know that I’ve often felt like a character in an Anne Tyler novel, going about her day to day existence, seemingly normal, while balancing an out-of-control inner life. Maybe most writers live in the subtext? It’s certainly helpful right now – in this out-of-control outer life – to stay in the moment, so I thought I’d recommend Tyler’s newest book to you, since we all have a lot of time on our hands. Why not call up your local bookstore?

Her new novel is “Redhead by the Side of the Road.” It’s about second chances, it’s funny and compassionate at the same time. You might want to eat a cupcake while you read it! https://www.bbc.com/news/entertainment-arts-520904645953AE18-6DD5-4CA6-93ED-99E3EFF69A4C

 

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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’m exhausted. And I’m experiencing a pretty high state of anxiety; I don’t want anyone else out there, reading this, to think that you are the only one. I tell my children, “I survived a tornado, so what’s a little virus gonna do?” Plenty, as it turns out:

My brother and sister were going to visit us this week, they cancelled; My son and his wife, plus our NY cousins were coming for the Bride’s seder, they cancelled; Dinner party, cancelled; This morning I’ll meet up with the Groom at the hospital after my PT to pick up the Love Bug because school was cancelled. The L’il Pumpkin’s school is in the hospital, should I be afraid?

It honestly terrifies me that the Bride sits at the front door to this pandemic. And she starts her early morning shift in the ER soon. She’s talked to Bob and the Groom about taking precautions because we all know the big wave is about to hit our country, flooding ill-equipped hospitals with seriously ill patients.

We don’t have enough tests, we don’t have enough ICU beds, we don’t have enough Ecmo machines to carry on the work of the heart and lungs.

And the Groom will have the most immuno-compromised, the most critically ill patients in his Medical ICU. Will he need a Hazmat suit? Vanderbilt is planning to screen people in their underground garage, at least they have a plan. Is my fear realistic?

Thousands of new cases across the world are being reported each day, and the true scale could be 10 times higher.

There are 1,323 confirmed cases in the US, 117 in Canada.

Thirty-eight people have died in the US due to the virus and one person has died in Canada.

Officials say risk remains low for the general US public, but is growing.

Mr T’s speech on Wednesday night only served to accelerate my anxiety, given on the same day the WHO called the Coronavirus, aka COVID-19, a pandemic. Europe has porous borders, banning everyone except British people makes NO damn sense. This disease is already here and it strikes randomly and with precision, like a tornado. Only 20% will become seriously ill, most of us will feel like we have the flu. Will they take my temperature when I visit the Great Grands?

Our country could have started preparing for this in November, but Mr T demands loyalty and supplication from his civil servants, and so he has gone about decimating the very structure that should have been in place. We elected him to disrupt the government, and look what we got! A reporter with the Rolling Stone says,

“…we lost both the top White House official in charge of pandemic response and his global health security team last May, and none of them were replaced. This is what it looks like once a government that was built ostensibly to serve the public is deconstructed and reformed to serve an autocrat in training wheels. It looks like a chief of staff claiming the press is only covering a pandemic that has spread to at least 56 nations because “they think this will bring down the president.” 

A virus is not political – COVID-19 will strike anyone at will. This bears repeating – it is not the media’s fault, the Coronavirus is not a hoax! When I get over this generalized feeling of doom and gloom, I’ll remember to be mad at the clown in the White House. Bob told me yesterday, “The problem in this country is lack of testing. In South Korea, for instance, almost 4000 people per million population have been tested. In the Netherlands, it is 350 per million population. In the United States it is five per million.” 

5 people per million.

I’m not sleeping, and if you’re having trouble sleeping, let’s make a hot steaming cup of Ginger Vanilla tea together and breathe.

My hands are sweating. Don’t worry if you have clammy hands too, because we don’t need to shake hands anymore anyway. We need to stay 6′ away from everyone.

I kept my appointment with my hair stylist yesterday, I missed it last Tuesday because, you remember, the tornado on Monday night. Bob told me if the hair stylist was sick to come home, and he meant it. But he was fine and we had a small dose of fun. He fixed my pale pink hair, now it’s a bright fuchsia!

To be perfectly honest, right after the tornado I had a bad headache and was congested. I thought my headache was because we had no power – so I had no coffee. Caffeine withdrawal can be brutal. I thought my congestion was because I’d been sweeping and cleaning up city sidewalks. Nothing like a disaster to mask the symptoms of a common cold.

The L’il Pumpkin had croup, and the Love Bug had a cough. I stayed away from Great Grandma Ada and Hudson.

And now I wonder, did we all have this virus? I didn’t run a fever and never even had a sore throat. Last week, being tested for Coronavirus didn’t cross my mind. But if I did, how long is it communicable? It would have been nice to know, but without a fever I probably wouldn’t have been tested even if I wanted one. Even if my doctor could get her hands on one.  I’ve been to the gym once, a few days ago, and I usually have to wait for Bob to finish after my workout. A guy sat across from me coughing, without covering his mouth in any way.

I wanted to smack him.

And I’m really not a violent person, I went to Catholic school. So let’s give ourselves a break and realize that we are all feeling somewhat unmoored and adrift at the moment. In this social contract we have to each other, let’s practice “social distancing.” I’m not going to a really cool concert in East on Sunday. Nicole Atkins, a friend of the Rocker’s is singing, and Norah Jones will be there. And the Heartbreakers, but maybe the Bride and Groom want to go?

Nope, Nicole just DMed me, the show has been cancelled.

I just wanted you to know you’re not alone out there. We’re all scared and needing a little TLC right about now. If you’re working from home, or your kids have been sent home from college, you’re lucky. Your livelihood doesn’t depend on tips or touring. If you have small children at home, try to treat this time like an adventure. Stress can take its toll on all of us.

This president started his term with a lie. Let’s stay #NashvilleStrong and keep it real. I’m always available via social, text and email. Let’s stay connected. Here we are doing arts and crafts last weekend in the stairwell – our safe place during the tornado.

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Democrats fall in love with their candidate, Republicans fall in line.

Spoiler alert! The last two (D) candidates to win both Iowa and New Hampshire were nominated and promptly lost their elections – Al Gore and John Kerry. Remember them? Kerry actually criticized Bush for the Iraq war, and let’s face it, that may have been too soon and his running mate, John Edwards, may have been too slick hiding a love child from his wife. But I still fell in love with both nominees, just a little.

This is why I’m not too concerned with the first NH primary today. I want a man (or a woman – love is love) who can flip the Senate blue. I’m waiting to see who will give me goosebumps. The way Brad Pitt did at the Oscars, gently scolding the GOP for disallowing witnesses.

Is it just me, or did anyone else not see any of the Oscar nominated movies this year? Well wait, Bob and I did see the first half of “The Irishman” in our local artsy theatre… but it was getting past someone’s bedtime, so we left via an Uber. Did DeNiro kill Hoffa? I’ll have to catch up on Netflix.

Netflix was the star attraction this past weekend when we joined some friends to watch “Knives Out” at their home. In this historic row house, a screen surprised me descending down a wall, with a projector hanging from the middle of the ceiling. It was almost like going to the movies! I have such serious home envy whenever I set foot in that home.

And to top it off, we had two big, fluffy dogs who would come to attention and bark whenever there were dogs in a scene!

Who doesn’t love a good murder mystery on a cold rainy night? I won’t spoil the plot of “Knives Out” by saying that current political issues figure prominently when the investigator, played by Daniel Craig with a Southern accent, focuses his attention on a nurse named Marta. The privileged white clan/cast cannot seem to agree on what South American country Marta’s family has immigrated from – Paraguay, Ecuador?  https://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2019/11/the-unlikely-hero-of-rian-johnsons-knives-out/602701/

Immigration politics swirls around the story of my night table book, “American Dirt.” First of all, it was one of my monthly First Edition Parnassus Bookclub picks, that arrived in its burlap sack a few weeks ago. I’d already been hooked by American Dirt’s violent opening chapter when I started reading the criticism on Twitter. At first I thought well maybe the author, Jeannine Cummins, isn’t Latina, so undocumented folks and those who love them were skeptical. But she had also initially claimed her husband was an immigrant, without saying he’s from Ireland. Cummins cancelled her book tour.

The novel follows the story of a Mexican woman and her son fleeing to the United States after a drug cartel massacre.
Cummins, who spent five years writing the book, isn’t Mexican or a migrant. The book, which was just published January 21, immediately sparked debate about who can tell what story and diversity within the publishing industry.
It also faced criticism for its reliance on migrant stereotypes, with many pointing out that if an author is going to write about someone different from them, it must be done well. “American Dirt,” some have said, was not — though the book has also been praised by a number of prominent authors.  https://www.cnn.com/2020/01/29/us/american-dirt-jeanine-cummins-author-tour-cancel-trnd/index.html

Is this what we mean by cancel culture? Was Joaquin Phoenix onto something in his Oscar speech before he swerved into the cow/milk controversy? Urban Dictionary tells us this culture is a direct result of social media and people who are, “…quick to judge and slow to question.”

Let’s ask the hard questions of our our Democratic candidates as they head into prime time and super Tuesday. Bloomberg can understand what a single mom is going through, he doesn’t have to be one. I believe a writer should be able to write about anything – a man can write from a woman’s point of view, and vice versa. If I’m writing about the Jewish mob, I need not be a member of that group, I can do the research. And I’m not ready to cancel anyone out of our primary process. I haven’t fallen in love, not yet.

Except for these two chocolate-teeth cherubs!

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Did you go to summer camp? Swim in a lake that glistened like diamonds in the sun? Play jacks on the front porch and sleep in a frozen cabin in the mountains with a nun secluded in one corner behind a locked door? Rise to a recording of Reveille every morning and assemble under the flag pole for inspection? Sing your heart out to the Virgin Mary!

No? Well I loved it! I mean I actually dreamt about that place, Camp St Joseph for Girls, into my adult years; so it’s no wonder I jumped at the chance to hold a little day camp of my own for the Love Bug this week. Her brother would be in his pre-school program, and it seems that Pop Bob is busy with other things, so the girls will be large and in charge.

Today we are picking up the Bride and Great Grandma Ada for a trip to The Frist Museum. https://fristartmuseum.org/ Today will be Nana Camp on Wheels.

Four generations will roam the gallery exhibit of “Frida Kahlo, Diego Rivera and Mexican Modernism…”

“Kahlo infused her work with mexicanidad, an identification with Mexico’s distinct national history, traditions, culture, and natural environment, but in a much more personal way. About a third of her paintings are self-portraits, the works for which she is now most celebrated. They accentuate her distinctive appearance, characterized by a v-shaped unibrow, deep brown eyes, mustache, carefully coiffed hair with braids, and indigenous Mexican clothing. In Diego on My Mind(Self-Portrait as Tehuana), for example, she crowns herself with a festive indigenous Mexican headdress known as a resplandor.” 

So while Mr T terrorizes undocumented immigrants with ICE raids, we will be viewing an exhibition of fine art collected by Eastern European immigrants to Mexico before WWII. “Jacques and Natasha Gelman were glamorous and wealthy Eastern European refugees who married in Mexico in 1941, took part in Mexico City’s vibrant art scene, and acquired art mostly from their artist friends.”

While refugees are separated from their families and caged without access to showers or even toothpaste at our southern border, we will delight in the art of our Mexican neighbors. The irony doesn’t escape me. We now have a commander in chief with bone spurs who loved to cavort with Jeffrey Epstein and tells Congresswomen of color to return to the countries of their origin. His language by Tweet is not so subtle, coded to signal his white nationalist/supremacist/misogynist followers that it’s OK to hate the “Other.”

For awhile I was immune to his horrible early morning Tweet tirade probably made from his golden toilet seat, I was news-free. But I’m home for better or worse. My first day in Nashville I awoke to a headache and sore throat, a viral cold had attacked me. The City is tearing up our alley to fix some damage an apartment building has done to the ancient sewers, so jackhammers punctuate my mornings. And Bob has replaced the classical music station on our Sonos with old-time Rock and Roll. Nothing stands in the way of progress, as Adelaide’s Lament would say, “A person can develop a BAD BAD cold!”  Achoo!

Did I mention that Day 1 of Nana Camp included learning to play pranks!

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I kid you not. This past weekend, Bob and I were hosting the Grands for their second sleepover. And what’s a better way to start the adventure than a chocolate factory tour? Especially if your tour guide’s name is Willy?

He stood there mute for a few seconds as we started to giggle, then he told us he’d heard ALL the jokes so we could move on.

And move on we did! Willy told us that cacao pods come off of the tree’s trunk, they are not hanging at the end of branches, and it takes some effort to climb up a tree and machete them down. And unlike coffee beans, they need more heat to grow, so the pods only grow from a distance of 20 degrees from the equator.

And every week Willy opens a 100 lb burlap bag of cacao pods.

(The rest of this story is by the Love Bug)

“And inside every cacao pod are 50 beans! Willy has to separate the beans from the fruit inside – it’s a hard job, but someone’s got to do it! The beans have to get roasted in a big machine, and that can take from 15 minutes to a whole hour. Then they go into another machine that grinds them into “nibs,” which produces the cacao butter.

Next, the nibs get tempered! They go into a vacuum oven where they get melted and cooled quickly – how quickly could you melt them? This takes about an hour altogether and flavors are added. Flavors like: sea salt; salt and pepper; coffee; bourbon; and cinnamon. Then Willy squeezes them from a tube into molds to shape the chocolate – not all are shaped like rectangles, some bars are square, and even some look like sausages!

But they’re not.

The only time Willy gets a break is when a special machine wraps the bars. In the past, he had to do this by hand, and it took him 3 hours. Now it’s done in 30 minutes.”

Today Ms Bug is visiting and she loves to write stories too. We had the best time at the https://www.oliveandsinclair.com/ chocolate factory in East Nashville. We all had to wear hairnets which was funny! And we are wondering if you’d like to work in a chocolate factory too? If you do, just do it!

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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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