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As many of you know, Bob and I have listed our mountain home for sale. Which means when we are not in Nashville, we must vacate the premises periodically for a “showing” to potential buyers. In other words, super-clean the house and pack up Ms Bean for a two hour tour – cue the Gilligan’s Island theme song now!

You might think this is easy.

After all, we have no children in the house; no crumbs, or petrified hot dogs lurking about. A petrified mouse in the basement? Maybe. After all, we are a country house in the forest, with a long gravel driveway and a buried gas tank and a well…sooo, our windows may get dusty but more importantly, our dog gets car sick. Really, really car sick.

The first time we packed Ms Bean up for a ride into town we gave her the Vet’s super-duper anti-nausea pill. It must be given at least two hours ahead of time and costs about $20 per pill. This is the pill she gets for the nine hour ride to TN and the six hour ride to NJ. It lasts about 24 hours and I have to admit can make her a little loopy. We had a great time on the Historic Downtown Mall where dogs are welcome and almost every store is dog-friendly.

The second time a realtor called, we decided to try some people medicine on her, even though the Vet warned us against this tactic. Generic Benadryl costs a nickel for each 25 mg pill. On GoodRx, a coupon site for drugs, it’s half that price; pennies per pill. And its duration would be only four hours, which was more than enough time for someone to walk through our house and find their way down to the river.

It was a hazy, hot and muggy summer day, so we drove just a few miles to a local antique mall. I sheepishly asked the woman at the counter if my dog could come in, or should I leave her with my husband in the car? “She’s a very good dog,” I pleaded. Lucky for us, the woman calculated correctly, that a man sitting with a dog while his wife shops is a Win-Win. Bob was happy and Ms Bean was just fine! There was no foaming at the mouth, Benadryl for the goal!

Yesterday was the third time we had to pack up the dog, and yesterday was the charm. Since the weather was cooperating, dappled sunshine high 70s, we decided to stay in the neighborhood and take her for a walk. And we didn’t medicate her. We drove down the mountain to a development nearby and parked the car. Everything was going according to plan when I thought I saw a bear in the woods. Bean was pulling me hard toward a big black shape stomping through the leaves, but it turned out to be a goat! Mission accomplished. Car-sickness and bear-shaped goats were in our rear-view window.

And Ms Bean was fine! Our little special needs pup experienced no gagging, or foaming, she just curled up and relaxed for the ride.

So in anticipation of more impromptu, realtor-related car trips this summer, I suggested to Bob the idea of a service animal vest for Bean, that would get us out of the heat and into some air conditioning! After researching this a bit, we discovered you can purchase an “emotional support” vest for your dog on Amazon for about a hundred dollars. I mean what dog isn’t an emotional sponge for their owners? Some sites even offer certification, obviously the government hasn’t regulated these things which is why you may see a parrot on your next flight to Disney World.

Still, I’m a basically honest person and it just doesn’t seem right. Instead, I’d like to design a new vest for dogs – the “Shopping Support” vest! I will train my dog to sit and stay when she sees me pick up something I don’t need. If I don’t put it down immediately, she will lay down and not move. A silent protest. I will look down at her, come to my senses, and place the dreaded, overpriced article back on the shelf. This could work for any addiction. A second glass of wine? Walking toward a casino? The OCD dog vest could revolutionize treatment for millions of people.

I wonder if the new Republican Senate Healthcare bill would cover these vests? https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2017/06/whats-in-the-senate-republican-health-care-bill/531258/

After a long day in the car, Ms Bean rests her weary head on the lookout for rabbits. IMG_0846

 

 

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It was a constellation of events. The Bride and Groom had a wedding to attend this past weekend in NJ, very close to Great Grandma Ada and Great Grandpa Hudson’s home. And even though we were just in Nashville for the Love Bug’s pirate birthday, we wanted to continue the love, so we drove north. At one point I felt like I was on a roller coaster ride, driving on 81 and 287, I forgot how many cars and trucks drive so close and so fast. Guess I’ve become a VA driver. Good for Bob, he still loves to hustle on the road!

The Bride wanted to introduce the Bug to the Big Apple. Taylor Swift is her number one crush of the moment, and she knows the singer moved from Nashville to NYC. She was hoping for a celebrity spotting, and so we ventured over the George Washington Bridge and down the East River. The same route that was embedded in my memory, when my family would take the bridge to visit my sister, Kay, on the Upper East Side.

What we hadn’t factored into the weekend’s equation was our only free day for New York was Sunday, September 11th.

I did not sit and listen to the names, because I know one of the names.

I did not write about 9/11, because I lived through that day. Waiting for the Bride to call me from DC. Wondering where the Rocker was since he had left his high school, along with his friends. Worrying about Bob, who was helping to coordinate disaster relief at a marina.

I did not play a video about boat rescues, because my friend was on a ferry that returned with ash covered people.

Since we only had a short time on Sunday, we decided to stay uptown. Men in saffron colored robes approached me, and I waved them off like a true New Yorker, but said “Sorry” like a Virginian. Pigeons fluttered in the glorious sunlight that streamed through the buildings. I asked my Bug if there were more pigeons or people in NY, and she smiled and said, “People.”

But actually the city was strangely quiet. Reverent. And it wasn’t until I recapped our day for Bob – at the Metropolitan Museum and visiting Aunt Kay – that tears filled my eyes. Because we went straight to the museum’s rooftop, where I was intrigued by the Roof Garden’s “PsychoBarn.” http://www.metmuseum.org/exhibitions/listings/2016/cornelia-parker

A facade, the Queen Ann farmhouse looked as if it had dropped out of a Kansas tornado into this spectacular setting. Like a stage setting, It is “Simultaneously authentic and illusory.” The artist was alluding to a child’s fascination with transitional objects; something that helps to “…negotiate their self-identity as separate from their parents.” I told the Bride if only it were yellow, instead of red, it would have looked like my NJ home.

And as we gazed across the trees of Central Park, at the skyline of NY, I felt a certain nostalgia. But also an overwhelming sense of calm, a serenity usually reserved for my mountain view. I told Bob it was only right for us to be there, on top of a tall building in the center of one of our most beautiful cities, on this sacred day.   img_5189

 

 

 

 

 

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Our mountain house is too quiet.No more Love Bug yelling , “MA” at the top of her voice, no more breakfasts for five or Mozart in the morning.

When my kids were little, we would get in the car and immediately chaos would descend about who claimed the shot-gun seat, which radio channel we’d tune into, whether we would stop at 7-Eleven on our way to the beach every morning, why the Corgi can’t come, etc. And usually by about halftime I’d holler “Let’s have some Ps and Qs.”  Peace and Quiet.

I’m not sure how or why that worked, but they both knew that those little words meant Mom had had enough. Before there were smart phones and iPads and Apps, and Disney videos strapped into the back of every car seat or hanging projector-like from a Suburban,  we parents had to rule the roost…while driving. Bickering died down and actual conversations might just happen. In fact, parents everywhere should take note, some of the very best conversations ever with your kids may just take place in your car! There is nothing like a captured audience.

But when all else fails, then and now, we sing! Our Love Bug is a Nashville baby.

Because the mere thought of strapping a one year old into a car seat that resembles a NASCAR engineering project for 9 hours of driving is my idea of family torture, so we sing. One year olds can’t tell you they have a dirty diaper, they can’t say “Id like to lay down for my nap now if you don’t mind,” they can’t point out the 7-Eleven and ask for a Slurpee. Babies lack the vocabulary to express their storm of emotions. But this baby loves to sing, yes she’s even starting to hum along with us!

So I’ve got to hand it to the Bride and Groom for their courage and creativity on this trip. For endless rounds of Old MacDonald and Baby Beluga. For not being too upset when they learned that I thought the Bug might like playing with her food. Which she did! For loaning me their precious little girl full of sunshine and light for a little while.

For helping me to realize that peace and quiet isn’t such a great idea after all.

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Serenity in a mountain view

August and September are filled with birthdays in my family. The Bride and my sister Kay share back to back birthdays, I call us Virgo/Libra types (you can count me in later this month) – the Christmas party babies! Happy Birthday to them on this glorious weekend.

These two share more than a couple of dates on the calendar. Kay introduced the Bride to art in her New York City apartment. My sister studied at the Art Student’s League and she also helped to illustrate many medical books during her years working at Mt Sinai Hospital and producing graphic art for the Medical School. With sun pouring through her beautiful Upper East Side window overlooking a garden, the young Bride was given a pencil and a blank canvas along with the love and encouragement of her Aunt Kay.

Painting has been a common thread throughout both their lives. After a long high school day filled with too many AP classes, the Bride would settle into her art class and paint along with beautiful music.  My home is filled with drawings from those days. And Kay’s renditions of our farmhouse in the Berkshires, and our beautiful Welsh Corgis will always decorate our walls.

This meditative time, setting up the instruments of art, the pencils or delicate brushes and turpentine, the smells, the easel outdoors, the time alone to ponder and really see – to see their way into a subject – this bit of creation helped them deal with the everyday stress of school and work. It helped them to slow down.

The Bride sent me an article this week about being busy. http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/06/30/the-busy-trap/?_r=1&

Almost everyone I know is busy. They feel anxious and guilty when they aren’t either working or doing something to promote their work. They schedule in time with friends the way students with 4.0 G.P.A.’s  make sure to sign up for community service because it looks good on their college applications. I recently wrote a friend to ask if he wanted to do something this week, and he answered that he didn’t have a lot of time but if something was going on to let him know and maybe he could ditch work for a few hours. I wanted to clarify that my question had not been a preliminary heads-up to some future invitation; this was the invitation. But his busyness was like some vast churning noise through which he was shouting out at me, and I gave up trying to shout back over it.

The author, Tim Kreider, calls this addiction to busyness a kind of hedge against emptiness, an “existential reassurance.”  We impose it on ourselves and it makes us feel important. After all, if we’re always so busy, how can we ever take time off for self-awareness. He posits that you don’t hear people holding down two jobs with four kids complaining about being too busy, because they’re just plain exhausted. Interesting stuff, this monkey brain!

Surprisingly an old friend simultaneously posted an article about being a distracted parent, about always saying, “Hurry up!” to her child. And I could see how this attraction to being busy can get its start. The child who likes to dawdle, who stops to talk with strangers, who wants to engage with her environment soon learns to make a goal and stick to a time schedule. And if she or he doesn’t, they may be labeled “special” in school…instead of “artist.”

The Love Bug likes to stop for ice cream with her parents. Slowing down is something children can either help us to do, or we can teach them how to be anxious. We’re the adult in this equation, it’s our choice.  photo

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It’s all over the news. The Royal Couple has posted their very first family portrait, with little Prince George all swaddled in sunlight and the Royal dogs (not Corgis btw) posed like bookends. And as usual, this new Royal Dad and Mum are doing things their way. Breaking with tradition, royalswithdogs202way-2d70d30b93779950a5f74576222866817a37caec-s4-c85

“The pictures were taken by Kate’s father, Michael Middleton, in the family’s backyard. The casual images are a departure from the royal tradition of hiring professional photographers for baby portraits.” http://www.npr.org/blogs/thetwo-way/2013/08/20/213761688/prince-georges-first-official-photos-break-with-tradition

And this made me think of what the common folk do, at least here in America. We used to run to Sears, or another big box store, to have a suitable portrait done of our wee ones. But this year, for the first time in 60 years, those smiling baby faces behind cloth clouds will be no more. Sears and Walmart unexpectedly shut down their portrait studio operations. “To take the family to a portrait studio in 2013 was akin to taking it to a phone booth to make the day’s calls or sitting it down in front of the Betamax for movie night,” according to Jason Notte on MSNMoney.

So I thought I’d share with you this morning the family portrait I received, along with hundreds of the Bride and Groom’s Facebook followers, this past weekend. They have been faithfully cataloguing the Love Bug’s growth with monthly shots by her semi-professional photographer Dad. But at this wedding in Denver of a high school friend, someone “snapped” or more likely touched this lovely triptych in a botanical garden.  1098150_10201464515316824_686007004_n

DIY has never been easier in our digital age; Apple, Shutterfly, Photobucket, Google and Snapfish make taking and sharing photos simple and painless. I overheard a young girl of about 11 asking a boy if he had “…an Instagram?” He replied yes, he does. Her quick retort, “How many followers do you have?”  And so it begins…

I don’t have lots of Instagram followers, probably not as much as that little boy. But I did get the Groom’s eye view of his family from this weekend, and it always makes me smile.photo

 

 

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“There are people who make an art form out of not being intense. They can remain on an amusing yet completely repetitive level. I can’t operate that way.”

Do you remember when I said I wanted to join a writer’s forum, and the only way to log in was with a twitter account, so I joined the Twit-o-Sphere? Well, it’s through that writer’s website, “Medium,” that I found myself reading an important essay this morning on friendship: “The Games Women Play: Part 2” By Lauren Mechling (author, editor and saint).

The author interviews another author, Susanna Sonnenberg. about the ebb and flow of friendship.  She Matters, is a memoir  of Sonnenberg’s twenty most important female friendships done as a chapter-per-friend. They talk about neediness and intimacy, about expectations and loss. https://medium.com/the-lauren-papers/a30ac0d4b1d0

Sonnenberg asks, “What do you want out of a friend?” Mechling says she wants somebody she can call on the phone any hour of the day or night. Which means she wants her friend to answer her calls, and be there if she

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needs her. I had a different take on that question, although maybe it’s in the same general category.

I want a friend who knows where the spoons are in my kitchen.

For me it’s about the comfort of showing up and listening. My BFF Lee from MA showed up at the Rocker’s bris with armloads of flowers from her garden. No one asked her, she just knew what I needed and she always knew the right thing to say, to bring me back to myself. To help me see my best self, and even coax me toward grace when I was listing away. Here is Lee to the left at the Bride’s wedding; and the Bride’s Duke roomie Sally on the right, who just had a baby last week!

Obviously, no one person can fulfill every longing we may have for a friend or a mate for that matter. Is she intellectually curious; fun to be around; supportive in a good way; adventurous? We all know the sunny-day vs rainy-day friends paradigm. It’s a rare and wonderful thing when that type combines – it’s the lottery of friendship! And yes, things do change once our identity shifts into motherhood. There can be rifts, and ruptures, not all friends can stand the ebb and flow, the test of time.

Like a good marriage, a good friend will still love you with all your faults. “If I show you this, will you still love me? If I show you this, will you still be with me?”

Honesty and loyalty, pretty much says it all. Like the authors, I need to have a certain intensity in order to fuel a friendship, we need to go deep sometimes, soul-baringly deep. I feel lucky to have found a few good friends at this stage of my life, in my empty nest. ps The spoons are to the left of the kitchen sink.

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Happy Mother’s Day! Mothers everywhere are waking up to breakfast in bed, or so we’re supposed to believe. I made myself some coffee in my new tiny, one cup Keurig since Bob left before dawn for the hospital. And the new mom, our daughter the Bride, is working at her hospital today too. But her Groom, “God bless him” as my Mother-inLaw Ada would say, did remember to send her flowers.

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Ada has been my MIL now longer than Nell Mahon was my foster mother. In fact, she went to Nell’s funeral with me. I can’t think of how many funerals we’ve been to together, and there’s nobody better to take to a funeral, or a wedding for that matter. I met Ada when Bob and I started dating in high school, and she was the one who found me in the hospital while I was visiting my foster father much later. Daddy Jim was dying then, just when Ada ushered me into Bob’s room to rekindle our friendship. Bob went into the hospital for a little minor surgery, and walked out with his future wife…thanks in large part to Ada.

Oh and one more funereal thought – Ada bought me my very own burial plot right after we married. To this day, we both think that was pretty funny! But she did purchase a whole space in the local cemetery for her family, her three sons, and their wives…

She always said she was on my side. That if Bob and I ever broke up, she’d take my side, “All the way baby!” You see, Ada was from Brooklyn. There was no pretense, no argument, what she said always happened. She had gone back to school while we were in high school, to get her degree in Marriage and Family Counseling, and in the late 60s until now, has always practiced in her home. She was going through her own divorce when Bob and I met up again near Daddy Jim’s hospital bed.

The youngest of three sisters, Ada had led a privileged life. Like many Jewish immigrants, her father was a tailor who came from Russia with nothing, and eventually owned a coat company in NY. She had a private car that would take her to school. She was expected to live at home until she married, this was before Betty Friedan. And she married a physician, like one of her older sisters. Unlike her sisters, she promptly moved out to the country, to the wilds of NJ, and had three boys.

Four Bridges was the bungalow colony her father started near their home in Chester, NJ. It was his retirement project, but also a way to keep the sisters coming back together every summer with their cousins and friends. I once gave Ada a painting, it was a picture of a house that had her name on it as a B&B, because she never met a stranger. Every time I would visit her, with the baby Rocker and young Bride in tow, she would have a house full of people, coming and going.

Ada is like Dolly Levi and Ruth Westheimer combined!

Well actually, she doesn’t have that Russian accent, it’s more Bedford Sty. She did get a doctoral degree and a certificate in sex therapy. I can imagine that went a long way when my teenagers told their friends their grandmother was a Sex Therapist. Here she is with the Bride at the Bug’s baby shower.

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This is the kind of joy she inflicts on everyone everywhere she goes! She is still living and working in the same house with my wonderful Father-in-Law, Baptist preacher turned therapist, turned woodcarver Hudson, who was the Officiant at the wedding. You know, that wedding in 2010 that started me blogging. Between them both, they now have 7 grandchildren and 2 great grandchildren. At 88, she is still as effervescent and full of life as ever. They just got back from a cruise to Spain. An amazing woman, I am so proud to call her Mother.

I’ve always said I married Bob to get this woman as my Mother-inLaw. Thank you Ada, for always being on my side. And I’ll always have your back too. Now if only someone could fix our knees.

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