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Posts Tagged ‘love’

I know it sounds a bit bizarre, but we are home from the South of France by way of meeting an old high school friend in Heathrow Airport courtesy of Facebook. Edie and her husband Steve had been traveling around Great Britain and we’d been following each other’s exploits – she kissed the Blarney stone, I made a quiche. You know how these things go. Facebook envy, it attacks when we least expect it…it’s what started us out on this journey; my vicarious following of a Facebook friend and her buddies hunting for mushrooms in Italy!

After a grueling day of travel in three airports in three countries, covering about 4,500 miles and traveling through many time zones, I had to roll all over the floor with my deliriously happy dog…then I turned on the TV last night to watch Bill Murray receive the Mark Twain Prize for Humor on PBS. I figured it would be better than a jolt of CNN after such a long news-free sabbatical. I missed the run-up, but caught his surprisingly sentimental speech, which actually took place at the kennedy Center last October, before the election. http://www.rollingstone.com/movies/news/watch-bill-murray-accept-mark-twain-prize-for-american-humor-w446373

Remember those happy Camelot days? Before Mr T (BT), when we thought anything was possible for our country, when we had a statesman, a gentleman for a President, and a First lady who actually lived with him and they seemed to love each other? Government may have been clunky at times, but it worked and was moving toward a brighter future for ALL Americans. After Macron’s victory in France, I was feeling pretty bleak about our state of affairs.

And on our last day in St Remy, I met a delightful, older (probably 80+) British woman who was traveling alone. I helped to translate a store clerk’s French for her – it seemed she had taken a bus to this town and the clerk thought that with the rain and the hills in the next town she should rest at the local cafe. It was too hilly and slippery the clerk said to this elegant, grey haired lady with a cane. Then my fellow traveler turned to me and asked, “Are you an American?”

“Unfortunately,” I replied, “I am.”

She looked me straight in the eye and wagged her finger at me and said in her proper British accent, “No, no, you must be proud to be an American! I am sure you are referring to Trump?” And I shook my head resolutely. In fact, I nearly cried. Some people you meet in passing bring out that Ann Tyler moment for each of us. Then she took my hand and told me that he will not last forever, that my people are smarter and stronger and there will be change. That everything changes.

So I sat with Bob at a cafe for an almond pastry and deux cappuccino and I told him her story. And we talked about how Europe takes the broad, balcony view; because of their history, maybe Brexit will be just a blip on the larger screen.

And as I was falling asleep in our own comfy bed, in that place between reality and dreams, I thought of meeting our friends at Heathrow, like the movie Love Actually. And I thought about Bill Murray’s speech, talking about the trampoline in his heart. That love is like that, it bounces out to touch others. People beyond continents and time.

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While cleaning and decluttering my aviary, I discovered a wish list I had made back in February of 2002 while still in NJ. At that time my son was applying to college and my daughter was working at her first post-college job in DC. I was anticipating the dreaded Empty Nest syndrome. It was fun to read the 25 wishes; many have already come true! Though I do not have an agent or a cook…yet.

Strangely enough, the very first thing on my wish list is to get more organized! Which is exactly what I’m doing; I now know where every single utensil is in my kitchen, I have the perfect amount of towels, and I have thrown out all those files I kept of Rumson Borough Council meetings. I did however keep the random thank you note from readers. It’s always nice to know your copy was read, and not just used to line a bird cage. Newspapers, good stuff.

As you probably know I am NOT a list-maker. But I did pick up a book during the Cville Festival of the Book titled, “52 Lists for Happiness,” by Moorea Seal. Anita and I were talking about how we could have more fun during these Trumpconian years, how we could avoid being dragged down by politics. When I read on my Facebook feed yesterday that we had dropped the “Mother of All Bombs” on Afghanistan, during the holiest week for Christians and Jews, I thought it must be fake news. But I knew Gail, the person posting this, she is a devoted activist and feminist in her church and our community.

She held un umbrella over our heads when we marched in Cville to support Planned Parenthood. She helped organize our first trip to Richmond to march for women’s rights. Gail knows a thing or two. She probably makes lists because she knows how to get things done! Gail quoted a minister, Rev Emily Heath, who said:

Next time someone tells you this is a “Christian nation” remind them that we just bombed Afghanistan during Holy Week.

Specifically we did it on the day that Scripture tells us Christ said these words:

“I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” – John 13:34-35

Lord have mercy. Christ have mercy. Lord have mercy.

Number 9 on my wish list was to have a “writing room.” A retreat from the world that was not just a corner of the dining room. As I sit here this morning looking at the journal I bought that might prompt me to make lists, I am profoundly afraid for our nation. We have an unpredictable President dropping bombs with alacrity, because his daughter was moved by dying Syrian babies, but not by a dead Syrian baby who washed up on a Greek island. But no, we can’t let Syrian refugees into our country. God Forbid.

At least Assad has decided to move civilians out of their war-torn cities, Sunnis go to Sunni territory and Shia go to Shia. That’s a step, to get the proxy war moving along. The Russians must be just as worried as we are! “The meeting in Moscow on Friday between Russian, Iranian and Syrian foreign ministers was the first held between the three allies since the US launched a missile attack on a Syrian airbase in response to the alleged chemical attack.” http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-39597630

I am now packing up my home, about to start a new chapter. What will I carry with me, what about all the Flapper’s correspondence? Yes. The elbow noodle pictures from preschool? Probably not. Will we be welcomed into a new community? Will people ask us, as they do all over the South, “What church do you belong to?”

Well, I belong to the church of peace and love, to the people who don’t run their lives by dogma or dietary dictates. I belong to my family of all colors and faiths. I belong to the sisterhood of brave, smart women. I’m going to start my first list – The Things That Make Me Happy Right Now:

Classical Music

Ms Bean

Birds Singing

The Mountains

Spring

The GIF of Our 2 yr Old Grandson Dancing

Bob in the Buddha Garden

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“Do we have any plans?”

A simple question yes, but I’ve been hearing it alot lately. At the end of this month my husband Bob will retire. You heard me correctly, he will hang up his stethoscope for maybe the last time. And like most American housewives of the newly retired, I am beginning to wonder what the rest of my life will be like.

Our cousin Anita tells me that men who golf do much better in retirement. Her friends are not complaining so much. They don’t require lunch, they make dates with their friends and get their manly fix swinging sword-like putters on the golf course, returning home from their natural habitat conquering (or quivering) heroes.

Bob doesn’t golf. But he does fly.

Unfortunately, someone is flying up from Florida this weekend (we shall see how Hurricane Matthew affects this plan) to buy his little Arrow four-seater. It’s been on the market since his surgery last year; so hanging in the hangar so to speak will be off the table.

Our friend MJ tells me that when her husband retired, at about the same time her daughter’s family moved out of her second floor and into their new newly built home, she was trepidatious. After all, her husband was a businessman who travelled the world frequently. But men in the business world can remain as consultants, and that is exactly what her husband has done. Plus, he can drop in on his grand daughter anytime he wants.

Bob’s always been the leader of his pack, the director, the owner.

Bob’s grandkids are in Nashville with my grandkids and doctors rarely consult after retirement. When we visited his UVA doctor this past year for a check-up – a man about the same age who is cutting back on patients and teaching more – he swiveled away from his computer and looked Bob right in the eye, saying bluntly.

“What are you going to do? You’re not the kind of guy who goes to Lowe’s every day.”

True. And do doctors ever really retire? I’ve known some to work right up into their 80s, but these are usually Internists, GPs who sit and swivel mostly. Not ER docs who run around the clock moving all sorts of serious and semi-serious emergencies in and out the doors like a Roadrunner…24/7 every day of the year…

It’s hard to imagine my husband doing nothing, literally. And to be honest, there are a few new things he can dabble with in medicine. After all, he’s been doing telemedicine his whole life with our family and friends. Rashes are sent via text, foreign objects in the eye are discussed. But the cord to a hospital will be cut for good.

He doesn’t do laundry, even though he likes folding. He is an excellent sous chef in the kitchen, when asked. And strangely enough, I didn’t think this whole retirement phase would bother me. After all, he never worked a 9 to 5 job and often works weekends and holidays; I am used to him puttering around the house, mowing the lawn on good ole John Deere, editing medical journals in his office and catching up with charts. Once upon a time he would cut down trees for firewood and tend a garden…

Long ago I put my foot down – I don’t do lunch. So when Bob’s home during the day, we often go out to lunch, or just “pick.” That’s one of those generational things, like Ada makes lunch for the world should they stop by. That greatest generation would leave a cooked dinner covered in the fridge for the hubby if they happened to be out one night. Millennials order food online and cook it together.

My generation was stuck in the middle, fledgling feminists feeling the need to hunt and supply a “home-cooked” meal every night. Last night I made bangers and mash. WHY? Because sausages were on sale at Whole Foods, and I was thinking about those beer gardens in Eastern Europe since a friend is posting her travel pix on Facebook! Thank God I didn’t Instagram it.

Last night I politely asked Bob to stop asking me about plans. He said he thinks maybe he should get another job! Will we travel more? Take long walks on the beach? Talk? Make more vegetable soup? To quote Disney’s Chef Gusteau:   793759230-f6b3178ce351ee8f3901fe91febe95fb

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Hold the applause and pass the champagne for our little coterie of writers in Cville. This past weekend I attended another writing workshop on Memoir at The Writer House. Our fearless leader, Sharon Harrigan, helped us dig into our past, crystalize our vision and discover a theme that might shape the story of a life. This town is a veritable estuary of literary types, it seems I have found my people!

Although I’m not crazy enough to think my life story gives me the right to run for President, for instance, I wondered if it’s worthy of a book, I thought that delving into my past could help me structure the fictional story I’ve been working on for years based on the life of my Flapper. You see, I didn’t really get to know my biological Mother until I moved in with her at the age of 12, and I never knew my birth Father. He died of a brain tumor when I was seven months old.

I could write a scene about the automobile accident three months later, on July Fourth weekend in 1949, our family’s Year of Living Dangerously, only through the eyes of my sister Kay. It might start like this scene in a drugstore in Scranton, PA:

Robert P. Norman’s name was emblazoned on the door and he was always happy to see us. I’m the oldest, and only girl at home, so I’m the sugar in his coffee. Only lately, Daddy was having trouble moving his left arm, and sometimes he had headaches, headaches that sent him stumbling towards his office in the back. I was heading there to see if he needed me when I heard my name.

She was fourteen at the time and is currently my living archive. She helped our Father pound chemicals into pills in the back of his pharmacy. After the accident, she was in a coma for a month. She had to care for me that summer and her brothers, and eventually the Flapper when she was discharged from the hospital, her dancer’s legs broken in so many places she would never walk normally again.

But first I had to get to know myself better. Sharon had us make a list of our quirks, which was a fun exercise and kept me busy jotting down things like:

  • “I need to keep my hair short, or I’ll twirl it all the time;”
  • “Small talk is painful, but I’m told I’m good at it;”
  • “Sleep will sometimes elude me for no particular reason;”
  • “I stop for stray dogs.”

I was getting discouraged, my quirks didn’t seem quirky enough. Then someone said we should ask a friend or family member to list our quirks. Genius!

“You have to load the dishwasher a certain way,” Bob said. Now that is true, and it did show up at the end of my list. I’ve even been known to return to a dishwasher only to reload it, if someone else was kind enough to “help” with the dishes.

I’m also pretty particular about hanging clothes out on a line. One of my very first memories is of getting stung by a bee under clouds of crisp white sheets floating above me on a clothesline.

And I love to dance. The Flapper signed me up for ballet at Phil Grassia’s studio in NJ. I chased a dream in high school and commuted to Martha Graham School in NYC to study modern dance. I continued to study all types of dance under Bill Bales at SUNY College at Purchase.

And when Bob, who never liked to dance, wouldn’t take me to our Junior Prom at sixteen, I asked our good friend Bernie. Because I was that girl who had two Mothers and was never afraid to ask for what I wanted. I guess that was pretty quirky in 1965.   Junior Prom 20151111

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Ms Bean has treed a couple of wild turkeys just to start this morning off right! In other news, a brand new Costco store has opened up on Route 29, near Stonehenge (my pet name for a “new” shopping center in the area). It was supposed to be an upscale shopping experience, and I was hoping for a Nordstrom/or Macy’s/or Bloomies, but Costco will just have to do. All good progressives, I’ve learned, prefer this to Sam’s Club. I’ll most likely steer clear of the place this weekend, besides, do I really need a five year supply of chili powder?

If Bob were not working, we might take in The Albemarle County Fair! Some big rain and thunderstorms have moved through our hills and taken out our modem…again…and left us with some refreshingly cool air for these parts. Today is the first day of The Fair and it’s nearby, on the grounds of Ashlawn Highland, President Monroe’s beautiful estate. But going to something like this, alone, just doesn’t make sense. Meeting an 18th Century furniture maker, exploring the livestock tent, and watching handspinners in the peacock yard would be infinitely more fun with a partner in crime. Someone needs to share your fried dough, right?  http://albemarlecountyfair.com

But tomorrow night I am going to a vineyard in Madison County to celebrate the life of a dear friend and neighbor, Bill Greer. We met Bill and his lovely wife DeeDee at another fair, a Fiber Festival at Ashlawn right after we moved here from NJ. They had a tent for their alpacas, and DeeDee sold some of the softest, finest yarn I’ve ever had the pleasure to knit. alpaca scarfFBBob’s arm was in a sling after shoulder surgery, which got the conversational ball rolling. Then we found out, quite by accident, that we had just bought our land less than two miles up the road from their Rivanna River Alpaca Farm.

After a long building stage, and an exhausting two day move, they had us over for dinner with the Bride and Groom. That night on their deck was perfect. We were both Yankees, they had moved here from Chicago. And we fell into a friendship that wasn’t forced or contrived. I immediately felt like I could tell DeeDee anything, like we had known each other in another life. Once you get to be an empty-nester, making new friends, the kind who know where the spoons are in your kitchen, doesn’t come easy. I’d join a knitting group in DeeDee’s studio, and bring visiting children over to see new alpaca babies. I even toyed with getting some alpacas, or goats, or chickens!

Like us, DeeDee and Bill had one of those second chance love affairs. They’d been married before, and were really newlyweds when we met, blending a large family of adult children all over the world. I’ll always remember Bill sitting out on our deck, just gazing at the sunset over the Blue Ridge mountains, telling us we had the best view. Bob would maintain that Bill’s access to the river was even better. And his face, when he saw his wife, was like a kid at Christmastime. I wish I could channel DeeDee’s zest for life, her energy is contagious, and her compassion is a thing of beauty. I know she’ll be fine, but I also know this kind of loss is a palpably heavy weight.

Bill was only 68 when he passed away this past March, much too soon. I’m hoping Bob can leave the hospital early, for DeeDee, and for me. We will always remember his glad hug, his smile of recognition when a joke hits home, and his absolute devotion to DeeDee. She lost a prince of a man, and he will be sorely missed.  http://www.mcdonoughvoice.com/article/20150330/NEWS/150339921

Bob and Bill

Bob and Bill

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Every now and again we go all out. Usually it’s for a big event, like our wedding anniversary. To celebrate our early years in the Berkshires, we would travel across state lines to Hillsdale, New York for an excellent French meal at L’Hostellerie Bressane, a country inn. According to a review from the 80s, the rooms had a “rustic charm” and the kind of attention to detail that is similar to a French “auberge.” Of course I thought of an eggplant, but auberge comes from an old Germanic root and means an inn or tavern.

Now I was not entirely new to this type of laid-back luxury. When I was young, some of my earliest memories are of my older sister Kay taking me out to “dine” in New York City’s finest clubs and restaurants. Long before food network stars, there was a certain understanding that Lutece was the best of the best French bistros. It was THE place to be seen in the 60s, and has been recreated on the set of Mad Men. I always felt like such an impostor, a country mouse taking the bus from NJ to my big sister’s upper East Side apartment; being scolded corrected about my burgeoning Jersey girl accent; being taught what fork to use when, and how to eat a baguette like a lady. She was my Auntie Mame and I was her willing student.

Lutece was in business for 43 years, but alas has fallen prey to the new cuisine of a new world. Andre Soltner was not just the chef, he was the owner and greeter at the door. He swept the floors and ordered the flowers. A choreographer in the kitchen, he never opened another Lutece, there was only one and will be only one. Maybe it closed because of that, because its entire existence depended on just one man.

I could never have opened a second restaurant, though many people suggested it,” said Mr. Soltner, who missed a grand total of four days of work between 1961, when Lutèce opened, and 1994, when he sold it. “I had to take responsibility for each person’s pleasure and well-being. It was my job.”

http://observer.com/2013/04/an-evening-at-lutece-andre-soltners-famed-restaurant-resurrected-for-one-night-only/#ixzz3cI7cpZu0

A luxurious meal of old may be hard to come by today, with restaurant “themes” and chemical gastronomies of celebrity chefs who open multiple eateries around the country. But Bob and I managed to find that old world charm again for our 36th wedding  anniversary dinner in Virginia. From the moment we pulled up to Chef/Owner Patrick O’Connell’s The Inn at Little Washington, we knew. https://www.theinnatlittlewashington.com

We were greeted at the door, by name, and asked if we’d like to sit in the dining room or on the porch overlooking the garden. I could imagine secret liaisons between the ghosts of political power couples lurking in the corners, so I chose the garden room because I loved the light. Chef O’Connell transformed this sleepy town into a world-class destination, in the most gorgeous rolling countryside an hour from Washington, DC, just a year before we were married.

O’Connell has been referred to as “the Pope of American Cuisine”. His orientation is different from most chefs today primarily because he considers himself to be a restaurateur and as the title implies, his goal is to actually restore and heal people – the preparation and presentation of food being but a single element in the process. Selecting The Inn at Little Washington as one of the top ten restaurants in the world, Patricia Wells of The International Herald Tribune hails O’Connell as “a rare chef with a sense of near perfect taste, like a musician with perfect pitch.”

What an inspiring, delightful tastings menu! My palate and nearly every one of my senses was awakened The service was impeccable. Our waiter appeared just as we thought we might need something, as if he could read minds. He was professional but not stuffy, prompt but not intrusive. He asked about allergies because the chef was preparing an amuse bouche – it wasn’t called that, but occasionally we’d be surprised by a small bite between courses. Silverware was replaced immediately, and water was poured simultaneously; like a French Foreign Legion drill team. Bob chose the Menu of the Moment and I chose the Enduring Classic Menu, without the wine pairings:

A Shot of Chilled Minted English Pea Soup

Chilled Maine Lobster Salad with Marinated Hawaiian Heart of Palm

Carpaccio of Herb-Crusted Baby Lamb Loin with Pistachio Ice Cream

                          Pan Seared Rockfish with Braised Baby Bok Choy and Softshell Crab Tempura

Huckleberry Marinated Squab Breast with a Crispy Potato Galette

Veal Shenandoah: Local Prosciutto Wrapped Loin of Veal with Country Ham and Fontina Cheese Ravioli

The Inn at Little Washington is a member of the famed Relais et Chateaux. http://www.relaischateaux.com/en/search-book/hotel-restaurant/washington/#.VXMNgKaCblI Long before we heard of “farm to table,” small, exclusive restaurants were practicing and cultivating partnerships with local farmers. Created in France in 1954, today there are 520 establishments that bear the esteemed fleur de lys around the world. “Relais & Châteaux is an association of the world’s finest hoteliers, chefs and restaurateurs that has set the standard for excellence in hospitality. Relais & Châteaux has redefined luxury hospitality by emphasising holistic experiences that transport its guests, taking them on a sensual journey and introducing them to a deeper, truer understanding of the Art of Living.”

IF you were married in June, I wish y’all a very happy anniversary! And feel free to tell me what you do to celebrate your anniversary. IMG_2717

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“…cause I’ll never stay,” said Lesley Gore in her 1964 song, “You Don’t Own Me.” It was a feminist anthem long before its time and I was sad to hear of her passing this weekend at the young age of 68 from lung cancer. We lost a beautiful woman and a talented singer/songwriter while celebrating St Valentine and flocking to the latest bondage movie, “Fifty Shades of Gray.”

Fifty years later, women must still remind men that we cannot be owned, our bodies will not be legislated, and our minds are not built for submission, unless of course you like that sort of thing. I’ve been strolling down memory lane lately because a friend has reminded me that my 50th High School Reunion is fast approaching; the Dover High School Class of 1966 is gearing up to party like it’s, well 1966.

“Oh, I don’t tell you what to say
I don’t tell you what to do
So just let me be myself
That’s all I ask of you.”
— Lesley Gore’s “You Don’t Own Me”

I met my husband our Freshman year in high school, by Junior year we were dating. It was a short-lived romance since, once in college, he went to Woodstock and I went to Westchester. But we never really lost touch, and who knew that 70% of couples who reunite with their first loves would find love again? At the ripe old age of thirty we married, and Bob is still playing the Nathan to my Adelaide.

Fifty years later, we were talking about the wind this weekend. And Bob recalled how he had been blown off Windsor mountain when the Bride was just a baby. His little white Honda was wheels up in a snowdrift on the side of the road, and he was hanging from his seat belt upside down, watching his coffee drip from the door frame.

Luckily he walked away and someone stopped on the road and picked him up. But what if he couldn’t unlock his seatbelt? What if no one came along? In his line of work, and with my history, we’re both aware of how your life can change in a split second. I couldn’t even imagine going through this life without him, without my son who was not yet born.

No, he doesn’t own me, but he signed a long term lease on my heart. Today I’m dreaming of warmer, tropical winds, and I’ll let him take the helm if the water gets choppy. Sao Mai CLR Sunset 0208

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