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…and counsel in private.” I’ve heard Bob say this any number of times, it’s a management strategy. You just don’t dress down your colleagues in a committee meeting. I’ve heard this wise advice as a young soccer coach to my son’s team. Don’t humiliate a child in front of his team, goes without saying, no? I’ve heard it while studying for an education degree; ask to see the student after class, or walk out into the hall with a disruptive or disaffected student. Never, ever lash out verbally in the classroom.

Not like the old days, when Sister Mary Claire felt just fine swatting the back of my knees in front of everyone. Which served its purpose well, I still hate chewing gum.

Well Bob has been trying to get this point – you compliment publicly, and counsel privately – across to Mr T, every time we heard some scathing news item about his first trip abroad, in particular his public critique of NATO… I could hear Bob grumbling in the background. Thank God Bob is not on Twitter, he’d probably blow a gasket like that angry cartoon character in Inside Out!

Let’s just admit it, we have a buffoon for a President. He rides on a golf cart in the streets of Taormina, Sicily, behind all the other G7 leaders as they walk together. He needs his own Pope-mobile cause he’s so tired. How many remember the outcry when Hillary stumbled to her car while working with the flu. The silence on the Right is deafening.

They walked the 700 yards from the traditional G7 group photo, taken at a Greek amphitheatre, to a piazza in the hilltop town, but Mr Trump stayed behind until he could take a seat in the electric vehicle,” The Times reported. It also noted that Trump arrived last for the photo as the 6 other leaders stood waiting for him.

And then, Mr T pushes the newest member of NATO out of the way for his photo op?! Forget about the French handshake (actually the French kiss hello but we all know that wasn’t happening), the flapping of Melania’s hand at his (“Stay away from me you crass, crass man”), we now know that Saint Angela can see the writing on the wall.

To think that he has managed so much destruction of foreign alliances in so little time is mind boggling. I believe Mr T is tired, and I think he wants to rule like Mr Putin, he knows that whatever he says or does will be forgiven by his adoring fans. No matter that his most triumphant feat of travel was getting “triumphant” arms deals with Saudi Arabia, a Sunni country with a history of civil rights abuses who sent their terrorists over here to learn to fly planes without landing them…to attack Mr T’s own emerald city and our Pentagon.

Trump enthusiastically participated in a symbolic funeral for the Arab uprisings by embracing repressive leaders such as Egypt’s President Abdel Fatah al-Sissi and Bahrain’s King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa. No activists, civil society leaders or intellectuals were present, and Trump explicitly disavowed any pressure to alleviate their suffering at the hands of abusive regimes. Arab regimes will have ample opportunity to continue their long practice of manipulating the discourse of terrorism to justify the wide-scale repression of civil society, independent media, and political dissent.   https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/monkey-cage/wp/2017/05/22/what-kind-of-deal-is-trump-making-with-saudi-arabia/?utm_term=.fa7cef71dc03

Let’s not forget that Mr T made a deal, a 110 Billion dollar deal, for weapons/arms/defense so that our proxy war with Iran can continue unabated. Hawks can rejoice on the Hill, our leverage in parts of the Mideast is secure . But what about the Putin/Trump bromance? And what about Iran’s election of a moderate leader? Oh and that nasty story about Russia influencing our election. #whataboutheremails??!!

There was little fanfare this Memorial Day weekend when a judge dismissed the suit against Hillary over Benghazi deaths and her emails. Nor were there many pictures of her walking in the Memorial Day parade in Chappaqua, NY. Walking in the rain, not riding in a golf cart.

I have no doubt that Hillary’s experience as Madame Secretary, combined with her law degree and experience as a mother and FLOTUS, would have taught her eons ago that little golden rule about complimenting publicly, and counseling or criticizing privately. I also doubt that the current President can be taught anything about diplomacy, foreign or otherwise.

Meanwhile, on a happier note, the Bride and Groom stopped by on their way to a Cville wedding this weekend. The visit was too short, but the force in this marriage is strong!

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Insisting I get back to “normal,” I found myself on a bike at the gym reading the New Yorker. It’s the latest issue and the extremely long, entangled article titled, “Are You My Mother?” (a gay couple, an adoption plan, and a brutal custody battle) by Ian Parker held my interest; so much so that I would have never have left the bike if not for my aching back! New York family law was in the midst of defining what makes a parent for same sex couples – biology, adoption, support, intent? After all, it is a bit tricky.

Still I had two mothers long before it was even possible with open adoptions, LGBT rights, and the latest in reproductive wizardry. My mothers had made an arrangement in 1949; Nell would care for me while the Flapper was recuperating from her injuries. My biological mother couldn’t afford to pay her and she didn’t offer. I found out later the Flapper was receiving a small stipend from the state of PA as a widow with children, but my foster parents never asked for money. No papers had been signed, only an oral contract asking Nell NOT to adopt me.

In this Brooklyn case of two mothers (Hamilton v Gunn) there was also no contract signed. Two women were a couple who had planned to adopt, it was an international adoption and so one had to “pretend” to be a single heterosexual woman, only before the adoption became final these women broke up. Pure and simple – they were no longer a couple, yet the one woman, Hamilton, who had begun the process of adoption still wanted a child. And so she continued and brought home a boy from Ethiopia. They had never married, though one claimed they’d been engaged.

For years the previously romantic couple continued their friendship, naming the other woman, Gunn, the boy’s Godmother, To complicate matters, this other woman continued to help financially and also to babysit at times. It wasn’t until Hamilton decided to return to Great Britain where she would be able to find work and be close to her family that Gunn sought out a lawyer, thereby striking new territory in parent equality cases – many times while reading this article I thought to myself, if this had been between a man and a woman what would have happened? Why is a same sex couple treated differently by the courts?

In most family law cases it comes down to this: what is the best decision for the child! This best-interests rule is dubious at best. Hillary Clinton wrote in 1973 that the rule is used as “…a rationalization by decision-makers justifying their judgements about a child’s future, like an empty vessel into which adult perceptions and prejudices are poured.”   http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2017/05/22/what-makes-a-parent

Who will be able to afford the best schools, the better vacations, etc and most commonly it was the marginalized parent without resources who would inevitably lose. The women’s movement gave us some freedom, but made mothers who traditionally hadn’t developed a career outside the home, more vulnerable in family custody hearings by granting more rights to fathers. Remember the movie Kramer vs Kramer? That scenario scarred me for life.

In the end, Gunn lost her case because the judge said that their plan to adopt had terminated – that it had not “continued unabated.” The little boy would get his passport back, but since Gunn has appealed the ruling, there will be no flying away to England in the foreseeable future. So the lawyers get richer and the child is stuck in limbo.

In cases like these, I am always drawn to the Biblical story involving two mothers and the sound Judgement of Solomon. I want to believe the real mother would naturally give up her child in the end, would never allow a sword to be used, even in the metaphorical sense. Maybe that’s because I was always going back and forth, between two mothers, two states, two very different temperaments. With Nell and Daddy Jim I had the unconditional love of two parents, and for that reason the Flapper never insisted I return to her. She worked hard, she moved to NJ, and she waited, until it was my decision.

And in my opinion, love, like the definition of family, is expanding all the time.

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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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Do you believe in fate? Bashert is the Yiddish word for destiny, and since I was just visiting Great Grandma Ada and Hudson, I was the happy recipient of a certain cultural recap (or comeuppance). Acceptance of our fate, our place in this world is the touchstone of religious thought and certain ideologies. Why suffer and struggle? Remember that famous theologian’s prayer; “God grant us the serenity to accept the things I cannot change….”

Well Ada is reading “Fates and Furies,” by Lauren Groff – her book club assigned this book to her. She must report on it at their next meeting and believe me, it’s a long and complicated piece of fiction. Full of sub-plots and interesting characters. The protagonist, Mathilde’s husband Lancelot (Lotto), grows up in Florida – a place someone on our Viking ship said is for “Golfers and Alcoholics” to retire, and he said this lovingly since he was from FL!  I read the book many months ago and suggested she watch this video – https://charlierose.com/videos/23139

The author is writing about love, friendship and marriage. Since Ada has been a marriage counselor most of her adult life, I get why the group picked her! But she hasn’t finished the book yet and I remember how it ends. The long denouement of Mathilde, her tragic backstory, her isolation and abandonment. Should I tell Ada? I kept this to myself, and just told her that Groff is a feminist. An author who is taking us deep inside a woman’s rage. An author who writes in longhand from 5 am to 3 pm every day when she picks up her children from school. What a good husband!

The novel tells the story of Lotto and Mathilde Satterwhite. He is the darling of a prosperous Florida family – “Lotto was special. Golden”. She, an apparent “ice princess”, is the survivor of a past about which her husband has only the fuzziest idea beyond it being “sad and dark”, and above all “blank behind her”. The first half of the book offers Lotto’s view of their life together as he rises from charming but failed actor to celebrated playwright, thanks in no small part to Mathilde’s editorial finesse. The second half reveals that Mathilde has, through implacable willpower, transcended circumstances that read like a hotchpotch of Greek tragedy, fable and detective novel. Much of what Lotto takes for granted in his good fortune, it turns out, is due to Mathilde’s ruthless machination, right down to their marriage itself. She genuinely loves him, but she initially set out to win him for mercenary reasons.  https://www.theguardian.com/books/2015/dec/24/why-the-fates-and-furies-this-years-most-talked-about-novel

Groff tells us that any good marriage must retain an air of mystery. I love that idea, but I could see that Ada wasn’t quite buying it. After all, therapy is about laying your heart out on the rug and trampling all over it, right?

Spending a few days back in NJ, to attend cousin Harriet’s funeral and the shiva calls that are part of this world, I learned more about her life. Harriet, like Mathilde, was slightly mysterious. She once sang on the radio, and she went para-sailing with a grandson at the age of 80! I loved learning new things about her; she and Perry once owned a condo in Boca. Who knew?

But navigating the maddening crowds at Shop Rite and Bob’s family has taught me one thing. You really can’t go home again. My old Queen Anne house on Orchard Street is now a duplex, and the Jewish Center across the street is a Baptist Church. Was it really fate that led Bob to meet me there, in front of my old house, one summer day in 1962?

I’m not a great believer in destiny.

We make our own luck, and if we don’t like where we are, we have the freedom in this country to change it. There is a semi-opaque membrane between our young selves and our future. Some people get stuck along the way. They define themselves as a certain type of person, and they settle into that role. I would not want to look back on my life, and wonder how I got there. IMG_4698

 

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…or determination?

Yesterday, I got up early and drove North to attend the public opening of a community hospital’s new ED. Yes folks, it’s a “department” not a “room,” one of the many changes I’ve witnessed tagging along with Bob over the years. “I can’t run a room,” was his constant semantic complaint. But it seems he can run a department.

When we first settled in the Blue Ridge, I thought it would be like old times. Bob would do some shift work at the local hospital, and we’d slide into a comfortable retirement; plenty of time together to visit grandbabies and pursue some new hobbies, maybe  keep a few alpacas? Or donkeys, or chickens? Then one year in, the Emergency Department Director just up and quits, asking Bob if he’d like the honor!

And just when I thought his directing days were over, he not only took over the reins, he became Chief of Staff and sat on the Board for many years. We had plans to go to Australia for a sabbatical that were put on hold, but we did manage to build our little house with a view. And one day he presented a plan to that Board for a new Emergency Department – they were bursting at the seams and the population was growing. He wanted a state-of-the-art facility and he managed to persuade the leaders and shakers with his constant optimism and tenacity.

Yesterday, the ribbon was cut joining the new building with the renovated old department, virtually tripling the space of the old ED. Twelve million dollars and five years later, the CEO introduced Bob and kindly said this project was his baby, and without his “persistence” we wouldn’t be here. Everyone nodded their heads, because everyone who works with my husband knows he can be pretty determined to achieve excellence in emergency medicine. He wrote the book on managing an ED and he served as President of ACEP in MA when we were young and just starting out in the Berkshires.

Unlike lots of physicians his age, he never gave up on medicine and he taught our daughter to love the profession too. To never forget the sacred trust a patient shares with them.

I was pretty proud of Bob yesterday, but we couldn’t celebrate yet. He had a lunch meeting with a colleague and then he was scheduled to work the 8 hour evening shift. Kudos to Bob, his assistant director Harvey, who followed him here from the Berkshires, and all the nurses and administrators who helped to make this remarkable transformation possible.

Maybe someday he’ll slow down, just a little? 19114_10152801541071943_7135939311025461658_n

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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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How to Evade Ebola by Flying Yourself!

A man for all seasons, Bob is also a private pilot. I haven’t flown with him in awhile, for many reasons. But mostly it’s because the weather has to be perfect, and I have to have a destination in mind. Like the Love Bug. You won’t find me flying over to Newport News for lunch. And also there’s this, I just don’t like flying! But yesterday, I squeezed myself into the plane.

Pre-flight Check

Pre-flight Check

Me:  The interior looks great! Ouch, oh yeah I forgot I’ve got to take my earrings off before I put the headset on. Thinking to myself – Let’s see where can I stow them? Can’t reach my bag in the back… wait, I’ll just clip them onto my necklace.

Bob:  What? Here you’ve got to have the mic right up to your mouth, like this, like you’re kissing it

Me:  OK, are we clear? What about those clouds?

Bob:  We’re clear to 9,000 ft. Those clouds are around 5

Me:  Good, so it’s smooth sailing?

And it was pretty smooth, the clouds underneath us looked like marshmallow fluff, until I noticed a little red button light up and Bob started fooling around, quickly, and he’s never quick in the cockpit, with the throttle and the landing gear

Me:  What’s up? (said meekly and like I didn’t know something was wrong). Thinking to myself – we are 9,000 ft in the air and the landing gear isn’t supposed to come down until we descend in another 200 miles or so

Bob:  We’re just going to slow down a little  

Me:  Straining to read the red button on Bob’s panel – WARNING GEAR UNSAFE!   

Warning Light

Warning Light

Bob:  The door’s probably not fully closing (the Piper Arrow has retractable wheels, and the doors to said wheels were just replaced in its annual)

Me:  Thinking to myself – So this is it, we’ll have to fly around the airport to burn off all the fuel and then land on foam, if Charlottesville even has foam to put down on the runway, and we’ll make the local news, there will be fire trucks…

Bob:  We’ve got three green (which means all three wheels have come down) so it’s not a problem.

For an emergency physician/pilot, nothing is a problem. These people are the epitome of cool under pressure. Remember the voice recording of Sully landing in the Hudson? That’s Bob, telling me there’s nothing to worry about.

It wasn’t like flying around the Jersey Shore this time of year, with its kaleidoscope of pink and red cranberry bogs. But it was autumn in the Shenandoah Valley and beautiful just the same. It is also Homecoming weekend for UVA, so yesterday we landed amid the Big Jets with all their private pilots in uniform hanging around talking about who was getting enough sleep.

There wasn’t another plane in the sky all the way from Nashville, but three hours later and finally on the ground – all three green down – our little four-seater Piper was the poor relative to the top 1% of the 1% of alums flying in to see the Hoos play the Heels.

Me:  Perfect landing. Thanks honey, that beats 9 hours in the car!

Bob:  Smiling, thinking to himself – I’m gonna call that mechanic first thing Monday morning.  IMG_1478

 

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