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Posts Tagged ‘Memoir’

Virgo has moved on to Libra and my worlds are colliding! There was a full moon the night before the Bride’s 40th birthday, which she celebrated in Asheville, NC. She refused to make a big deal out of it and insists she’s totally fine. Well why wouldn’t she be? She’s got a beautiful family, an amazing career, and just became a certified yoga instructor to boot! According to Oprah, at 40 “…you can stop living your life for other people and start living it for yourself!”

Wait, I thought that happened at 50? I’m pretty sure Great Grandma Ada would NOT agree as she lives primarily to help other people!

But here’s the thing. According to the Bride, her Enneagram Type is 1… The Reformer! Now this is your basic Type A personality; she is the Monica of her friends, the girl who gets things done. Hard-driven, “rational, idealistic, principled, purposeful, self-controlled and…wait for it…perfectionistic.” That’s pretty right on.

So for my birthday I was instructed to take the test! This Libra will be turning 71 soon and figured why not? Numbers no longer bother me, it’s a slow roll to 80 when I’ll probably need new knees. Turns out I’m Type 9 – The Peacemaker! Yep that’s me, always wanting to make connections and keep the family together, a typical Welsh Corgi in the dog eat dog world of life. I avoid conflict whenever possible, but I’m not afraid to stand up to bullies. “Easygoing, self-effacing, receptive, reassuring, agreeable and complacent.”

Complacent?! I’m blaming Catholic School for that one! The Ennegram Institute goes on:

Nines tend to adopt an optimistic approach to life; they are, for the most part, trusting people who see the best in others; they frequently have a deep seated faith that things will somehow work out. They desire to feel connected, both to other people and to the world at large. They frequently feel most at home in nature and generally make warm and attentive parents.

Turning 30 I nearly had a meltdown. Baby Boomers always thought you could never trust anyone over 30, that was the watershed moment; old age was right around the corner! The beginning of the end, the reason to buy black balloons. I was single, childless, and adrift about the big questions. I put a fire engine red henna rinse in my newly permed strawberry blonde hair – it made me look like a lion! Even my sister didn’t recognize me.

When Bob turned 40, we had a “Back to the Sixties” party at the beach and I’m not sure we’ll ever top that one! 40 wasn’t such a big deal for me, although we’d left my beloved New England, my bird sanctuary for the NJ suburbs. I wouldn’t say it was the best decade with menopause on the horizon, but it wasn’t bad either.

One of the highlights of my 40s was leading a group of moms in a No Doubt rendition of “I’m Just a Girl” (Except it was I’m Just a Mom) over a middle school campfire! Why are we here if we cannot embarrass our children? And why does Gwen Stefani still look the same, so gorgeous? And how did I become the mom of a 40 year old?

Consider this my puff piece to the latest breaking news. We’ve been celebrating a lot of birthdays lately and I’m getting hopeful about our country’s future; but maybe it’s just early onset Alzheimers. Or maybe it’s not so early?

Take the Classical Enneagram test yourself, it’s better than the zodiac! And please stay WEIRD! https://www.eclecticenergies.com/enneagram/test

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Here we are, in the middle of another heatwave, and my First Edition’s Parnassus book was waiting for me on the front porch this morning. I left the house early to score some parmigiana cheese to make the pesto my August basil is telling me it’s time to make.

The book of the month is, “Chance’s Are…” by Richard Russo. He is a Pulitzer Prize winner, so I couldn’t wait to dig in; there’s always tomorrow for pesto…

Three 60-something-guy-friends are meeting up on the Vineyard and we flashback to 1969, when they were seniors in college and gathered around a TV to hear their draft numbers announced – like me standing in a deli line waiting for my number. Not. Not like that AT ALL. It’s hard, as a woman today, to imagine the gravitas of that first draft call for our young men in December of ’69. I know that some of my friends had to go to Viet Nam:

Who wouldn’t want to go to Southeast Asia and be shot dead in a jungle?

Some, like my brother Dr Jim, accepted his fate and enlisted; he went to OCS just to get it over with. My step-brother Dr Eric became a med-evac helicopter pilot, cause he told the Army he wasn’t about to shoot people; some friends were deferred for good and sometimes sketchy reasons, and some of them did a walk-around, like Lyle. He ended up training bomb-sniffing dogs in the states. I don’t know how that happened and unfortunately Lyle died last year in Vietnam, so I guess we’ll never know.

My starter marriage husband joined ROTC in 1969 at Harvard Law School. It was supposed to transition him into the National Guard, but that never happened. Clerical error?

Bob got a low number, but fortunately had well-documented asthma as a kid. Even today, if I get a bronchitis, he gets pneumonia. The Bride and the L’il Pumpkin unfortunately have inherited his reactive airway disease, which has been pretty scary in the middle of the night. Great Grandma Ada reminds us that asthma will keep our little Grandbaby Boy safe, always. I try not to think it can also kill you.

In the wake of Woodstock nostalgia, which Gma Ada made Bob retell again this past weekend, I find myself feeling adrift. The Big Chill group did a Face Time chat on the day of their arrival in a re-purposed school bus. Bobby, Dickie, Jeff and friends. They were heading into the unknown of a prolonged camping trip with music, mud and acid; while i was heading into a marriage in Cambridge, MA I thought would save me. A nice Catholic boy. Mea Culpa.

Bob’s been sounding wistful. Long before cell phones, how did he ever find Albie in the newspaper taxi on the road to Yasgur’s Farm?

I’ve been wondering what the hell was happening in 1969? We landed on the moon. We went to a concert about Peace and Love in a field. And we started a draft to send our best and brightest off to be slaughtered. What a country.

But even earlier, we imported slaves to our shores and killed Native Americans with impunity. 400 years ago, in 1619, twenty Africans came to Jamestown, Virginia in chains. https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2019/08/14/magazine/1619-america-slavery.html?action=click&module=Top%20Stories&pgtype=Homepage

And today a New York City cop was fired, finally, for killing an African American man selling cigarettes on the street in Staten Island. Despite clear video of the man in a choke-hold saying, “I can’t breathe,” it only took five years and a social movement to convince the police chief that Eric Garner didn’t need to die. Anyone wondering why we need a Black Lives Matter revolution should read last Sunday’s Times. And vote for Bernie!

I’m not sure who I’m voting for yet, but my fear is that Mr T, President “Bone Spur,” may try to slide us into another war, you know, for his numbers. His polls are dropping. And with him, it’s all about the numbers, the size of the crowd. Dr Freud would know exactly what that’s about!

Here is the school bus and the newspaper taxi 50 years ago. Did you know where your children were?

 

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“Looking through some photographs I found inside a drawer,
I was taken by a photograph of you.
There were one or two I know that you would have liked a little more,
But they didn’t show your spirit quite as true.”

Those lyrics from Jackson Browne’s song “Fountain of Sorrow” have been playing through my mind lately. We were heading into the home stretch of unpacking boxes and settling into our party farmhouse when Bob decided it was time to digitize our mountains of old pictures – the Bride’s 9th birthday party, the Rocker’s Middle School birthday trip to the Liberty Science Center with the Twin Towers hovering in the background. Eighth Grade graduations, Bar and Bat Mitzvahs, my little cheerleader and my little ice hockey player.

Every single important event had been chronicled, and sometimes just random moments, like an impromptu trip to DC, or a drive back to the Berkshires, under sparkling amber trees with old friends.

I tried to look at myself objectively, did I look happy then? Or was I rushed and angry because I’d completed the grunt work and didn’t want to “pose” for a picture? What possessed me to don a Groucho Marx nose for a beach birthday party? We have lots of doubles because the second set of pictures were free and you never know who might want one.

A friend sent me a picture of herself, hanging clothes out on a line in the 70s dressed in bell bottoms.  I loved pinning up my clean, wet clothes to the sun, and still love it today even though there is no clothes line outside my city house. I guess Bob never saw fit to catch me hanging up diapers, or maybe he was always working on wash day.

I had a sense during that sweet young motherhood time, a feeling that this was just about the best it would ever be. I’d started writing for a newspaper, pecking out words during naptime and at night after the children were asleep. We had feminist consciousness raising young mom playgroups where we shared our secret mothering tricks and helped each other after each new birth. I used to sew baby elephants that would attach nose to tail across the new baby’s crib.

It was a lifetime ago, and yet it was just yesterday.

“I found some pictures where I still had dark hair,” Bob just said. And my hair looked different in each frame because strawberry blonde hair cannot be captured by a camera. Sometimes it looks like mahogany, and sometimes it looks white. Now that I’ve let it go grey, it actually is a blondish/white!

I’m reading a remarkable book by our local bookstore’s blog editor – “I Miss You When I Blink,” by the very blonde Mary Laura Philpott. It’s part memoir, part humor, and all heart. Following in the footsteps of Bombeck and Quindlen, she talks about her mother quizzing her in First Grade for a spelling bee, and she mentions how mothers always take the blame for our failures. She is, however, smart enough to know how nature can pounce on nurture. She was probably a Type A from the get-go. Philpott is still young by my standards, in her 40s, young enough to remember First Grade.

Her book has me literally laughing out loud! “She’s refreshingly honest and very funny, especially when, at a much-anticipated kid-free dinner party, she finds herself in an endless “momversation” (my term, feel free to borrow) on the subject of chicken salad. Boiled or baked? Shredded or chopped? Grapes or no grapes? To salt or not to salt? I chortled as Philpott fumed through dinner: “I had to concentrate to keep from shaking my head no no no, to keep from yelling, SHUT UP SHUT UP SHUT UP . . . Fifteen minutes in, I wanted to scream, ‘Is anyone having some genuine feelings about something? Does anyone have something fascinating or funny or weird to discuss?’”  ”https://www.washingtonpost.com/entertainment/books/you-know-that-funny-friend-you-look-for-at-dull-mom-parties-here-she-is-in-book-form/2019/03/29/cf43b17e-49ba-11e9-93d0-64dbcf38ba41_story.html?utm_term=.b9b497aebabc

We’ve all had those “momversations.” Seriously, if you know of any other Type A out there, this one’s for them.

Hope y’all had a wonderful Mother’s Day weekend. I’ve always said the Flapper did the very best she could. Losing my father when I was 7 months old, then almost losing her own life in a car accident 3 months later. She was a strong and resilient woman and I see her qualities still in my own children, in their determination, chutzpah.

She waited for me to return of my own free will, and I will always be grateful for that. Here I am in my early 40s. Why did I choose a peplum dress? It was the 80s.

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Waiting is a big part of “adulting.” One of my parenting mantras was, “Want? Work. Wait!” Teaching our children to wait, and not decompensate over an ice cream cone, is serious business. Eventually we must all wait for a plane, wait in line for a coffee, wait for a paycheck before paying the mortgage. Like Penelope, weaving by day and unraveling by night, we women are experts at this waiting game.

When I was little, I’d wait by the door for my father’s return from work. In one of his pockets he had hidden a small trinket. I can’t remember what they were exactly, only that they could fit in the palm of his hand. Maybe it was a colorful rock, or seashell? Perhaps it was a barrette? It didn’t matter really, because my memories of him are his many small acts of loving kindness.

We would collect popsicle sticks until one summer day he built me a dollhouse.

We would roll up coins from my piggy bank and deposit them in my savings account.

We would always stop for an ice cream sundae at Zanelli’s after Mass on Sunday.

Until one day years later, I walked into Daddy Jim’s hospital room and he didn’t remember me. My visits with him at the end of his life, coincided with finding Bob again, in that same hospital. Great Grandma Ada stopped me by the elevator and said, “Come with me, you’ll never guess…”

Last night I was visiting with the Bride in her ER. I’d accompanied a friend and neighbor to the hospital and we were given the royal treatment. She had an EKG done while I was parking the car! Then, while I was waiting for her tests and scans to be read, I simultaneously read a post about “Waiting” from my dear friend Bess. She too had been waiting in a hospital:

As for me, I watch and wait, and try to be who he needs right now. We are all headed down this road. John is just a few steps ahead of me. Acceptance of the new limitations of our bodies, re-evaluation, re-prioritizing, using everything we’ve learned over a lifetime to figure out how to navigate in a new reality where the only certainty is uncertainty.

My heart goes out to Bess and her husband. May this next procedure work its magic. And my heart is breaking for all those federal employees who are working now without pay. To all those furloughed and waiting at home to get back to work. To our fellow citizens who must choose between a trip to the grocery store or an electric bill.

It’s hard to accept our new reality, with a toddler-in-chief at the helm. The uncertainty of this time in our lives can seem overwhelming. The L’il Pumpkin must wait for a new helmet before he can ride his scooter. The Bride had to wait and see if the Love Bug’s new passport would be renewed. And I am waiting for Bob’s safe return from NJ.

I will not look at ridiculous pictures of McDonald’s sauce in silver gravy boats at the White House; it’s not funny at all to me. Instead, I will drive my neighbor to T’ai Chi, because it’s Tuesday. And leave you with a thought, some of us are better at waiting – insert crying/laughing emoji.

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The Flapper once told me that TV shows are written for the 12 year old brain. Watching TV, therefore, would warp my mind and keep my critical thinking skills at a minimum. Of course she couldn’t have factored in streaming sites, or HGTV for that matter, but still my Mother was one smart cookie. Like Lenin, she also told me that religion was for sheep, and did I want to lead the crowd or be led? What rebellious kid wants to go to church anyway, especially one who had just been kicked out of Camp St Joseph for Girls!

Lately, I feel like watching and listening and to some extent even reading the news out of Washington is like time traveling back to my pre-teenage years. Omarosa is roasting Mr T every day with a naughty bit of audio tape. The Queen of Soul dies and Mr T’s take is that she worked for him? And anyone who has anything to do with the Russia investigation better watch out, they might have their security clearance taken away – kinda like being unplugged!

Because we have a twelve year old payback president who calls the free press his enemy.

My 3 am TV channel was tuned to PBS last night, and I was pleasantly surprised by a documentary on what’s happening in Iran now. It followed a Western guy “Our Man in Tehran” who spoke perfect Persian and interviewed modern, middle-class Iranians, including a middle-aged Persian pop star in LA! It was so good and compelling I woke Bob to tell him that Persian sounds just like Hebrew!   https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/frontline/article/watch-how-the-internet-has-changed-iran-from-cappuccino-cafes-to-headscarf-protests/

Why, you might ask, was I awake at 3 am? Well, I found out I need to have a Mohs procedure done on my dominant hand thanks to sun damage. But in the middle of the night I thought about how alike we all are, how connected via the internet, even Iranians have Instagram. How it’s only the different myths we believe that separate us, as if any one country or culture owns God, even if she/he exists. It was almost a religious experience. And this morning, I give you the Dalai Lama on Twitter:

“I am one of the 7 billion human beings alive today. We each have a responsibility to think about humanity and the good of the world because it affects our own future. We weren’t born on this planet at this time to create problems but to bring about some benefit.” 

So are you a problem maker or a problem solver? Taking retribution against your “enemies” is pretty pathetic, so is tearing up the Iran nuclear deal and walking away from the rest of the whole damn world on climate change. Swinging tariffs around like a bully in the playground. It feels like we have a 12 year old steering the ship, this reality nightmare of a Congress that is 2018.

I was a senior in high school when Aretha sang “Respect.” She was a mighty warrior queen who gave my generation of women its anthem. I will pay it forward, not back, by redoubling my efforts to register young voters and support Planned Parenthood – the one and ONLY clinic left in TN to provide abortions. If we cannot control our own bodies, respect will become an empty noun.

ps, we voted early this month!

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Lucky me. Bob and I are flying today and even though we traveled to DC to obtain a Global Entry pass, and we are TSA pre-checked, I was randomly selected for “additional screening.” Which means Bob sailed through the metal detector while I told the nice TSA guy I won’t be scanned in their machine and had to wait for the female pat-down agent.

Life is funny that way.

I was talking with Great Grandma Ada about the crossroads we take in our lives. She had the chance when she was newly married to Bob’s father, to move to a lake community in NJ and join a country club. Her friends were building something new because in those days almost all clubs were “restricted.” That meant no Jews allowed.

Because her father owned a small bungalow colony with a big Victorian house for her sisters and their families, she opted out of the lake house. And looking back, which we tend to do as we age, she wishes her sons had learned to sail on the lake.

Instead they made different memories – skating on the frozen pond with their grandfather and tending to a bountiful vegetable garden.

There were a number of crossroads in my life. The most important may have been when I decided to stay in NJ and work as a semi-social worker. I’d been dating a guy who was a friend of my brother, and he was heading to California for a doctoral program. I was living near that lake at the time, and he asked me to go with him.

My foster father Daddy Jim was dying and I said “No.” That’s when Ada saw me at the hospital, visiting my Dad every night. Driving back to the lake from Jersey City. And the rest is history.

If I were religious, I’d say nothing is random. If I were scientific, I’d say chaos is inevitable. I’m more of an agnostic, and I try to learn from the universe.

Here is a son teaching his 93 year old mother a few tricks on her iPad!  C35B0D13-F3DF-43D9-B59A-309A1AC9B1CF

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Resolved: That I will march with women and like-minded men until:

  • Women everywhere receive equal pay for equal work
  • Our reproductive rights are no longer threatened
  • Women make up 50% of the House AND the Senate
  • Women are appointed to the Supreme Court and Federal Judgeships in equal number
  • The ERA is passed; Women’s Rights are Human Rights
  • Rape, sexual harassment and physical and/or emotional abuse are prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law – and YES, we know the difference between a “bad date” “consent,” “enthusiastic consent” and sexual misconduct.
  • Women of every color, indigenous Native American and LGBT women are no longer marginalized
  • We stop sexualizing young girls in the entertainment industry and end sex trafficking

Yes, I’ve been at this a long time. Writing about it, donating to progressive candidates, arguing with others and begging people to go out and vote for our democracy to survive.

My Nana couldn’t vote when we women won that right because she was married to an “illegal alien” aka an Irishman fresh off the boat. I felt the sting of patriarchy as a college student, unable to purchase that new birth control pill, because I wasn’t married. I marched in 1978 for the ERA, and I marched with Planned Parenthood when the Bride was 12. I marched last year in DC and I marched this year in Nashville. And to be honest, I’m getting pretty damn tired of all this marching.

But the pendulum will swing back, way back. Because we women are a great force, we are life-giving and life-affirming. And we cannot be stopped. Notice our little basketball player in pearls.

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