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It’s warm and rainy in Nashville today, the first day of winter. Our car smells like wet dog and the house still smells like latkes. This will be my second Christmas with Bob not working the ER; but, the Bride will be and her Groom will be in the MICU, sooo we’ll be doing some grandparenting on Christmas Day!

It’s been a busy week, but the highlight by far was yesterday’s Nutcracker. We all ubered downtown to see the Nashville Ballet. The scenery was stunning, the orchestra was phenomenal, and the ballerinas were perfect. The Love Bug sat entranced; like the daughter of two scientists, she asked if Uncle Drosselmeyer’s magic was real? And she waited patiently for the ballerinas to appear, and laughed as it actually started snowing on the audience during intermission!

Her Mama played a reindeer in the Berkshire Ballet’s Nutcracker when she was the Love Bug’s age.

Some of you may know that I was a dancer in a previous life, and was thrilled to dance the opening waltz myself at the ripe “old” age of 35. If I was asked when I was the happiest in my life, those moments on stage, dancing, were among the best. Maybe it’s the Flapper’s influence, she would slip out of her bedroom window as a teenager to meet her friends and dance to the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra. And once the Bug was born, she tied a stuffed pink ballet toe shoe over her crib.

I asked the Bride if she had any memory of being under La Mère Gigogne’s (Mother Ginger) skirt? She said, “I remember being dizzy!”

It’s a dizzying time of year, but my wish for you today is that you stop and breathe for just ten or twenty minutes. Step away from Amazon on your computer. Pet your dog or cat and put on some Tchaikovsky, with a cup of hot tea on the side. Try to let your mind wander, or meditate. Practicing self-care can easily be forgotten when Hanukkah and Christmas demand so much attention. Remember that “stressed” spelled backwards is “desserts!”

And that the days, and therefore the sun when it reappears, will lengthen. We are beginning that stretch towards Spring, which is how I like to think of the Winter Solstice – not as the shortest day, but the beginning of longer daylight hours. https://news.nationalgeographic.com/2017/12/winter-solstice-2017-first-day-winter-definition-space-science/?_ga=2.23714169.2115897125.1513975428-807897739.1513975428

May you and yours have a peaceful and joyous Christmas. And thanks in advance to all those doctors, nurses and emergency personnel who will be working on Monday. You are truly doing God’s work.

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History is always written by the victors. Except in the South…

where Confederate memorials sprouted during the Jim Crow era, and the narrative changed to more “states’ rights” and less “slavery.” I remember being surprised when we first moved to Cville at all the plaques on the side of roads commemorating some minor insurrection or another during the Civil War. That, and the graphic “No guns allowed” outside some stores – which I correctly assumed to mean all other stores were fair game.

Still, I had never heard of a white woman named, Viola Liuzzo. She was a lapsed Catholic who grew up dirt poor in Chattanooga, Tennessee and noticed that her young black neighbors, also living in one room shacks, were treated much worse than her family. Later, she would ask her daughter in a department store how she would feel if all the Santas she ever saw were black? Married, and living a middle-class life in Detroit, she defied her husband to heed MLK Jr’s call to come to Alabama after “Bloody Sunday.”

Last month Viola “…was awarded the Fred L. Shuttlesworth award from the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute on its 25th anniversary – the only white woman killed in the Civil Rights movement.” She believed Civil Rights was everybody’s fight.

She was only 39, the mother of five, when in March of 1965 she was gunned down by the Klan; ambushed driving black voters to register to vote because she was sitting beside a 19 year old African American in her car; a “Negro man” named Leroy Moton who survived the ambush by playing dead. He later sent three of the killers to prison.

Where are her statues? Why have we heard about so many other martyrs to the cause, but not Viola? In the 1960s, there were no women’s studies, and a housewife who left her husband and children on such a dangerous quest was deemed suspect. In fact, Herbert Hoover tried to discredit her reputation by suggesting there was some “necking” going on in that car!

The fate of women authors is worse, at least film and music have left us some evidence. But publishers would discontinue certain works in the pre-internet age, and so second-hand bookstores are your last best hope of survival. For instance, before John Grisham, there was Mary Elizabeth Braddon! Nope, I never heard of her either, but she was trending in Victorian times. Obscure pioneers in literature can now be found in “The Book of Forgotten Authors,” by Christopher Fowler:

Fowler devotes an entire chapter to the women who introduced readers to psychological suspense long before it conquered the bestseller lists. These “forgotten queens of suspense”, he writes, were “ignored, underrated, overlooked or taken for granted, the women who wrote popular fiction for a living were often simply grateful to be published at all.”

One of Aunt Kiki and the Rocker’s friends will soon be teaching a course on song writing. She is a musician and a feminist and I would love to take her course at UCLA. One of the songs her students will investigate is Shania Twain’s, “Who’s Bed Have Your Boots Been Under?” Now Shania has her very own room in the Country Music Hall of Fame here in Nashville, and since Bob and I gave the Love Bug a small CD player for her room, along with Shania’s latest album, I’d love to hear her take on the evolution of country music to include more of the female voice, including women of color who were rarely recognized.

Because the #MeToo movement has started something that all my marches on Washington, all my work for Planned Parenthood, could never have imagined. Women’s stories are valued, but if we are not sitting up in the board rooms and back rooms of power, if we are not equally represented in the legislature, our work can still be marginalized, forgotten in the ebb and flow of history.

Her tee shirt says, “I will write my own story.”

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My MIL Ada likes to listen to Rachel Maddow before falling asleep, and as much as I love Rachel myself, I just can’t do it. She would keep me awake all night with worry. I much prefer reading fiction until my eyes are crossed and I can’t remember one sentence from the next. But since Charlottesville was invaded by Neo-Nazis, I can’t resist the news, even at night.

Last night I caught a snippet of Rachel discussing the social media campaign to “out” the men (and they were mostly men) who showed up in golfing attire with helmets and assault weapons. It seems the KKK types no longer feel the need to hide behind hoods and masks. Still, I felt slightly queasy, because it’s so easy to host a website that “names and blames” the people who attended that white nationalist/supremacist rally.

These men are now losing their jobs.

It’s like being put on a sexual predator list, only instead of thinking a pervert lives next door, they think a racist bigot is mowing the lawn. “Hi, how’s the weather?” And it reminds me why I don’t like being put on any list.

The Nazis in Germany made lists of Jews and anyone else that opposed their propaganda.

The radical Christian right made lists of abortion providers.

I’d rather we discuss why those men from Pennsylvania and Ohio and North Carolina, those weekend “Warriors for Christ” as one proclaimed himself to be, were better armed than the police sent to guard everyone. And even though a car was used to kill Heather Hyer, a peaceful counter-demonstrator, a modern day abolitionist fighter, and two VA State Troopers died while on duty protecting everyone in Cville, that scene was potentially a powder keg for an all out riot with guns blazing and many more lives lost.

When Bob and I were fairly new to Cville, we attended a Bonnie Raitt concert on the Historic Downtown Mall. Before entering the Pavilion, I was frisked, my bag was searched, and I was told I could not bring my camera into the venue. My CAMERA. It was a small digital camera and we both looked shocked and said, “What do you suggest we do with it?”

At that time I was using my camera to take pictures for my blog, so it was always on me. Meanwhile everyone else was streaming past us with their cell phones! We mentioned this fact to the official screener, “You know, every cell phone has a camera, right…?” She just shrugged her shoulders. Inside the open-air concert, the first band was warming up as Bob walked back to his car in a parking lot on the other side of the Mall with my camera.

Virginia is an open-carry state. That’s why all those white militia men waltzed around looking like Rambo out for a stroll. Whatever your politics, allowing the NRA to make public policy that would endanger all our citizens, including the police, is madness.

I don’t care how long it took our little potentate to respond to Charlottesville. His true nature is making itself clear. I do care about our country, and I want that pendulum to swing back quickly. We must start passing common sense gun laws and stop trying to take health care away from millions. The vitriol must stop, we cannot let anger and hate win. Naming every single one of those vile men who chose to carry weapons into my adopted hometown is going low, and I ‘d rather be like Michelle, and go high.

Yesterday, we visited Parnassus, my favorite book store in Nashville after Kindergarten. Let’s remember, we teach our children how to hate and fear “the other,” but it’s never too late to teach them how to be kind, how to love.

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When the Rocker was in high school, he’d often say goodbye like this, “Peace out.” With his heavy/metal/grunge band in our garage, it really was peaceful when he left for school. And I’d remember the Flapper telling me that I will miss all that commotion when I’m old and grey. She was right.

Another catch phrase of the turn of the last century was, “Keeping it real.” It seemed to be the motto of his generation: be true to yourself, don’t be a poser, do the right thing. My son was voted the “Most Changed” in high school, probably because he started out looking like the rest of his class (beach/boy/prep) and ended up with dreads, on his way to rock stardom imho.

He was keeping it real, he was growing and changing. Some people I’ve found, never quite climb out of high school. Others learn to transcend its harrowing halls.

I listened to the podcast This American Life on the car ride to Nashville yesterday, titled “To Be Real.” It spanned a few topics, but the one I found most interesting was about North Korea – how we don’t seem to take Kim Jong-un seriously with his photoshopped ears and Russian hats. It links you to an informative podcast about nuclear proliferation  http://www.armscontrolwonk.com/podcast/ A nuclear physicist wants us to pay attention!

So what is real and what is superficial? Ira Glass explored magic and the bespoke porn business next. Yes, you heard me right, it seems that with all the free porn online, the film industry has adapted itself to create custom videos for its customers. Who knew?https://www.thisamericanlife.org/radio-archives/episode/620/to-be-real

Is this the real life?
Is this just fantasy?
Caught in a landslide
No escape from reality
Open your eyes
Look up to the skies and see

Tomorrow Queen, or whatever is left of the original band, will be playing in Nashville at the Bridgestone arena. American Idol alum Adam Lambert has replaced Freddie Mercury but nothing can replace his lyrics. He was an original.

And today is the Rocker’s birthday! Thank you for being in this world, for bringing us love and laughter, and music only you could see and play. For being a tolerant little brother and exceptional son. We hit a few speed bumps along the way to maturity, but you handled them with grace. I had an abiding trust in your character and your talent.

Marrying your beautiful bride this year was the icing on your birthday cake! You have always made me proud, and scoring the Dunkirk trailer, working for Christopher Nolan, made my heart explode exponentially. http://www.dunkirkmovie.com

Happy Birthday DJR, and thank you for always being real.  DAVECAITLY-056 2

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People are always asking Bob what’s retirement like; do you miss doctoring, what do you do all day? For an old codger he remains pretty busy. He just started flying again, and will have to study and practice to get his instrument rating up to date. After all, who doesn’t want to fly through clouds? And he packed up a U-Haul truck with some of our furniture, drove it over 500 miles to Nashville, and is currently reupholstering some chairs!

Now, if you were to ask ME what his retirement is like, you might get another story. A therapist once told me that he explains it this way to the men he counsels: “Imagine you’re still working, and your wife comes into your office and sits down by your desk every day. And never leaves.”

Is that transparent enough?

The first time I heard the word transparent to describe people and not paper, or windows, was from my psychologist brother, Dr Jim’s lips. Years ago he was talking about people from California, because he’d married Anita in Big Sur and chose to live and work there among the tomato and wine vineyards. In general, he was describing  someone who is happy in their own skin, who is not guarded.

Think of Woody Allen movies, where the lighting is so scorchingly bright on the West Coast, and diffuse and dark on the East.

The next time I heard about transparency was while writing for The Berkshire Eagle. I learned that reporters could access any and all public records. You may not remember this, but back in the day when women had to be married to get birth control and credit cards, many records were sealed, including our own medical records! And then we the people passed “Sunshine Laws!”

Through sunshine laws, administrative agencies are required to do their work in public, and as a result, the process is sometimes called “government in the sunshine.” A law that requires open meetings ordinarily specifies the only instances when a meeting can be closed to the public and mandates that certain procedures be followed before a particular meeting is closed. The Freedom of Information Act (5 U.S.C.A. § 552) requires agencies to share information they have obtained with the public. Exceptions are permitted, in general, in the interest of national security or to safeguard the privacy of businesses. http://legal-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/Sunshine+Law

The Freedom of Information Act was passed by Congress in 1966 and not surprisingly was spearheaded by California Congressman John Moss. If you’d like to look up a Citizen’s Guide to Using the Freedom of Information Act and the amended Privacy Act of 1974, you will find the following quote from our 4th President who lived right over the hill at Montpelier:

“A popular Government without popular information or the means of acquiring it, is but a Prologue to a Farce or a Tragedy or perhaps both. Knowledge will forever govern ignorance, and a people who mean to be their own Governors, must arm themselves with the power knowledge gives.”  James Madison

So we should arm ourselves with knowledge. That. Bears. Repeating. I’ve been thinking alot lately about how this Russian thing is a “Prologue to a Farce,” or perhaps even a tragedy in the form of treason.

Now the third time I thought about transparency was after being elected to a school board. Because it really wasn’t until I found myself on the other side of the table, the side that held closed meetings to discuss policy and personnel, that I realized there is a Yin and Yang, a dark and a light side to everything. Of course we didn’t want to disclose “on the record” why a teacher wasn’t getting tenure, and of course that teacher’s union could appeal to an administrative law judge, but in reality Due Process takes time…

These are the times that try our souls. Mr T has been celebrating Bastille Day, which is like our Fourth of July, in Paris. He was parading around, shaking hands a little less forcefully, while still defending his dear boy Donald Jr from the “Witch Hunt” of “Fake News.” One glaringly inappropriate, if not sexist, remark to Brigette Macron, the First Lady of France, stands out. Looking her up and down he said:

“You’re in such great shape,” then Mr T turned to her husband Emmanuel Macron, nodding approval and delivered one word, “Beautiful.”

Maybe he hasn’t seen many 60+ year old women in his tower, after all he’s traded in trophy wives a few times. We have a lecherous ex-Miss Universe owner for a President who is running our country like a reality show. To quote Olivia, “Let’s get physical, let’s get into physical. Let me hear your body talk.” Is that transparent enough?

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Ibsen’s dollhouse it’s not.

But like Nora, I’ve left my serene mountain retreat behind for a week of city life. And since this city is the cathedral for American music, we seem to have picked a particularly jam-packed weekend to be here.

Bonnaroo is happening outside of town https://www.bonnaroo.com/lineup/ Our Jersey Shore girl Nicole Atkins is playing this year.

In town we have the CMA Fest http://www.cmaworld.com/cma-music-festival/ with tons of free music everywhere.

And of course since last night was a full moon, we all had to go to the Full Moon Pickin Party for the Friends of Warner Park. We arrived early with the Bride and Groom to meet friends and neighbors for a tailgate cocktail/supper soiree. There were food trucks galore inside the gates and so many musicians I lost count.

As we spread out our blanket and set up the Pack n Play last night for an adorable 7 month old baby boy, I was reminded of going to Tanglewood with our babies in Lenox, MA. I would make some newfangled cold strawberry soup, my friend Lee would bring the main course and another friend might bring dessert. We had elaborate wicker picnic baskets, real plates and sometimes brought candles. Listening to the Boston Symphony Orchestra each summer conducted by Seiji Ozawa under the stars was a high point of our life in the Berkshires.

Last night we had a total of nine kids running through fields, catching fireflies, petting multiple dogs, and climbing sand hills. We even got to see Jupiter through a telescope with her moons. Bluegrass and country music filled the air but it was really the fellowship of fun-loving, happy people that filled my heart.

Nashville is a particularly friendly city; you can start talking with a complete stranger at a sidewalk cafe and feel like you’ve known each other for years after paying your bill. Yes, that happened. He talked about calling the wrong “Holly” on his cellphone, which led to catching up and an invite to see U2 at Bonnaroo. We talked about serendipity, and how we must sometimes just jump into that stream and go with the flow as trite as it may sound.

Jumping may be out of the question now, but we are walking everywhere! And a beach house is still in the works once we’ve settled into city life. I wish we had a “summer home,” a family place for generations at a lake or a beach that our grandparents may have built. My family’s summer home on Lake Wallenpaupack in PA has been long gone since my Father’s death, though I do have a memory of roaming the gardens in my First Holy Communion dress and veil. Bob’s grandparents, Russian immigrants, created a bungalow colony on some land in NJ. It was called “Four Bridges” and sheltered Great Grandma Ada and her sisters’ families for many summers. Unfortunately, that parcel of land just sold last month!

Feeling wistful about a summer home after reading “Maine” by J. Courtney Sullivan. It’s  about an Irish Catholic family’s summer cottage and the secrets of its matriarch who is masterfully drawn. It touches on three generations of women, and the expectations society and religion placed on them. One character, in fact, is obsessed with building dollhouses! Like Ibsen, the juggling act we women must do to navigate a marriage and children hasn’t changed all that much. http://www.nytimes.com/2011/06/12/books/review/book-review-maine-by-j-courtney-sullivan.html

Today, with professional women the journey can be more complicated than ever – because we still do the “mental” work of a household. The scheduling of doctor appointments, the camp and school related activities, the meals, the grocery list….even the best dads seem to need direction when it comes to domestic chores (sorry Bob). Still, our stellar Groom is right in the thick of it, on daddy duty all weekend while the Bride sees the results of all the music-alcohol-related-accidents…

Speaking of which, I’m very careful walking down the stairs of this townhouse.

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Christopher Nolan’s new movie Dunkirk will open in July, but you can watch the trailer now. The Rolling Stone called it “Gripping,” and said the trailer moves forward with, “…white-knuckle intensity.” Seeing as the Rocker composed the music and sound design for this one, I can understand why:

Nolan wrote and directed the movie, which takes place in 1940, when 400,000 Allied troops were surrounded on the beaches of Dunkirk, France, caught between the English channel at their backs and the German army on land. Civilian sailors joined the English navy and air force for an all-hands-on-deck evacuation operation. http://www.rollingstone.com/movies/news/see-gripping-new-trailer-for-christopher-nolans-dunkirk-w480901

I’d never heard of this story, about simple Sunday sailors and fishermen setting sail across the channel to rescue their British troops. If Hitler had turned his army toward that edge of sand, the war might have been over before we got our chance to jump in after Pearl Harbor.

Great Grandpa Hudson remembers seeing kamikaze pilots in the Pacific even after Hiroshima. He was retelling some of his war stories this week while we were visiting, and Great Grandma Ada told us some of her frustration with the VA. She’d been trying to get her WWII Vet a new set of hearing aides for months.

Hudson just turned 91 in April. He is one of two men left from the ship he served on in the Pacific. The Navy made him the cobbler onboard when he was a teenager, which probably sparked his interest in woodcarving. Totem poles abound around their property that he has painstakingly carved over the years. He is starting to slow down now, but still has a twinkle in his eye!

I was struck again at how profoundly deaf Hudson has become, and how isolating that can be for him and all our seniors. He and Grandma waited months for a new set of hearing aides to arrive, making calls to no avail, until finally Ada wrote to the Administrator, the Boss of the whole operation. All of a sudden, she received emails and calls tracking the package, a semi-apology, and supposedly the hearing aides are actually in the mail and on the way.

Did the package actually ship? Was their address correct? Who knows, but not many 90+ year olds are married to such a feisty 93 year old!

It’s Memorial Day weekend and if you’re not traveling, you’re probably barbequing something. But let’s not forget our Veterans, the men and women who risked life and limb only to return home to staggering “wait times” in order to see a doctor at their local VA. The proposed new budget from Mr T’s administration may look good to some, but is in reality a typical GOP move to outsource services:  “We are very concerned the administration’s request to make the Veterans Choice Program a permanent, mandatory program could lead to a gradual erosion of the VA health care system,” the VFW stated Wednesday in written testimony.'” It’s kind of like eroding the public school system by pushing charter schools. http://taskandpurpose.com/veterans-groups-criticize-proposed-va-budget-cuts-elderly-vets-benefits/

Funding for medical research will be reduced by 30 Million, and the new priorities will be Gulf War Vets and opioid and suicide prevention. This is all well and good, but let’s not forget our elderly Vets. When I found out that Medicare doesn’t pay for hearing aides, or audiology testing, I was dumbfounded. Bob told us that soon enough we will be able to purchase hearing aides over the counter. Ada said, “But will they be any good?”

A feeling of not being heard would land me into a state of deep despair. It’s such an important sense, not just for communicating by phone that a set of hearing aides have not yet arrived, but for our ability to connect with others.

When the call went out to send as many sea-worthy vessels as possible to evacuate the British soldiers from Dunkirk, 933 ships responded including battleships from the Royal Navy and a 14 ft open-topped fishing boat. They brought back 338,226 Allied soldiers over eight days while being bombarded by Nazi planes.

What if they never heard the call?

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