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Happy Birthday to the Love Bug! Five years ago today I was sitting in a waiting room at Vandy, stewing in a mix of fear and hope and awe. My very own baby girl was about to give birth to her very own baby girl, and because history often repeats itself, the Love Bug had settled into a breech position. Only the Groom could attend her birth in the OR. The look of pure joy on his face when he carried that baby over to us I ‘ll remember for eternity.

The official Bug Birthday Party will be Sunday; a certain Disney heroine who struggled to learn to sail in the Pacific Islands thousands of years ago will be its theme. I’ve thought about the young Bride’s Fall birthday parties in the Berkshires. Clowns, balloons, bean bag tosses, Strawberry Shortcake, the works.

I was a pretty crafty mom back then, in my other life, and I could write at home. I wasn’t juggling night shifts in an ER, that was Bob’s domain.

The Rocker’s mid-Summer birthdays were always at the beach when we washed up on the Jersey Shore. Fun and easey peasey. One summer I collected small rocks, painted them gold, and held a treasure hunt. We didn’t worry about his new class list only inviting his summer friends for an afternoon of swimming and “action and adventure!”

Last night the Bride and Groom celebrated Bob’s birthday (the day before the Love Bug’s) by taking us out for a swanky dinner. It was a most beautiful evening – the weather clear and almost crisp, the latest bistro that was minimally elegant and not noisy (so we could actually talk), with a menu of succulent seafood. Each perfect dish was meant to share. We could see the kitchen from our table filled with women. The Bride told me the executive chef is a woman, and so is the owner-manager.

Nashville-native chef Julia Sullivan opened Henrietta Red to honor her grandparents and feature her spin on “Carolina Low-Country hospitality.” It’s no wonder Bon Appetit voted Henrietta one of America’s Best New Restaurants of 2017!   http://www.bonappetit.com/city-guides/venue/henrietta-red

Next up will be my new Daughter-in-Law Aunt Kiki’s birthday on the Left Coast, the Rocker’s Bride! She shares a September birthday with me and my daughter. I like to call all of us Christmas babies, because… well, you know why!

There’s no time to dawdle today. Tonight we’ll have a family party. I ordered new rain boots from the English countryside for the Bug with unicorns romping on pink soles. I’m pretty sure she’ll like them. And I’m pretty sure time has been speeding up lately, so I’m determined to slow down and enjoy this birthday weekend!

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Needless to say, we’ve caught eclipse fever here in Nashville. This will be a short piece because Bob and I have to Lyft or Uber our way out to an art museum in a mansion that is also a botanical garden for an eclipse viewing party very soon. There will be music and food trucks of course, but even better they supply those precious eclipse glasses when day turns into night. Since we didn’t know if we could get tickets, pilot Bob had an emergency back-up plan – he made two pinhole cameras out of cardboard boxes!

The Love Bug has her first full day of Kindergarten, although many schools are closed. Her teacher has eclipse glasses for the class and a parent who worked at NASA will be giving them a pint-sized lecture. The rest of the Bride and Groom’s family will be heading over to a friend’s viewing party. Today is unofficially a three-day weekend in the Music City; the last time we experienced this celestial event was in 1979.

Our neighborhood is awash with tourists. Bob and Ms Bean met a couple from Wales on their morning walk, the man was wearing a tee that said “Eclipseville!” Our Sister-in-Law almost flew in but couldn’t get a flight, and an Atlanta friend’s newly married son and his bride may catch up with us later today. Traffic is considerably worse than usual, but I can assure you that the sun is shining now and our almost two minutes of “Totality” – which is the only time you can actually look up at the eclipse with your naked eyes – should be spectacular.

If you’re lucky enough to have viewing glasses, here are some tips for using them:

  • Stand still and cover your eyes with your eclipse glasses or solar viewer before looking up at the bright sun
  • After glancing at the sun turn away and remove your filter. Do not remove the filter while still looking at the sun.
  • When using the solar filters it is best to briefly look at the sun through the filter and then look away
  • Don’t look at the uneclipsed or partially eclipsed sun through an unfiltered camera, telescope, binoculars, or any other optical device.
  • A total solar eclipse is about as bright as the full moon and just as safe to look at
  • Any other time is dangerously bright—view only through special filtered glasses
  • Homemade filters or ordinary sunglasses, even very dark ones, are not safe for looking at the sun

Happy Eclipse Day Everyone, wherever you are!

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My very first job as a preschool teacher in the federal housing projects of Jersey City, NJ was very enlightening. I had a classroom of four year olds who only wanted to sit on my lap and stroke my long, blonde hair when we first met and that was ok with me. I taught them about sharing by breaking popsicles in two. When we had free play time in the classroom, I noticed how the girls immediately gravitated to the mini-kitchen area to play “house,” while the boys all started building with the big wooden blocks and trucks.

I was a new feminist, still feeling my wings after college and a starter marriage. This little example of playing house was not quite as important to me in the 1970s. I was more interested in getting my children ready to learn, ready for Kindergarten before there was a pre-K, by teaching them about language and math concepts through movement and singing and play. I was intent on breaking a cycle of poverty; I still thought I could save the world.

But now that I’m nearing 70 myself, that first Head Start classroom seems prescient. We still don’t tell our young boys that they will make great fathers one day. We figured out we need to tell our young girls they can be anything they want to be, but most of us still forget to tell our young boys they will make wonderful daddys in the future! In fact, it was surprising to the Bride, when her nanny bought our little guy a baby doll last year for his second birthday, that so many people wondered if that was OK with her?

Child-rearing practices vary widely across different cultures, and views about gender differences change over time, but there do seem to be some clear consistencies in the way boys and girls are treated, especially during the first few years of life. According to Albert Bandura’s social cognitive theory of gender development, parents often have clear gender stereotypes about “appropriate” behavior for different genders and rely on punishment and rewards to ensure that their children abide by these expectations. Boys are often discouraged from playing with dolls or acting “effeminately,” while girls are often prevented from doing any physically risky activities. https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/media-spotlight/201706/do-fathers-treat-their-sons-and-daughters-differently

Yesterday was a twelve hour Nana day for me since Bob is back in Cville getting the house ready for our closing. Because the Love Bug spent the morning in Kindergarten, I had some special time with our little 2 1/2 year old grandson. We cleared off his train table and built some new tracks, we built a tower with the wooden blocks his Great Grandpa Hudson carved for his Mother. And we played “pretend,” where he was the daddy and I was the mommy. Sometimes a monster truck was the baby, and sometimes it was a stuffed animal or a doll. Every single time he was as sweet as sugar.

Last night I watched his big sister practice a forward somersault over and over again, taking a running start and jumping headlong into some bean bags, stretching herself tall with a very self-satisfied “Ta Da!” at the end. It never occurred to me that this might be risky, or that I should curtail such a fun and exhilarating activity. In fact, I filmed her with my iPhone and sent it to her parents at their hospitals! The Bride sent back a few hand clapping emojis 🙂

And in another bit of TN news, a House member from Memphis has decided he’s done with Mr T “playing” at being the President. Memphis Democrat US Rep Steve Cohen is filing articles of impeachment today against Mr T largely as a result of his reaction to Charlottesville. Maybe more House members will stop playing at their jobs on the Hill, we can only hope.

President Trump has failed the presidential test of moral leadership. No moral president would ever shy away from outright condemning hate, intolerance and bigotry. No moral president would ever question the values of Americans protesting in opposition of such actions, one of whom was murdered by one of the white nationalists. … If the President can’t recognize the difference between these domestic terrorists and the people who oppose their anti-American attitudes, then he cannot defend us. …http://www.nashvillepost.com/politics/federal-government/article/20972898/cohen-files-to-impeach-trump

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Another pundit bites the dust. Jeffrey Lord, a Mr T defender on many CNN shows, has had his contract with the network terminated. I would usually turn the channel whenever his smugly leering mug appeared because he always seemed to me insincere. Nothing worse than a reluctant ideologue. And guess what he said – in a Twitter tirade no less – to Angelo Carusone, the President of Media Matters for America?

“Sieg Heil!” 

“Nazi salutes are indefensible,” a CNN spokesperson said in a statement. “Jeffrey Lord is no longer with the network.” https://www.washingtonpost.com

This particular German phrase is banned in Germany. You can’t put air quotes around these two words and pretend you don’t know what they mean. In English the phrase means “Hail Victory;” in reality, it goes along with the Holocaust and an arm in the air and black shirts.

Kayleigh McEnany, another Mr T media consultant left CNN recently. She is now the RNC’s spokesperson, working for Mr T’s very own network. You can’t make this stuff up, in fact I wish I was making it all up.

Let’s skip over to Google shall we. James Damore, an engineer wrote some of his thoughts in a company memo on the reason we see nearly 75% more men in the tech industry and in leadership positions, and then he got sacked. His words of choice were “Biological Differences,”  which seems pretty tame on the surface. After all, we women are the ones giving birth and nursing if we so choose. That can sometimes put a dent in a woman’s career.

But we are not back in the 60s when women could be asked if they planned on having children in a job interview. On a deeper level, Damore was implying we’re not FIT for such complicated, intellectually stimulating and challenging work. Remember, initially we didn’t have women astronauts because of that little “time of the month” problem. No, it’s actually 2017 and young girls are encouraged to pursue Stem careers (science, technology, engineering and maths) – just ask my niece Lynn!

But I have to admit that censorship of any kind scares me. In fact, the ACLU is taking up the case of Milo Yiannopoulos’s free speech rights. He is that ex-Brietbart editor who was drummed out of speaking at a California campus, a British citizen who is ‘dedicated to the destruction of political correctness,’ an alt-right agitator extraordinaire. The Washington, DC Metro removed Yiannopoulos’s ads on their trains for his new book…now a train system is a utility and I guess they don’t have the right to discriminate. Right?

And believe it or not, I’m glad the ACLU is doing what it’s supposed to be doing – protecting our rights! When “Hate Speech” collides with “Free Speech” we have a fundamental question that speaks directly to our democracy and may end up at the feet of the Supreme Court. This is an essential thing that differentiates us among many nations, we don’t ban words or burn books, our only admonition is not to yell “Fire” in a big, crowded public room.

Yesterday I spent much of my time pointing out to a certain two year old, who loves his new Superman cape, we need to use our “inside voices.” We teach our children about tone and decibel levels effortlessly, we want them to grow up in a civilized world. Unfortunately, we have a President who needs someone to manage his Twitter speech, to explain to him it’s like yelling “FIRE” at North Korea, in an “OUTSIDE” voice.

This was my view yesterday morning on my way to the Zoo. Nashville has sent out the Bat Signal because we need a hero!

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Stripping away the mandate for people to purchase healthcare, chopping healthcare down to the bare bones of a “skinny” bill that would have thrown millions off Medicaid, with a simple assurance of replacing the ACA in the future, was unacceptable to three Republican senators. And thank the Lordie for that!

Now we can return to our summer fun with a side-eye on politics, waiting for this administration – and NOT our healthcare – to implode. If you’re in the market for a good beach/lake/pool read, here’s what’s on my revolving nightstand (a bookcase in the form of a table).

I just finished reading one of Parnassus Bookstore’s Special Editions, “Do Not Become Alarmed,” by Maile Meloy. It’s a thriller, with three families on a cruise ship to South America when their children are suddenly swept away by a tide during a botched shore excursion. I approached this read half-heartedly since I didn’t need to be depressed in my fictional life, but I was swept away by the prose. Full disclosure, I didn’t finish the book at night since I was afraid it would have left me sleepless!

I’ve joined a virtual book club that has another Nashville connection. I adore Reese Witherspoon, probably because I can see her playing the Flapper in the movie version of The Novel, and she just started her own book club on Twitter: https://twitter.com/RWBookClub  She gave her followers three choices, and the winner is  “The Alice Network,” by Kate Quinn. The year is 1947 and although I’ve only just started, I’m in love with the main character. Based on the true resistance network of brave women and men who had gone behind Nazi lines in France, I’m anticipating a wonderful ride.

Teed up and ready to read are two more books: J Courtney Sullivan’s “Saints for All Occasions,” and “Hunger,” by Roxane Gay.

Who wouldn’t love Sullivan’s exploration of family and faith? I read her novel, “Maine” months ago and it had the ring of truth to this lapsed Catholic. Here is what Ron Charles at the Washington Post had to say about “The year’s best book” – “Saints for All Occasions:”

“This family has a way of forgetting what it doesn’t want to know,” Sullivan writes, and Nora depends desperately on that common predilection. “She wondered how much longer she could keep up the lie, even as she understood that she had committed herself to it for life.” The most fascinating element of the story is watching a daring act of deception coalesce into the solid-seeming shape of history.    https://www.washingtonpost.com/entertainment/books/j-courtney-sullivans-saints-for-all-occasions-is-this-years-best-book-about-family/2017/05/08/3a57acd8-30ca-11e7-9534-00e4656c22aa_story.html?utm_term=.d32d5c3a3b0f

And getting skinny is somehow not on and always on the mind of memoirist Roxane Gay. In “Hunger,” another First Edition’s pick, she chronicles her childhood rape and her reaction to that trauma by overeating. In her own words: “I grew up in this world where fat phobia is pervasive,” she says. “And I just thought, ‘Well, boys don’t like fat girls, so if I’m fat, they won’t want me and they won’t hurt me again.’ But more than that, I really wanted to just be bigger so that I could fight harder.”

Whether you get your books in the mail from Nashville, download them on your tablet, or visit your local bookstore or library, you may want to peruse the Man Booker Prize long list: http://themanbookerprize.com/news/man-booker-prize-2017-longlist-announced

And if you are lucky, you may light upon a free book in a public place. Yes, I did say free so keep your eyes peeled! The talented Emma Watson is an official book fairy, but you could sign up to deliver books too! All you have to do is clap your hands, and visit their site, truly. http://ibelieveinbookfairies.com/

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Basketball for a four year old? Well, the Love Bug is almost five and will be starting Kindergarten soon, and she definitely is tall for her age. A mom in her preschool class recruited her for the summer league. Still, it was hilarious watching her team play back to back games last night. Some girls keep their arms up and run, some actually grab the ball and dribble, and some have learned to shoot!

Followed by another Predators win. Pittsburgh 1, Nashville 4 SCORE

Yes, I’m in Nashville. And who knew TN had an NHL team, right? https://www.nhl.com/predators Everywhere we went people were wearing their logo – that’s a saber-toothed tiger I think?

With two major sports teams in town, and lots of gorgeous parks, three YMCAs and a Greenway and city bikes, I was surprised the Music City came up only 42 on the American Fitness Index (AFI) list of healthiest cities this year, http://www.americanfitnessindex.org. It is based somewhat on per person spending on parks and obesity-related diseases. Number 1 this year is Minneapolis, so here’s a big shout out to my brother Dr Jim! And congrats to our friend Steffanie, an elected Commissioner at the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board!

On the nine hour drive to TN Bob and I listened to a This American Life podcast titled “Tell Me I’m Fat.” https://m.thisamericanlife.org/radio-archives/episode/589/tell-me-im-fat

It was about fat shaming and women telling their stories of acceptance and/or denial. One categorized the condition, saying some just have to lose 20 lbs, some are Lane Bryant fat, then there are the morbidly obese. She called herself “super morbidly obese.”

One woman lost weight fast with a little help from phentermine, and she’s still taking it only now she copped to having to buy it in Mexico or online…

I looked at Bob, and he said she may actually be damaging her heart. That same woman longed for her former fat self, the happier, less worried and uptight model of her thinner self. She felt less authentic, like an imposter in a thin-suit. She worried her husband never would have dated her former self…

Wanting to stay strong, ease my back pain and lose that final 10 pounds…I found myself on the stationary bike at the Y yesterday, and I started talking with the woman next to me. We talked about travel and our kids, she’s about to be a grandmother and just had knee replacement surgery. We had such a good time talking and biking and our workouts flew by so fast we agreed to meet for coffee! We had an instant connection, both of us had married our first loves, only her hubby is an NFL coach!

For years I’ve been going to a gym in VA and never met anyone. Maybe it’s because I don’t play tennis, or maybe it’s because I just didn’t try. I’ve got a new attitude, thank you very much Patti LaBelle and Nashville.  You’re just a small town, with mighty miniature basketball stars wrapped up in a big shiny predator bow.

Here is the little hoopster helping her baby brother start preschool! IMG_0744

 

 

 

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Bob and I are camping out in our tiny Nashville house. We’ve got the fastest internet speed in our whole 38 year old pre-computer history – which is to say Cable…not yet fiber, but at least not a poor DSL country connection. The amount of cussing from my hubby’s mouth has decreased exponentially! This is just a week’s visit, getting some things ready and furniture delivered before our trip abroad and the big move. 

The Bride was sweet to meet us with coffee and wine. She had already unpacked and expanded our Zinus memory foam mattresses for the day bed in the study. The day bed is supposed to come today, hence the “camping out” phrase. I brought just enough linens to survive, and a new sofa from Article should arrive shortly. We can walk to the farmer’s market for lunch, and to a number of great restaurants for dinner. In fact, walkability was a major factor in this move. 

Well that, and two precious grandbabies.

We sent the Bride to camp in the Berkshires after our move to NJ. It was a disaster. The plan was for Bob to be the Camp Doctor for two weeks of the full season, and that part was fine. But no amount of cajoling could placate our ten year old daughter. Her “Take me Home” refrain never stopped and sleepaway camp became a one and done summer activity. The Rocker never stood a chance. 

For my part, I had loved my Camp St Joseph for Girls experience. I became a counselor-in-training there, later a waterfront counselor, and excelled in sports before Title IX. My first platonic boy crush happened one night at a dance across the lake at CSJ for Boys. For many years, well into my 30s, I would dream of camp and they were always dreams that left me happy and fulfilled. Summer camp was a time to build self confidence and strength in an era when young girls had fewer options. 

So even though I’m feeling a little unsettled, somewhere between the mountains and city life, unsteady on my feet, feeling out the neighborhood, I know this will pass. I’m “Heading into the Heart of the Dragon,” as Sally Field once said. Change doesn’t happen without a fight from your former self. This is a first step to finding our beach house; I want to be a waterfront Nana finally. We heard lots of birds singing our first morning in Nashville, and we’ve had plenty of April showers. But the sun is up and…

the universe is expanding as it should. Just look at this super computer simulation of billions of years http://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/watch-universe-evolve-over-13-billion-years-180951366/

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