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Out of the blue, my Little Pumpkin asked me yesterday from his car seat if I knew why he didn’t like Donald Trump. I had to ask him to repeat himself because you know, he talks like a three year old, but as soon as I said, “Why?” (why is one of his favorite words actually), he replied just as clear as a bell,

“Because he’s mean.”

So I prattled on about how Mr T is also a narcissist and a bigot, but still it’s not nice to call people names. The world of adults can be very complex. Teaching a child to be polite at the dinner table for instance, while flossing your teeth would be a No. Talking about politics in the car with a toddler who is just out of diapers for naps, probably not a good idea.

And because there is a wall of kindness in my neighborhood – an art installation meant for people to Instagram their ideas of kindness around the world – I’ve been thinking a lot about morality, and plain basic decency lately. How can we teach children to be ethical when it seems like all bets are off in this post-Trump year. Our Grabber-in Chief leads the pack of men behaving badly.

The Republican Senate candidate from AL is being defended by his good ole boys, quoting the Bible. Hitting on teenaged girls it would seem is acceptable, but for Kevin Spacey, hitting on teenaged boys is not. Isn’t being a pedophile a uni-sex situation, universally condemned? The Catholic Church has finally figured it out. This is the murky field of dreams, or nightmares, we seem to be wading through – thank you Harvey Weinstein…

The Love Bug and I watched the artist, who flew to Nashville from the Twin Cities btw, painting her gorgeous bouquet of flowers on the back wall of a restaurant at twilight. She was sitting high up on scaffolding, like Leonardo with floodlights, when I asked our Kindergardener what kindness meant to her. The Love Big said,

“Letting other people go first.”

Now I must admit, she was always a sensitive child. Whenever I would play a game with her, she would purposely try to let me win. And depending on your point of view, that can be a good trait, or a bad one. But for this old feminist, I thought maybe she needs to get a little more pushy, like her Mama at that age who was leading the pack of bad girls in preschool. I remember always pulling her aside to say, “That (behavior) is hurting your friend’s feelings.” Or, “Think about how you would feel if…” As a grandparent, I realize more and more the pull of nature over nurture.

Maybe it’s time we women went first for a change! Teach our girls to fight hard, with their words and maybe even their fists if need be. To push bullies away, to yell when some boy starts behaving badly.

We swept up so many legislative seats last Tuesday, women of all colors and even a transgender woman, who unseated an incumbent conservative in VA, that I came close to crying. Something I won’t do in public. And in MN, a Black transgender woman won a seat on the City Council. So many Democratic women won, I think because of the Women’s March and the “Trump Effect.” Pink pussy hats and all.

The survey found that 70 percent of Democratic women were “appalled” by Trump’s victory, more than two-thirds were “shocked” by it, and more than half reported feeling “angry” and “depressed.” Nearly three-quarters of Democratic women reported “a sick feeling” when they saw Trump on the news. The women with the most visceral reactions were roughly four times as likely to engage politically after Trump’s victory than they were before it. For Democratic women in New Jersey and Virginia, casting a ballot may have represented yet another way to express their displeasure with Trump. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/monkey-cage/wp/2017/11/09/in-tuesdays-elections-women-won-big-here-are-three-things-we-learned-about-women-and-politics/?utm_term=.e9aaf4695e2b

So yes my Little Pumpkin, Mr T is mean. But his election may have started a revolution, and like Madame Thérèse Defarge, we women are pretty angry and out for revenge after years of patriarchy and white privilege, with our knitting needles and our vote. And no, my sweet grandchildren, revenge isn’t good per se. #Kindness is listening to everyone’s story, #Kindness is Compassion.

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The name of the author is the first to go
followed obediently by the title, the plot,
the heartbreaking conclusion, the entire novel
which suddenly becomes one you have never read,
never even heard of,

as if, one by one, the memories you used to harbor
decided to retire to the southern hemisphere of the brain,
to a little fishing village where there are no phones.

Billy Collins was appointed Poet Laureate of the United States from 2001 to 2003. This may have been one of our country’s most fragile times, when more people sought peace from poetry. And he is a poet who gets us, and last night Bob and I had the distinct pleasure to listen to him read some of his poems at Salon 615. Everyone of a certain age has picked up a book in rapt anticipation, only to find a few pages down the line that it’s something we’ve read before. I admit it, and Collins makes it bearable in his poem “Forgetfulness.”

Like that moment when he realized he was older than Cheerios, at the age of 70, and so wrote a poem about it. He scatters serious sonnets in among his readings, so last night’s audience gasped and laughed in unison. Because poetry is “…a megaphone.” Because he loves to make up new words, like “azaleate” – which loosely translated means we’ve arrived at a place just before, or after, it’s signature event. Oh, it’s too bad you’ll be missing the peak leaf season here in Vermont, let’s say. Or:

Bob and I azaleated the lavendar blossoming in Provence this year. 

Collins writes about cats and dogs from their point of view. And he even writes about Tennessee Fainting goats! This type of goat freezes and keels over whenever it is startled or feels panic. It’s something I may be catching here in loud and noisy Nashville 🙂

What brought me nearly to tears was Bob’s reaction; he didn’t fidget or head for the bathroom. He actually loved listening to Collins, we poked and prodded each other at yet another small truth that bounced between the two of us. It was like going to Jacob’s Pillow when we were young and discovering that he enjoyed the ballet almost as much as I did!

Then, towards the end of the evening, he turned to that ultimate question all couples must grapple with, “Who will go first?” The universal hope that “…you will bury me.” But is that really true love, to want to go first and save yourself from grieving. Bob has told me so often that due to his genetics he will most likely go first, and I almost believe him.

But what if I were to get hit by a bus tomorrow? A very real possibility in this busy city. He would still buy peanut butter and jelly, he would still drive like someone from NJ. Maybe he wouldn’t search for a beach house, or maybe he would?

Collins recommended a book, one that had inspired him in his youth, by a philosopher named Gaston Bachelard, “The Poetics of Space.” And I remembered the Bride showing us her Public Policy building at Duke, the light pouring in through modern-Gothic arches. And just last year, pointing out her son’s little hidey-hole inside his closet in their new home.

In the first and last days of life, it is the cosmos of the home that takes on the full weight of human habitation, as retreat and space of belonging. Bachelard’s greatest work remains a compelling reflection on the enduring human need to find psychological refuge in familiar places and spaces, though its author admitted that poets and story-tellers got there first. 

http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/books/reviews/book-of-a-lifetime-the-poetics-of-space-by-gaston-bachelard-1673212.html

Here he is reading from his book, “The Rain in Portugal.”

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Oktoberfest ended with a little rain and a lot of dachshunds! And since our friend Eli was visiting with her son Leo, we all met the Bride’s family for the Annual Dachshund Derby in Germantown. Leo decided that Nashville should be renamed “Dogland,” since dogs of every variety strolled through the park with their beer drinking masters in lederhosen. Still, watching those wiener dogs race was hilarious. http://thenashvilleoktoberfest.com/dogtoberfest/

Ms Bean was delighted to sit on the front porch and watch the canine parade go by  behind the cover of a maple tree. She has staked out her territory thankfully, and the sidewalk is safe for most breeds. Corgi puppies and Great Danes stroll right by without looking up to see her eyeing them suspiciously. After all, she is a rescue mutt, origins unknown, and she’s proud of it! She doesn’t need some set of AKC papers to know she is a prey-driven lover girl!

Unlike certain people, who require validation in order to feel good about themselves. It’s not enough to be a professional for some, your pedigree must include only “The Best” schools, “The Finest” clerkships or residencies. These are the silent judges in our midst; constantly ranking others according to some inner calculation, one they are only slightly aware of and would never admit. It’s still a Dog and Pony Show world it would seem, no matter where you go.

You can usually sniff them out, the pretentious co-mingling of class and money. It’s a primal thing I suppose, as territorial as Ms Bean and my friendly mailman. Great Grandma Ada would call this person a “Noodge.” ie Someone who is a pest, an annoying critic of your every move. It’s exactly what we are currently trying to teach the Love Bug’s toddler brother to avoid – not to whine! “You’re not whining are you?” I’ll ask him. The etymology is probably Slavic, and:

likely from Yiddish נודיען nudyen ‘to bore, pester’, נודניק nudnik ‘bore, pest’, influenced by English “nudge”  http://www.jewish-languages.org/jewish-english-lexicon/words/417

Some people become lifetime complainers; their shoulders are burdened by a ton of self-generated worry. I’m sure Freud would tell us they got stuck at that two year old developmental stage, but the latest winner of the Nobel Prize for Economics may have a different answer. Richard Thaler started applying smaller psychological theories of human behavior to influence larger changes in public policy with his “Nudge Theory!”

How do we get someone to make good decisions? Bob explained Thaler’s theory to me this way – if his company offered employees the opportunity to sign up for a 401K, he would get a small minority signing up. BUT if he automatically signed everyone up for a 401K, and told them they would have to opt out if they didn’t want to save for retirement, the large majority would participate! I guess the human species is just lazy and we all need a little “nudge” in the right direction, to avoid being a “noodge!”

As for us, the rain dampened the number of people walking into lamp posts and spilling their steins of beer. Bob only had to pick up an occasional St Pauli Girl can every morning off our stoop. Things are getting back to normal in Germantown.

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It’s an unbelievably beautiful morning in Nashville. Crisp, Fall air has arrived along with the sunshine for my birthday. Last night we celebrated under the stars with a Nutella Napoli pizza. I was surrounded by family and everything seemed right with the world.

After all, earlier in the day Bob and I attended a River Talk at the Bridge building. It was hosted by The Cumberland River Compact; for twenty years this non-profit organization has been dedicated to the health and restoration of the river basin, “To enhance the health and enjoyment of the Cumberland River and its tributaries through education, collaboration, and action.”  https://cumberlandrivercompact.org

This particular River Talk was about their latest approach to maintaining the permeable invasive and native plants on the levee. When the Compact took over this job from the Army Corps of Engineers it was pretty wild and had been neglected. After trying a couple of conventional and expensive solutions, they’ve settled on a herd of sheep! A loyal Border Collie named Duggie, slept by his shepherd Zach as we learned all about his sustainable method of property management.

“Sheep are an especially attractive option when clearing steep, rough, swampy or otherwise difficult lots that would pose big obstacles and hazards to human crews with herbicides or motorized equipment.”  http://www.nashvillechewcrew.com

Now y’all know what an animal lover I am, so I was delighted to learn something new about the natural world and how public and private funding can work together in such a beautiful setting. Bob had already met Zach and his sheep on one of his bike rides around town, he spent almost half an hour talking with him and watching Duggie work. Later he told me that I’d love it, that “…it’s an excellent solution to the need!”

Still, when I fired up Twitter this morning after Ms Bean’s walk, I learned that the USNavy Hospital Ship Comfort is still docked in port while less than half of the people in Puerto Rico have potable water. President Clinton had to urge Mr T to deploy the ship, as if he’d forgotten how to govern while Tweeting about footballers #TakingaKnee.

Since then, the call for the Comfort has come to symbolize something larger: A call for the Pentagon to send more.

More food. More water. More generators. More aircraft.

More everything.

My heart goes out to our our friend’s son whose medical education in St Martin has been postponed, to our friends in the French West Indies, and all the people of the British and American Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico. To our dear friends in Houston and Florida. This is the exact right time to talk about Climate Change! Our stewardship of the land, sea and air is responsible for such frequent Category 5 hurricanes, and our leader seems to care less about science and more about ratings.

My birthday wish this year is simple. May our grandchildren inherit a healthier planet. Here is the view from the Bridge Building.

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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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