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Posts Tagged ‘NYTimes’

It’s been a helluva week, played out on the national stage but also on our Music City stage. The body of Debra Johnson was transported back to her home in Nashville yesterday; she was the warden of the state penitentiary, who was raped and murdered in her house on the prison grounds. The manhunt for her killer, Curtis Ray Watson, has been all over the local news for 4 days. He was last seen riding a tractor in her yard – it was a minimum security place and he supposedly had “privileges.”

Only in Tennessee would the getaway vehicle be a tractor.

Since Bob’s been traveling, I’ve been extra cautious walking the dog at night. Our little farmhouse sits on the outskirts of the main drag, away from restaurants and nightlife. But it’s not just wondering where Watson could be hiding, I’ve had some serious social media threats since I posted something about how we might try regulating guns the way our government likes to regulate a woman’s body. Silly, sarcastic me.

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I’ve since been told this was not a Steinem quote, but it should have been! This does not seem like a time to sit on the fence. You are either OK with our country’s fascination with weapons of war, with young white men (for the most part, cause just let a black or a brown guy try that shit) being able to carry these guns all around town showing off their “manhood,” with separating families at our border, keeping people in cages, and raiding their workplace leaving their children waiting at school, wondering if they will ever see them again.

You are either OK with this, or you are not. Silence and indifference is not an option either.

The Bride sent me an article about how more than half of the mass murderers we’ve seen since we started tracking them back in 1966 have basically 2 things in common. You know what the first is – GUNS. But can you guess the second? It’s a hatred, a vile hatred of women. Yessir, misogyny rears its ugly head. “A Common Trait Among Mass Killers: Hatred Toward Women,” by Bosman, Taylor, and Arango.

“The motivations of men who commit mass shootings are often muddled, complex or unknown. But one common thread that connects many of them — other than access to powerful firearms — is a history of hating women, assaulting wives, girlfriends and female family members, or sharing misogynistic views online”

My good friend Bess told me that very thing last year while we were in Italy. She works at a shelter for abused women, and she personally understands how and why a woman might end up fleeing a relationship and fighting for her life.

We both went off to Boston for college in 1966, but she ended up in a cult. The man who persuaded her to sell newspapers on the street eventually ended up controlling every aspect of her life. Bess was my hero in high school, she was the smartest girl in our gang. I never understood how this had happened to her until we talked one night in Tuscany.

Her daughter Gwen is a talented screenwriter who was returned to her mother after Bess finally fled the cult, at first resenting being separated from the only family she had ever known. Gwen’s movie, “Charlie Says,” about the Manson girls, was released this Spring: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt1759744/

Gwen wrote about growing up in a cult for the New Yorker: https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2019/05/06/my-childhood-in-a-cult

“Where are you from?” For most people, this is a casual social question. For me, it’s an exceptionally loaded one, and demands either a lie or my glossing over facts, because the real answer goes something like this: “I grew up on compounds in Kansas, Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York, Boston, and Martha’s Vineyard, often travelling in five-vehicle caravans across the country from one location to the next. My reality included LSD, government cheese, and a repurposed school bus with the words ‘Venus or Bust’ painted on both sides.” And that, while completely factual, is hard to believe, and sounds like a cry for attention. So I usually just say, “Upstate New York.”

In the spirit of peace and love, and the 50th anniversary of Woodstock, I’d just like to say if you didn’t live through the 60s you may not understand. We young people were embittered and embattled by an unjust war, our leaders were being mowed down by guns, and the second wave of feminism was just getting started. Some of us burned our bras and got birth control. While some of us were trying hard just to tread water while not making any waves.

Guess what?! They caught Curtis Watson today. He was hiding out in Henning, TN near the prison. When the Senate is back in session and they want to talk about anything other than an assault weapon ban, let’s pressure them to talk about red flag laws, and in particular guys who have been arrested or dishonorably discharged because of domestic abuse. “Federal law prohibits people convicted of certain domestic violence crimes, and some abusers who are subject to protective orders, from buying or owning guns. BUT there are many loopholes, and women in relationships who are not married to, do not live with, or have children with their abusers receive no protection. Federal law also does not provide a mechanism for actually removing guns from abusers.” 

Loopholes like the one in the Sutherland Springs massacre, where the Air Force didn’t report the shooter’s domestic violence history. Please read this article, it is eye-opening.

 

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One thing about Nashville, it’s never boring.

It’s been a cold and busy reentry; waiting for Uber at the airport, freezing in a 20 degree wind tunnel wearing a summer dress, should have been my first clue. Getting back to reality would usually take some time, but my island speed shifted into overdrive fast. Our beautiful NC niece Tammy was visiting her Grandmother Ada, so we made some delicious, authentic ravioli for a small dinner party, and yesterday was game day for the Love Bug!

I’m not talking football here, it’s Firely Piggies girls basketball.

They still sometimes head down the court in the wrong direction, pink shirts and pigtails flying. But they won one and lost one, so we all had a blast. And who doesn’t like a concession stand with soda and candy? Still, since the weather here is warming rapidly, I longed for a completely unscheduled day with the Grands. Just some time to sit on the porch, or play “Go Fish,” or even ride around the neighborhood on bikes.

The word “boring” was banned in my house. Whenever the young Bride or Rocker would discover this word I’d immediately put the kibosh on it! “Look around you,” I’d say, “there is so much to do, only boring people get bored!” I was happy to notice this same reaction in my daughter when her children would gaze up at her, in the middle of paradise, and say, “I’m bored Mama.”

We would scoff, they would laugh, and finally she would admonish them. Then off they would go, to create a pretend shelter in their room for homeless people – pillows for beds and seashells for food. Such young altruism made my heart sing.

But I’m afraid parents today feel it’s their duty to keep their children entertained at all times. They have grown up in an age of “stranger danger” meaning only constant vigilance will do; free play time has become an archaic term. My kids rode their bikes to the school bus. Mothers now are being arrested for leaving their child in a car for a few minutes.

Last week, while discussing humbugs, the L’il Pumpkin told me he may have actually seen one, or it might have been his imagination… And this is exactly what I love to encourage – imagination, curiosity, creativity, a sense of wonder! Sometimes I would keep the Rocker home from school and call it a “mental health day.” Children need space to grow and dream.

Lin-Manuel Miranda once credited his “…unattended afternoons with fostering inspiration. “Because there is nothing better to spur creativity than a blank page or an empty bedroom,” he said.  https://www.nytimes.com/2019/02/02/opinion/sunday/children-bored.html

Maybe growing up an “Only,” with plenty of time on my own, is why the blank page never scared me! I’ll be attending a restorative yoga class this afternoon (thanks MaryAnn), while everyone else is watching Super Bowl Sunday or Puppy Bowl antics. Whatever you’re planning this #SundayFunday, I hope you stay UN-bored y’all.

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It’s been three weeks. The new laundry room door just went up, the vents and smoke detectors are going up as I type, and the painters are touching up all over the place. It will be good to get our house back, but to be honest Ms Bean will miss the constant company. Granted she barks initially, but then she warms up and keeps track of everyone. My little, lazy, adorable mutt transforms into a real watchdog! She wakes every morning with a sense of purpose; sitting in front of the front hall windows and listening for the sound of trucks.

Poor baby, the contractors will be done today, just in time for the Fourth of July Fireworks. Anyone with a pup knows the sounds of summer can drive them to distraction – to hiding in bath tubs and even sometimes running away given half the chance. Great Grandma Ada told me about this article, which I had to read on my phone since I couldn’t find my computer.

By some estimates, at least 40 percent of dogs experience noise anxiety, which is most pronounced in the summer. Animal shelters report that their busiest day for taking in runaway dogs is July 5. Veterinarians tell of dogs who took refuge in hiding places so tight that they got stuck, who gnawed on door handles, who crashed through windows or raced into traffic — all desperate efforts to escape inexplicable collisions of noise and flashing light.                                          http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2016/06/28/why-thunder-and-fireworks-make-dogs-anxious/?_r=0

It was a rainy, stormy day when the Bride and Groom graduated from medical school. We had a few people staying in our newly built house, and the last one out must not have latched the door. Because when we returned several hours later, the kitchen door was wide open and Buddha Bear came strolling around the corner with an accusatory look in his eyes. As if he was saying, “Where have you guys been?”

He also managed to lock himself in our guest bathroom during a storm. I returned home and called his name so many times my throat was hoarse. Buddha wasn’t a barker. Before I started to panic and jump in my car thinking he must be able to walk through walls, I noticed the bathroom door was shut. He was so big, when he tried getting into the tub he must have accidentally shut the door and he was just waiting patiently for me to free him!

Ms Bean wasn’t anxious in thunderstorms before she watched Buddha’s behavior. Now, she becomes a twitchy, shaking mess stuck permanently to my knee. We stroll into the laundry room and I pull out a dryer sheet, the kind without any perfume. She looks at me longingly and submits to my hand stroking her whole body, head to tail, with the little piece of paper as her body relaxes. Long ago I read that a rubdown with a Bounce sheet would reduce the static electricity on her fur; and now I’m a believer.

I’m not a pill person, but of course in the NYTimes article above there is a new medicine for dog anxiety during storms and fireworks. I’d rather just go into a windowless room with my dryer sheet and comfort Ms Bean. After all, she’s been through alot these past three weeks. She already has to take a pill in order to ride in a car, so I don’t want a loopy puppy in the house all summer. Vets say it’s best to desensitize your dog to noise.

But carpenters hammering the basement ceiling under the floor of our living room was pretty strange, and not soon to be repeated. All the building noises are almost done, so relax Ms Bean for a little while. Your world is safe and secure. Time to get back to lying on the deck and watching for deer and vermin!

Hope y’all have a safe and Happy Fourth and a strees-free summer time with your fur babies! Here is Ms Bean in the Zen shade garden.IMG_4763

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Serenity in a mountain view

August and September are filled with birthdays in my family. The Bride and my sister Kay share back to back birthdays, I call us Virgo/Libra types (you can count me in later this month) – the Christmas party babies! Happy Birthday to them on this glorious weekend.

These two share more than a couple of dates on the calendar. Kay introduced the Bride to art in her New York City apartment. My sister studied at the Art Student’s League and she also helped to illustrate many medical books during her years working at Mt Sinai Hospital and producing graphic art for the Medical School. With sun pouring through her beautiful Upper East Side window overlooking a garden, the young Bride was given a pencil and a blank canvas along with the love and encouragement of her Aunt Kay.

Painting has been a common thread throughout both their lives. After a long high school day filled with too many AP classes, the Bride would settle into her art class and paint along with beautiful music.  My home is filled with drawings from those days. And Kay’s renditions of our farmhouse in the Berkshires, and our beautiful Welsh Corgis will always decorate our walls.

This meditative time, setting up the instruments of art, the pencils or delicate brushes and turpentine, the smells, the easel outdoors, the time alone to ponder and really see – to see their way into a subject – this bit of creation helped them deal with the everyday stress of school and work. It helped them to slow down.

The Bride sent me an article this week about being busy. http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/06/30/the-busy-trap/?_r=1&

Almost everyone I know is busy. They feel anxious and guilty when they aren’t either working or doing something to promote their work. They schedule in time with friends the way students with 4.0 G.P.A.’s  make sure to sign up for community service because it looks good on their college applications. I recently wrote a friend to ask if he wanted to do something this week, and he answered that he didn’t have a lot of time but if something was going on to let him know and maybe he could ditch work for a few hours. I wanted to clarify that my question had not been a preliminary heads-up to some future invitation; this was the invitation. But his busyness was like some vast churning noise through which he was shouting out at me, and I gave up trying to shout back over it.

The author, Tim Kreider, calls this addiction to busyness a kind of hedge against emptiness, an “existential reassurance.”  We impose it on ourselves and it makes us feel important. After all, if we’re always so busy, how can we ever take time off for self-awareness. He posits that you don’t hear people holding down two jobs with four kids complaining about being too busy, because they’re just plain exhausted. Interesting stuff, this monkey brain!

Surprisingly an old friend simultaneously posted an article about being a distracted parent, about always saying, “Hurry up!” to her child. And I could see how this attraction to being busy can get its start. The child who likes to dawdle, who stops to talk with strangers, who wants to engage with her environment soon learns to make a goal and stick to a time schedule. And if she or he doesn’t, they may be labeled “special” in school…instead of “artist.”

The Love Bug likes to stop for ice cream with her parents. Slowing down is something children can either help us to do, or we can teach them how to be anxious. We’re the adult in this equation, it’s our choice.  photo

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Yesterday was a busy day. It was also the second day of absolutely glorious weather, a day I’d rather have been enjoying outside instead of waiting in an endless waiting room.

While driving to said room, I was listening to an NPR author interview of Douglas Rushkoff who wrote Present Shock, the modern edition of future shock. He was talking about living in a digital age; about the constant pinging of tweets and Facebook messages that serve only to distance us from real time, face to face contact. We get a distorted feeling of connection; we are caught in an elusive virtual present. http://www.upworthy.com/loneliness-illustrated-so-beautifully-you-will-need-to-tell-someone?c=ufb1

The heroine in my current book is certainly not caught in her present. She’s a time traveler, sailing through the buildup to WWII, the 1980s and the flu epidemic of 1918. The Impossible Lives of Greta Wells is a wonderful ride for a summer read. The NYTimes calls it “Elegiac in tone,” full of intrigue brought on by an elusive doctor treating her for depression. Will Greta take a lover in this life? Will her philandering husband return to her in another? Is her twin brother really dead?

It seems Madonna has optioned the film rights to Andrew Sean Greer’s time traveling book!   http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/07/31/madonna-the-impossible-lives-of-greta-wells_n_3683830.html

“I got a phone call last week. … I think it’s fine,” Greer said. ” … From a celebrity who read the book and loved it so much she called me up personally to talk to me about it. I thought it was going to be one of her assistants who was like, loved your book, she’s interested. Right. She didn’t read it. But oh no, no, no. She called me. She read it. She totally got it. There were a couple other people interested and they sort of all made a deal together, and she’s optioned the rights to it. We’ll see what happens. But it’s fun because it was Madonna.”

Yesterday, I was ready to complain about killing time in a doctor’s office. But my very own Dr MacDreamy saw me right away…so I had to switch my first few sentences above out of the present tense and into the past. And I awoke this morning to another glorious day, one day closer to a certain someone’s first birthday. If only we could slow time down just a little.

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What happens when Gabby Giffords writes an op-ed that says it better than anything else I may think of? My post this morning is short, because it’s never a good thing to write when you are mad. The Senate chose to give the American people the finger yesterday – claiming it’s criminals who need to be controlled, not guns. Well, guess what Senators, I’d like to suggest you look for another line of work. Because your actions yesterday were criminal, and the voters will retaliate when your seat comes up for re-election.
http://www.nytimes.com/2013/04/18/opinion/a-senate-in-the-gun-lobbys-grip.html?hp&_r=1&

“I am asking every reasonable American to help me tell the truth about the cowardice these senators demonstrated. I am asking for mothers to stop these lawmakers at the grocery store and tell them: You’ve lost my vote. I am asking activists to unsubscribe from these senators’ e-mail lists and to stop giving them money. I’m asking citizens to go to their offices and say: You’ve disappointed me, and there will be consequences.” Gabby said this and more.

Democratic Senators Heitkamp, Pryor, Begich, and Baucus all voted to kill universal background checks. Shame on you. Granted we still would have needed a couple more Republicans to pass this common sense bill, and I have to think not all of them thought of the Sandy Hook parents as “props.” Here are all the Senators who voted against universal background checks, whose hands are in the pockets of the NRA.
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Want to help get Washington working again? http://represent.us

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Remember when cell phones and blue tooth technology were new? You’d see people walking down the street talking to themselves and wonder, what the heck? Then you’d see that little light in their ear and realize they were not actively hallucinating.

There is currently a cute little PSA on TV with a woman in a grocery store. She is also ostensibly talking to herself…until you notice the baby in her cart. She’s explaining how to pick out fruit, or just passing the time in language. Not baby talk, but really talking to her infant, as if she could understand her. Which is good, because they can.

http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/04/10/the-power-of-talking-to-your-baby/?src=me&ref=general According to this article, children who are raised in a poor or disadvantaged family are actually exposed to less language – fewer numbers of words – than other children before the age of 3. And it is this disparity, that can predict future school achievement or failure.

“The disparity was staggering. Children whose families were on welfare heard about 600 words per hour. Working-class children heard 1,200 words per hour, and children from professional families heard 2,100 words. By age 3, a poor child would have heard 30 million fewer words in his home environment than a child from a professional family. And the disparity mattered: the greater the number of words children heard from their parents or caregivers before they were 3, the higher their IQ and the better they did in school. TV talk not only didn’t help, it was detrimental.”

2,100 words per hour. Now I studied child psychology in college, I knew about the monkey studies, the importance of touch and bonding. I knew about Skinner and operant conditioning, to pick up your baby before they start crying, so they don’t learn to cry for attention all the time. To praise the behavior you want to continue, and ignore others or distract to avoid total tantrum meltdowns. It all seemed so simple. But no one had ever actually counted the words parents say, per hour, until now.

The lesson here is not just to increase the numbers of words you may say to your baby. Because I have a feeling, and it was not a part of this study so I’m going on instinct here, that distracted parenting may have the same effect as hearing 30 million fewer words. When I see a parent with their head in their lap, on their phone texting away, I see a baby who is adrift in the world. I see a toddler in a playground saying “Look at me,” and a parent giving a cursory nod before returning to their oh so important smart phone.

What you say, and not just the number of times you say it, matters – and it matters deeply. When people would compliment the toddler Bride on her appearance, I would always counter with “…and she’s so smart too.” Later, her Grandmother Ada would give her money for a report card that had the supposedly negative checks of “Raising your hand too much in class” or “Talking too much.” 

I will have to continue that tradition with the Love Bug. She is already saying “Mama” and “Nana.” And she is babbling up a storm. She is a lucky little lady to have very talkative parents. And also to have such a musical family. After all, I wonder how often babies are serenaded almost every night with live guitar music? Well, maybe Nashville babies?

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