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Another day, another market. For me this is the best way to travel; visit vintage and farmers’ markets, climb up medieval cobblestone hills with lavender wind in my hair. No laundry, no cleaning, no schedule and three cooks preparing delicious dinners every night. 

Bob just jumped into the pool because the sun has returned. Provence is warming up, the rain has stopped and it looks as if Liberty Egalite and Fraternite will win this election – the French people are voting today for inclusion, for freedom, for Macron! Tonight we will all eat cake because it’s Catherine’s birthday!

Catherine is a recovery room nurse with a golden retriever at home, who looks just like our villa dog Flash. Only Flash is a brilliant black with a white stripe down his chest. 

Tomorrow is cooking class! Ratatouille and bouillabaisse are on the menu along with an evening of wine tasting in Luberon.  I’ve never actually had to cut up a whole fish, head to tail, so wish me luck. 

And desserts? Mais oui for lunch and dinner! I’m afraid I may never eat another American strawberry again, they are so sweet here. I’m also afraid to get back on a scale when we return home. Our fabulous tour hosts are Marco, Claudio and Suzanna of https://www.whatscookin.it/

They pamper us, they drive us, they delight us every day. Barbara is teaching me about truffles because I’ve always wondered what the whole mystique is about; the smell, the tree roots, the dogs. And I’m proud to say we had some freshly grated on eggs this morning because this area is actually truffle heaven. 

I bought a couple of grams in a small shop that looks like an abbey – they are dried December truffles that smell like chocolate. I’m hoping my cousin Kenny the chef will give me a recipe or two. I was thinking of maybe sprinkling them on a white pizza? For now I must hide them from fearless Flash. 

We will light a fire and turn on the TV tonight to see the official results. Macron needs more than 60% to govern well. I am falling more in love with France every day, the language, the people, the cuisine! 

Maybe I can talk Bob into buying some inoculated filbert trees for growing truffles? I hear that TN terrain is ripe for the special symbiotic relationship it takes to create such a gastronomic delight. I wonder if Ms Bean could be trained…

Cheers to learning new things! And to my French friends for fighting fear and voting for Love. We needed them during our Revolution and we still do! 

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I hear small pieces of news from the states, like a dream I cannot remember all the pieces. Did Mika and Joe get engaged? Did Congress actually dismantle the ACA? Did somebody win the voice?

But I woke and forgot these snippets of memory to listen to coffee being ground and birds singing. My back is still tender, so after a rainy, magical walk around Aix yesterday we have decided to hang by the pool today and worship the sun. There is a medieval city across a field of wild thyme, and depending on our mood, we may take a stroll after lunch. 

Some people travel to live, and some live to travel. Like food, one can let it consume your life. And I have never been a good traveler, I’m more of a stay-at-home, non-traveler type. Maybe it was Nell and her agoraphobia, or maybe it was my semi-homeless upbringing, never feeling at home with one mother or the other, always between two families.

But our new “family” for this trip is a happy and healthy bunch staying in a secluded villa. It all started on Facebook with one of the Big Chill’s sister. Barb is a retired physician and organizes groups of friends who love food (check), love to cook (check), and love to hunt fungi (um no). Well at least I’ve never gone foraging for mushrooms, and wouldn’t know a real one from a poisonous one, but this group does. We are eleven Americans, nearly half in health related fields.

This is a different kind of trip. No traipsing through the forest on a fungi treasure hunt, just visiting open-air markets and sightseeing in the South of France. At the end of each day, our chefs have prepared fabulous meals with local ingredients. For instance, this area is known as Luberon and it is famous for wine of course, and melons! Last night we had melon ice cream for dessert and it was the freshest most delicious ice cream I’ve ever tasted in my whole life!

We are too early for the fabulous fields of lavender- that happens the end of June and early July, so as Bob likes to say, “We must return.” Because soon Bob will be getting his wings back, and I know he will want to fly away whenever and wherever the Mistral wind blows him. 

Today we miss the flower and farmers’ markets, the Roman ruins and the wine tasting at Chateauneuf du Pape. Maybe tomorrow we will be ship-shape for our trip to Avignon. I will stretch and I will swim, getting stronger every day. But right now, reading by the pool would be divine. On Sunday the French will decide their future, so who knows? Maybe Bob and I will be stranded here in Paradise. 

I had better brush up on my French, n’est ce pas?  

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While cleaning and decluttering my aviary, I discovered a wish list I had made back in February of 2002 while still in NJ. At that time my son was applying to college and my daughter was working at her first post-college job in DC. I was anticipating the dreaded Empty Nest syndrome. It was fun to read the 25 wishes; many have already come true! Though I do not have an agent or a cook…yet.

Strangely enough, the very first thing on my wish list is to get more organized! Which is exactly what I’m doing; I now know where every single utensil is in my kitchen, I have the perfect amount of towels, and I have thrown out all those files I kept of Rumson Borough Council meetings. I did however keep the random thank you note from readers. It’s always nice to know your copy was read, and not just used to line a bird cage. Newspapers, good stuff.

As you probably know I am NOT a list-maker. But I did pick up a book during the Cville Festival of the Book titled, “52 Lists for Happiness,” by Moorea Seal. Anita and I were talking about how we could have more fun during these Trumpconian years, how we could avoid being dragged down by politics. When I read on my Facebook feed yesterday that we had dropped the “Mother of All Bombs” on Afghanistan, during the holiest week for Christians and Jews, I thought it must be fake news. But I knew Gail, the person posting this, she is a devoted activist and feminist in her church and our community.

She held un umbrella over our heads when we marched in Cville to support Planned Parenthood. She helped organize our first trip to Richmond to march for women’s rights. Gail knows a thing or two. She probably makes lists because she knows how to get things done! Gail quoted a minister, Rev Emily Heath, who said:

Next time someone tells you this is a “Christian nation” remind them that we just bombed Afghanistan during Holy Week.

Specifically we did it on the day that Scripture tells us Christ said these words:

“I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” – John 13:34-35

Lord have mercy. Christ have mercy. Lord have mercy.

Number 9 on my wish list was to have a “writing room.” A retreat from the world that was not just a corner of the dining room. As I sit here this morning looking at the journal I bought that might prompt me to make lists, I am profoundly afraid for our nation. We have an unpredictable President dropping bombs with alacrity, because his daughter was moved by dying Syrian babies, but not by a dead Syrian baby who washed up on a Greek island. But no, we can’t let Syrian refugees into our country. God Forbid.

At least Assad has decided to move civilians out of their war-torn cities, Sunnis go to Sunni territory and Shia go to Shia. That’s a step, to get the proxy war moving along. The Russians must be just as worried as we are! “The meeting in Moscow on Friday between Russian, Iranian and Syrian foreign ministers was the first held between the three allies since the US launched a missile attack on a Syrian airbase in response to the alleged chemical attack.” http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-39597630

I am now packing up my home, about to start a new chapter. What will I carry with me, what about all the Flapper’s correspondence? Yes. The elbow noodle pictures from preschool? Probably not. Will we be welcomed into a new community? Will people ask us, as they do all over the South, “What church do you belong to?”

Well, I belong to the church of peace and love, to the people who don’t run their lives by dogma or dietary dictates. I belong to my family of all colors and faiths. I belong to the sisterhood of brave, smart women. I’m going to start my first list – The Things That Make Me Happy Right Now:

Classical Music

Ms Bean

Birds Singing

The Mountains

Spring

The GIF of Our 2 yr Old Grandson Dancing

Bob in the Buddha Garden

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There’s a big Georgian building in Ivy I’ve mentioned before, it’s an offshoot of UVA that offers free and open forums to citizens every month with leaders on the world stage. Its mission is to decode public policy for the rest of us, and its “American Forum” can be viewed on PBS – if there is still a PBS in the future:

“At the Miller Center, we strive to illuminate presidential and political history accurately and fairly. To shine a light on all the ways our democracy has worked—and all the times America has struggled. To inspire America’s leaders with unbiased insights, especially on the presidency, that advance democratic institutions and the public good.” https://millercenter.org

Because I felt like I needed some illuminating, I bid farewell to Bob, who was waiting at home for painters, and drove into town to hear Gerald F Seib (Wall Street Journal’s Executive Washington Editor and Chief Commentator) pontificate on presidential power at the Miller Center. As makeup artists powdered their faces, and the lights dimmed for filming, American Forum’s host, Douglas Blackmon, prepared to interview Seib about Donald Trump. The room was so packed I was squeezed onto a pew sitting sidesaddle. Seniors and students alike, we were all eager to understand Trumpland.

Seib told us that reaching out directly to US citizens is nothing new, that President Obama actually liked to cut out the main stream media and talk to real people. Utilizing Twitter however is a new phenomena.  Labeling media the “…enemy of the American people” is not just new, it’s dangerous. He called Trump a “Master at Communicating,” in that he creates bright shiny objects (Tweets) every day in order to control the media.

Seib also told us time and again that we must take everything a President says seriously; when his aides tell us not to take his statements – like the wiretapping charge against Obama – literally, we the public and the media must still consider his words seriously. The surveillance charge is a diversion, it puts the others (his media enemies) on the defensive.

And although I like to think the purpose of journalism is to afflict the comfortable, and comfort the afflicted (Scotty Reston), Seib told us that reporters need to explain and put into context a leader’s words. His job is to analyze in depth, to find the meaning and illuminate facts. He emphasized the one thing journalists have is our credibility, ditto for presidents, then he asked us how will we know when to take Trump seriously – if everything he says isn’t?

I thought of Peter and the Wolf.

He did acknowledge that Rupert Murdoch bought the WSJ years ago, but insisted that his editorial pages have been critical of Trump. And he told us about some memos that had been circulating; saying it’s fine to call certain statements “False” but not “Lies,” not until they are proven to have come from a person’s conscious intent…“and nobody has skirted around facts like Donald Trump.”

Seib warned reporters not to let their attitude substitute for the facts. In other words, don’t become the story you were covering. Harder and harder to do these days I imagine. With UVA Communications majors sitting in the orchestra seats, Blackmon asked what one piece of advice he would give to a young journalist today. “Be honest!”

Seib went on to say he would tell Mr T he must be careful not to devalue his currency (ie credibilty) and to understand and accept that a free press is good for democracy and he should not diminish it!

In short, the Bully Pulpit is still real, it exists and it’s easier than ever to get everybody’s attention. And today, similar to Nixon’s Watergate era, we reporters must be willing to, “…suspend disbelief”…one story at a time. In order to write about the news today we must  “temporarily accept as believable, events or characters that would ordinarily be seen as incredible. This is usually to allow an audience to appreciate works of literature or drama that are exploring unusual ideas.” http://www.phrases.org.uk/meanings/suspension-of-disbelief.html        Yes sir, that’s the best definition of Trumpland so far!

Let’s hope Mr T doesn’t lay his hands on Angela Merkel while he’s talking trade with Germany. No shoulder rubs for the President who grabs you know what. Seriously. And let’s also hope Tillerson does no harm in Asia. Although he refused to bring the press with him, so how will we know? Not to worry, Andrea Mitchell is on the job.  This is the season to lay mulch at the feet of Buddha, and have faith that North Korea doesn’t take Tillerson seriously.

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Yesterday, after listening to yet another sycophant rant about our Deflector-in-Chief, how “something” must have happened at Trump Tower if Mr T says it did, I turned off the TV and downloaded a book on my Ipad. It’s getting harder and harder to watch our democracy self-destruct from within, in 140 characters.

I was going for some peace and quiet with my morning coffee. I wanted to read about the Danes, and why they are considered the happiest people on the planet. Their winters are long and brutal, still they remain upbeat, they have a sense of “Hyggeness,” which loosely translated means cozy intimacy, well-being, or feeling tucked-in as if you haven’t a care in the world. Hygge is pronounced “HOO gah.” Now I know one can achieve this with a Zanax, but I’ve told you before I’m not a pill person.

So I opened my browser, went to Amazon Prime and bought “The Little Book of Hygge” by Meik Wiking – which was more expensive in its Ereader form than in hardcover? Then I opened my Kindle App and voila! I stopped the noise inside my head and started to read.

Instant hygge is possible. All you have to do is light a candle. Danes use twice as many candles as the rest of the world combined. So get a candle from a candle shop and light it. You may also want to switch on a lamp. Lamps can also make you feel hygge. Danes use twice as many lamps as the rest of the world combined. Make sure that if you do get a lamp, you don’t buy one from Ikea. Swedish lamps are a bit rubbish and won’t make you feel hygge.           https://www.theguardian.com/books/2016/sep/11/the-little-book-of-hygge-by-meik-wiking-digested-read

That little bit was a satirical piece in the Guardian. But it is pretty funny to think of a group of Danes sitting at a table under a fluorescent lamp fidgeting like they are being burned alive. Not the actual torture part, but thinking about Danish designers and how they love diffused light. When you consider how long the winter nights are in Denmark, it makes sense. In the way that indigenous people of North America venerate snow, the Danes love fire. Wood burning fireplaces crackle and candles burn every night in just about every Danish home. And not the scented kind either.

Being surrounded with family and friends is also key to Hygge. Feeling like you are safe and at home. One night during the Rocker and Aunt KiKi’s wedding week in California, we were all gathered around a fire pit. My Sister-in-Law Jorja was there, and two of her oldest friends. And even though the fire pit was fueled with gas, so we didn’t have the smell or the music of wood burning, it was essential Hygge. Great Grandma Ada came out and started to sing. If only I had known the term at the time!

How could it have been more Hygge?

So I bought a candle and I’m determined to capture some of this Danish serenity for myself. And Bob has been pruning away around the yard; I might suggest a fire pit down by the Buddha garden. We have bluebirds flying all over the place these days, making nests and calling and dancing for mates on our deck. Luckily, nobody is knocking on any of our windows, like that cardinal a few years back. Obviously, pruning shrubs below the window ledge works for our territorial wildlife.

And speaking of migratory animals, I wish someone would point out to Mr T that flying away to his FL mansion every weekend and Tweeting away with his tiny fingers in the wee small hours is not very Presidential. Making paranoid, delusional remarks about his predecessor, ditto. He might benefit from some Hygge with the grandchildren, under a parasol, don’t you agree?       DAVECAITLY-231

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“As a rule, men worry more about what they can’t
see than about what they can.” Julius Caesar

Of all the senses we humans rely on from day to day, our sense of sight is for me, paramount. I love looking out at the patchwork slate Blue Mountain range after the sun strikes them and clouds are rolling over them. I love opening the sleeping porch door on these warm Spring days and watching the sun stream through the screens; seeing the tall oaks sway while hearing the March wind whip around the house. Living in the country is like being in a kaleidoscope of color with contiguous shades of yellow buds and green moss fighting for attention.

This week I went to the eye doctor for one of my very long appointments. He likes to keep track of my blind spot, also tenderly known as my “blonde spot.” You know the one, that horrible Homonymous Hemianopsia (the Bride’s fav medical term) I experienced after my bout with West Nile. It’s pretty common for me to become startled by someone approaching from the right, because I don’t see them coming until they are right in front of me. http://www.hemianopsia.net

To test my visual field, I stick my head inside a globe and hold onto a buzzer. The trick is to only look at the central light and buzz when I see a flash of light in my periphery. Sometimes I go for long periods seeing nothing, desperately wanting to push the buzzer, and knowing the flashes of light must be over there, somewhere on my right. I want to cheat and glance to the right, I blink a few times, and suddenly I see the light again.

Lots of things go through my mind in the eye doctor’s office. “Why did I forget my glasses at the Rocker’s wedding?” “Will I be able to drive at night?” “What’s going on with that old lady who wants to talk about the art work on the walls?” “Will that be me in a few more years?” “Who buys their glasses online?”

The news was good. My blonde spot is actually getting a little smaller. The problem is the “Real News” is bad. Everybody saw, with their own eyes, Jeff Sessions tell Congress that he DID NOT have anything to do with any Russians in the lead-up to the election. Then he began to qualify that, pleading poor memory. But if he’s getting some dementia why can he remember that he didn’t talk about the election…and why hasn’t he resigned already?

Our Attorney General lied UNDER OATH!

After the Oscars, a friend of mine created a hashtag #moonlighting. It’s when you think you lost, but you didn’t. The envelope was wrong, poor Warren Beatty was left standing, humiliated by someone else’s mistake. Or maybe he forgot to read the “Best Actress” part before he started talking…or maybe he needs glasses too? Who knew. But I immediately thought:

#moonlighting is like the opposite of #gaslighting

Gaslighting is what Mr T and his cronies love to do with us, the American people. He will say one thing , and then KellyAnne will curl up on a couch and get us all talking about something else. We never know what to believe. His administration treats the truth like it’s surreal art, to be fractured and deconstructed until it resembles something entirely different. And even after he uses a Navy Seal’s wife as a political empath for bi-partisan patriotism, he turns around and signs legislation to allow the mentally ill to buy guns while calling the attacks on his Attorney General Sessions a “total witch hunt!”

Remember his followers chanting “Lock her up?”

Mr T is telling us not to believe what we saw on TV with our own eyes, the Sessions’ big lie about Russia. And for more Dr Strangelove news, Russian media is advising Mr T to stay the course with Sessions. http://www.bbc.com/news/world-39157854

Recusing himself from an investigation into Russian interference in our election is not enough, and I predict by Monday Jeff Sessions will be gone. This house of cards is just waiting for that March wind to come in and sweep up the liars and the lobbyists. Maybe we will all wake from this nightmare that Mr T won the election, by a “landslide.” Maybe the moonlight will cast its shadow on our democracy, and our would-be King, with his jester Bannon, will have to see the folly he has created.

Then we can all dance like nobody’s watching.

davecaitly-619

 

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Tell me something good
Tell me that you love me, yeah

This Rufus & Chaka Khan song has been spinning through my head for days. Penned by Stevie Wonder, it’s not so much a funky love song to me, as it is a plea to our newly elected executive branch to stop worrying about a nuclear arms race. And rolling back civil rights, including where we can take a leak. Cause it’s not about bathrooms boys!

So here’s something good Bob and I have been planning for weeks now – a trip to the South of France. And it’s OK that the French are ratcheting up their own particular brand of politics, because I don’t plan on reading anything about their election. This trip will be purely hedonistic; we’ll be staying at a villa with a group of friends and a CHEF!  And we will be learning how to cook French food!

As some of you may know, Bob loves to travel. His parents carted him around the world as a child. I recently saw some early footage of 7 year old Bob lugging a gigantic pair of binoculars off a boat in the Caribbean. Plus, since we affirmed our Ancestry DNA I’ve realized that he has a strong nomadic gene that keeps his eyes searching for the horizon, or an oasis, or something… If he sits still for too long in one place, his biology may actually change! His fingers and toes start to tingle and off he goes!

Me, travel? Not so much. Maybe it’s my biology too? After all, the Irish always knew to “Pay the rent first” since their Protestant landlords could throw them off their farms at a moment’s notice. And then there’s my Year of Living Dangerously, which lead to my own nomadic existence. Driving back and forth across the Delaware Water Gap to visit the Flapper who was recuperating from the automobile accident. I had a paradoxical upbringing, filled with unconditional love from two very different families who tried to share me equally.

Instead of thriving on this NJ to PA cross-cultural-border parenting, I became an adult who preferred to stay at home with a nice cup of tea, or a glass of wine. I might have become agoraphobic if it wasn’t for the Flapper. She instilled in me a love for learning about other people, for listening to their stories. And there’s only so much one can learn from their own front porch.

We travel light, two carry-ons. And this time no children, or grandchildren, which is only the second time for us; we did that Viking cruise last year. I’ve heard that the first ten to fifteen years of retirement people travel quite a bit, and knowing Bob I had better be prepared with travel-size toiletries. I will keep a bag packed.

This morning i stumbled upon an article in the Travel section of BBC News, “50 Reasons to #LoveTheWorld.” Stunning photographs and insight into why (some) people love to travel. My reason might be “Because widening my experience of other cultures deepens my capacity for compassion.” It also helps me live in the NOW, since I love to leave lots of time unplanned to discover the unexpected.

http://www.bbc.com/travel/gallery/20161122-50-reason-to-lovetheworld–2016-edition

But first I have to make a poster for the Town Hall we’ll be attending this weekend at the local high school. The one our GOP Rep Tom Garrett refuses to attend after hosting two cowardly Facebook meetings: “The Facebook event couldn’t really even be considered a town hall. It was more Tom Garrett reading pre-written statements into a camera. Constituents continually said that the Facebook event was insufficient and that they needed an in-person town hall where there could be an actual conversation between Tom Garrett and his constituents. Garrett ultimately refused to hold such an event, saying of his events during the congressional recess that ‘most will be online’”  http://bluevirginia.us/2017/02/tom-garrett-tried-avoid-constituents-holding-virtual-town-hall-facebook-not-go-well

Sorry for that bit of Bad News Garrett from the 5th Congressional District of the Old Dominion. On a lighter note, Ms Bean always wants to go outside to her slice of sun on the deck! Enjoy this beautiful Spring weather everyone.  ps, that’s a pomelo we didn’t pick from a tree, like we did in California (insert smile emoji). And it sits atop a French waxed tablecloth of lavender from the French West Indies.img_0125

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