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Posts Tagged ‘Psychology’

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

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

Is that transparent enough?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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As many of you know, Bob and I have listed our mountain home for sale. Which means when we are not in Nashville, we must vacate the premises periodically for a “showing” to potential buyers. In other words, super-clean the house and pack up Ms Bean for a two hour tour – cue the Gilligan’s Island theme song now!

You might think this is easy.

After all, we have no children in the house; no crumbs, or petrified hot dogs lurking about. A petrified mouse in the basement? Maybe. After all, we are a country house in the forest, with a long gravel driveway and a buried gas tank and a well…sooo, our windows may get dusty but more importantly, our dog gets car sick. Really, really car sick.

The first time we packed Ms Bean up for a ride into town we gave her the Vet’s super-duper anti-nausea pill. It must be given at least two hours ahead of time and costs about $20 per pill. This is the pill she gets for the nine hour ride to TN and the six hour ride to NJ. It lasts about 24 hours and I have to admit can make her a little loopy. We had a great time on the Historic Downtown Mall where dogs are welcome and almost every store is dog-friendly.

The second time a realtor called, we decided to try some people medicine on her, even though the Vet warned us against this tactic. Generic Benadryl costs a nickel for each 25 mg pill. On GoodRx, a coupon site for drugs, it’s half that price; pennies per pill. And its duration would be only four hours, which was more than enough time for someone to walk through our house and find their way down to the river.

It was a hazy, hot and muggy summer day, so we drove just a few miles to a local antique mall. I sheepishly asked the woman at the counter if my dog could come in, or should I leave her with my husband in the car? “She’s a very good dog,” I pleaded. Lucky for us, the woman calculated correctly, that a man sitting with a dog while his wife shops is a Win-Win. Bob was happy and Ms Bean was just fine! There was no foaming at the mouth, Benadryl for the goal!

Yesterday was the third time we had to pack up the dog, and yesterday was the charm. Since the weather was cooperating, dappled sunshine high 70s, we decided to stay in the neighborhood and take her for a walk. And we didn’t medicate her. We drove down the mountain to a development nearby and parked the car. Everything was going according to plan when I thought I saw a bear in the woods. Bean was pulling me hard toward a big black shape stomping through the leaves, but it turned out to be a goat! Mission accomplished. Car-sickness and bear-shaped goats were in our rear-view window.

And Ms Bean was fine! Our little special needs pup experienced no gagging, or foaming, she just curled up and relaxed for the ride.

So in anticipation of more impromptu, realtor-related car trips this summer, I suggested to Bob the idea of a service animal vest for Bean, that would get us out of the heat and into some air conditioning! After researching this a bit, we discovered you can purchase an “emotional support” vest for your dog on Amazon for about a hundred dollars. I mean what dog isn’t an emotional sponge for their owners? Some sites even offer certification, obviously the government hasn’t regulated these things which is why you may see a parrot on your next flight to Disney World.

Still, I’m a basically honest person and it just doesn’t seem right. Instead, I’d like to design a new vest for dogs – the “Shopping Support” vest! I will train my dog to sit and stay when she sees me pick up something I don’t need. If I don’t put it down immediately, she will lay down and not move. A silent protest. I will look down at her, come to my senses, and place the dreaded, overpriced article back on the shelf. This could work for any addiction. A second glass of wine? Walking toward a casino? The OCD dog vest could revolutionize treatment for millions of people.

I wonder if the new Republican Senate Healthcare bill would cover these vests? https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2017/06/whats-in-the-senate-republican-health-care-bill/531258/

After a long day in the car, Ms Bean rests her weary head on the lookout for rabbits. IMG_0846

 

 

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Do you remember your 8th Graders trip to the Nation’s Capital? We lived just three miles away from the ocean, our kids went to Rumson’s middle school where they pretty much lived in shorts and surf tee shorts. But we parents were advised to send our young teens to DC with shirts and ties for the boys, dresses for the girls, because as Mark Twain said, “Clothes make the man (or woman).” The Principal told us that over the years she had found that when students dressed well, their behavior improved…and an overnight trip like this could get a little dicey with all those hormones charging around.

This morning I was reading a list of “Ten Books to read for June” from the BBC website http://www.bbc.com/culture/story/20170602-ten-books-to-read-in-june – not that I will be able to read ten books in one month, but I found this title fascinating, “Strange Contagion,” by Lee Daniel Kravitz. “Kravetz gathers research on social contagions – the ways in which others influence our lives by catchable thoughts, emotions and behaviours.” 

Kravitz looked into the Palo Alto suicide clusters of teens throwing themselves onto train tracks in 2009 and again in 2014. I wrote about this and the term “affluenza” in a study published in the Atlantic here: https://mountainmornings.net/2016/01/03/a-study-in-money/

And I’ve had occasion to think about it recently. Not suicide, but social stress, the whole keeping up with somebody syndrome. One friend hires a company to update her closet, and before you know it the whole subdivision is installing custom closets. Men were comparing notes on woodstoves in the Berkshires, in the Blue Ridge they talk about tractors. You’ve heard of the study about how hanging with overweight friends will make you fat, right?

“…the study’s conclusion that if you have heavier friends, family members, and colleagues, it is more likely that you will be heavier, too. The stronger the relationship between the two people, the stronger the link between their weights. But only one of the pathways—number three—explained why people of the same size clustered together. http://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/how-your-friends-make-you-fat—the-social-network-of-weight-201105242666

The three pathways the Harvard study referenced were: 1) Collaboration; 2) Peer Pressure; and 3) Monkey See Monkey Do! So that curious little monkey is responsible for our widening waistlines? How many of us have gone out to dinner with friends and heard, “Well if you’re ordering an appetizer…” or, on the other hand, maybe everyone says “No thanks” to the dessert menu and you refuse it too, even though you’ve been dying for a piece of their famous apple pie!

The need to belong, to fit into a certain cultural place is universal. Whenever we would show family and neighbors the mechanical room in our basement’s “Not so Big” house and its tankless water heater, they would marvel. To think you never run out of hot water, and you save money by not heating up gallons of water that just sits there waiting for you to get into the shower.

I’m hoping beyond hope that social contagion will keep our country on the road to fewer carbon emissions and a sustainable future despite Mr T’s backtracking on the Paris Agreement. I’ve already heard that California and New York are committed to moving forward with green energy, oh and Pittsburgh didn’t like being lumped into Mr T’s speech yesterday either. The NYTimes reports a coalition is forming to proceed anyway, defying Mr T!

The unnamed group — which, so far, includes 30 mayors, three governors, more than 80 university presidents and more than 100 businesses — is negotiating with the United Nations to have its submission accepted alongside contributions to the Paris climate deal by other nations. “We’re going to do everything America would have done if it had stayed committed,” Michael Bloomberg, the former New York City mayor who is coordinating the effort, said in an interview.”  https://www.nytimes.com/2017/06/01/climate/american-cities-climate-standards.html?_r=0

So catch this thought Mr T, we Americans can dilute your damaging policy and defend Mother Earth. We will not all follow you off that negative/denial cliff, some of us would like to protect our world for future generations. It’s the least and the most we can do. Now if I could just get Bob to buy a Tesla!      IMG_0538

 

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In the run-up last year to our 50th high school reunion, my best friend could not be found.

Her name was JoEllen, and she appeared in 1962 like me, out of the blue. Only instead of going to Sacred Heart Elementary School, she had attended a private school. But in all other ways we connected. We were outliers, outsiders. My step-father was Jewish, and her parents were Jewish. We didn’t wear the typical public school uniform of the day for girls; girdles, stockings, teased hair and make-up.

We didn’t really fit in with any clique, so we made up our own insulated poetic/drama/dweeb club. We sat with some of the kids going on to college in the cafeteria (the Big Chill), and they graciously accepted us. Two strange blondes appearing on the scene, with no other friends. When I started dating Bob, we became full-fledged members. We felt different, and we dressed differently, in kilts, knee socks and Weejuns. In a sea of beautiful 60s era Mad Men Young Women, who were being told to go on to secretarial school, or maybe nursing, including myself with my paltry “B” average, we acted like we didn’t care what others thought.

Of course all teenagers care deeply, but we had each other as a lifeline. We were inseparable, in fact they called us the Bobbsey Twins.

I thought of JoEllen last night after cleaning up the kitchen and running the dishwasher. Bob walked in for some ice cream, and I said, “The kitchen is closed!” This is what her German housekeeper would say to us whenever I slept over at her house. with a thick German accent of course. We would sneak downstairs later, to raid the refrigerator. Her bedroom was beautifully decorated, with twin beds set at an angle so we could talk all night. I had never before seen matching bedspreads and drapes…

Her father was a doctor, and my step-father was a lawyer and a judge. This too set us apart, nobody wanted the daughter of the town judge to go out partying, drinking beer or stirring up trouble.

I remember once we vacationed in Atlantic City with the Flapper and the Judge, and we put on an accent (what kind I can’t recall) and insisted we were really fraternal twins to every new acquaintance and giggled ourselves silly later. We wore bikinis and that was new and risque. It was pre-Borat hilarity! We had FUN together; she exhibited a kind of strength, and confidence I admired. She was the strong one, and I followed her lead, like Zadie Smith in “Swing Time.”

JoEllen grew up wealthy, privileged to a certain degree having traveled the world. I grew up dirt poor, traveling from my foster home in NJ to the Flapper’s house in PA, and finally settling in with my biological family. Still we were a team, an egalitarian brazen duo, we found a safe harbor in each other, we needed each other to navigate the halls of our public high school. No one could touch us, and now, no one could find her.

I’d heard she moved to NYC and became an orthodontist. That was at our ten year reunion, but she didn’t show up that time either. She’s not on Facebook. Bob is a super sleuth with internet search engines, and even he couldn’t find her. Great Grandma Ada knows everyone and everything about the Jewish community in our old town, and even she didn’t know what happened to her parents. It was a great mystery.

When we find ourselves attending Town Halls without our congressmen present it’s unnerving. Tomorrow night’s Correspondent’s Dinner sans Mr T sends another glaring social signal. Sometimes lines cannot be erased, and the divide in our country grows larger. If you can’t bother to show up, you can’t be bothered with us! Didn’t Woody Allen say, “Showing up is 80% of life?”

When I showed a shred of sympathy for the rude treatment Ivanka Trump received in Germany, I was told she is not worthy. Because of who she is, because of her father. It’s US vs THEM and that’s a recipe for war; it’s universal and compelling. And I’m tired of war. When I wrote for a newspaper, I covered both sides of the river. We have a class and a caste system in this country; and we have a profound problem with racism, which is why our democratic pendulum swung from O to T.

The Sacred Heart nuns taught me to respect everyone, it was the catholic way. And the Flapper told me everyone has a story. At least Ivanka showed up. I found this announcement of JoEllen’s wedding in 1971, there is no mention of her graduating our high school. And then she dropped off the end of the earth. http://www.nytimes.com/1971/08/15/archives/joellen-dicker-wed-to-lawyer.html?_r=0

JoEllen Dicker Trench Coat 20170428

 

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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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Months ago, a friend’s daughter mentioned that she had stopped taking Adderal, a drug that was prescribed years earlier for Attention Deficit (ADD). She was proud of weaning herself off this stimulant and started looking at the world, and her career differently. I was happy for her, since as y’all know I am NOT a pill person – well except for vitamins – and I recommended she read this book, “Thinking Fast and Slow,” by Daniel Kahneman who won the Nobel Prize in 2002 for Economics, even though he is a psychologist.

A therapist friend recommended this book to me, and Bob just finished reading it on our Kindle App, so now it’s my turn. It’s easy enough to say that men are from Mars, but this non-fiction book doesn’t try to explain male vs female minds. In fact, gender has nothing to with it. Instead we find out that our instinctual, fast assessment of any situation is the hero of our cognitive world, and the slower, analytical mind is rather lazy!

System 2, in Kahneman’s scheme, is our slow, deliberate, analytical and consciously effortful mode of reasoning about the world. System 1, by contrast, is our fast, automatic, intuitive and largely unconscious mode. It is System 1 that detects hostility in a voice and effortlessly completes the phrase “bread and. . . . ” It is System 2 that swings into action when we have to fill out a tax form or park a car in a narrow space. (As Kahneman and others have found, there is an easy way to tell how engaged a person’s System 2 is during a task: just look into his or her eyes and note how dilated the pupils are.)  http://www.nytimes.com/2011/11/27/books/review/thinking-fast-and-slow-by-daniel-kahneman-book-review.html

When we speak about the “tone” of a conversation, as we have been doing about Mr T’s recent attempts at a Press Conference, we are engaging System 1. It is the nuanced way we communicate with others, the reason we may meet someone and feel an immediate kinship. I was actually thinking that System 1 may be a higher evolutionary adaptation to an increasingly complex and interconnected technological world. Making a diagnosis of ADD more of a plus, than a minus.

Now Bob’s opinion of an ADD diagnosis is that your environment isn’t sufficiently stimulating. As the student who sat in front of him in French class in the 60s, I know this to be true – his legs were always moving behind my desk, so much so that I felt as if I was on a Disney ride. I am positive he would have been medicated as a child. And our son had a similar level of energy in high school, similar to a race horse in the gate, one very hard to contain in a “normal” classroom. I can already see this fast level of relating to the world in the Love Bug. I can almost see her mind racing to keep up with us; at the age of two she was asking us to teach her how to read!

So the inner-linguist-in-me was delighted to read this morning that in fact, our thoughts may have been shaped by the kind of crops our ancestors grew! http://www.bbc.com/future/story/20170118-how-east-and-west-think-in-profoundly-different-ways

 

Growing rice requires far greater cooperation: it is labour-intensive and requires complex irrigation systems spanning many different farms. Wheat farming, by contrast, takes about half the amount of work and depends on rainfall rather than irrigation, meaning that farmers don’t need to collaborate with their neighbours and can focus on tending their own crops.

This BBC article explains how so many social science experiments are biased toward the Western world, more specifically American graduate students who participate in these studies. The idea of Western thought being more frontier in nature, valuing the individual, John Wayne, self-directed approach, as differentiated from Eastern thought which values the whole, group achievement, socialist model over the individual is a narrative based in reality, and not alternative facts.  “…our social environment moulds our minds. From the broad differences between East and West, to subtle variation between US states, it is becoming increasingly clear that history, geography and culture can change how we all think in subtle and surprising ways – right down to our visual perception.”

And I would add Red and Blue states to this mix. I once asked a group of women knitting together in a room if in fact every US citizen didn’t deserve to have health care. This was early on, when President Obama was being blocked by every single Republican legislator from passing health insurance reform. And the one Republican knitter in the room said very defiantly “Absolutely not!” She was thinking like a pioneer, and not like someone on the Titanic.

The Flapper loved everything Eastern, including Buddhism, and believed in mindfulness before it was ever trending. Since I received the results of my Ancestry DNA, I realize that my cells are all Irish, with unfortunately no Asian influence. But ever since I was a girl, wearing my Catholic school uniform, my environment taught me to share and think collectively…and maybe now we need to think faster than ever. We need to be the first Jedi.

“All that we are is the result of what we have thought. The mind is everything. What we think we become.”

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I’m living in a small sky blue speck, in a sea of blood red.

The Old Dominion voted for Hillary Clinton, as did most of the big cities and states on both coasts. But Trump’s clarion call swayed the majority of our electoral college, surprising my Democratic family and friends. Shocking me into a dystopian fugue state. Yesterday I actually felt like a zombie, which is to say I didn’t feel much. Great Grandma Ada asked me to explain it, and I had no words. My niece Lucia asked me what she should tell her daughters, and I had no words.

Whenever I am at a loss for words, I look to poetry, and so Bob Dylan came to mind given his recent Nobel Prize. I want to buy all his albums, in vinyl, and play them on an old fashioned record player, with a needle that gets stuck sometimes so you have to pick it up and put it down again. Because he spoke of the great divide, of the power elite who could send our boys to a swamp in Asia because our government, our country, thought we had God on our side. He called attention to the swath of red states, to the working class who today are called the vanishing middle class.

All those White people with no college degree, going nowhere, feeling left behind in the Rust Belt. One third of the Latinos who voted the GOP line, because they didn’t want anymore workers coming over here for free, taking their jobs. All those Evangelical Christians, who voted for the least Christ-like candidate our country ever saw fit to nominate. All those old men who could just never trust a woman to do a so-called man’s job protecting this country. All that free-floating fear and anger, don’t matter if he pops some Tic Tacs and kisses the hell outta you.

Many are brandishing their firearms, wishing the liberal elites take the next plane to Canada. Making false distinctions between love of country and government. I wonder how long it will take them to hate the new GOP government. Feeling self-righteous, they know not what they have done. But while our country is divided, the power players are smiling and gracious, talking about our democracy.

You don’t need a weather man
To know which way the wind blows.

Only time will tell what this “Historic” election means for Women, for the Undocumented, for Muslims, for the Climate. Our system isn’t rigged when a despot can win 279 electoral votes but not the popular vote, right; and the gerrymandering that flooded both houses on the Hill with red shall never be undone. Lobbyists are fleeing DC like rats from a ship.

But hark, the Dow is going up folks, because the Market hates uncertainty, so Wall Street must think they have a friend in this lustful Billionaire. After all, he could shoot someone and get away with it, he’s got God on his side! When President Obama shakes his hand on the White House porch today, I just may lose my lunch.

In a many dark hour
I’ve been thinkin’ about this
That Jesus Christ
Was betrayed by a kiss
But I can’t think for you
You’ll have to decide
Whether Judas Iscariot
Had God on his side.

The Groom told the Love Bug that, “Everybody gets a turn.” And even though we all thought this was Hillary’s turn, the people voted so now it’s Trump’s turn. And I would add the  biggest, loudest bully on the block will need to face Pocahontas, aka Senator Elizabeth Warren in four years, so we better get busy. The Boston Globe reported Warren saying: “I’m intensely frustrated by the apparent likelihood that, for the second time in five elections, a Democratic nominee will have won the popular vote but lost the presidency in the electoral college.” 

And just like Gore, I’m devastated. Just like McGovern and Humphrey, I’m feeling left behind. The wind is blowing brown oak leaves past my aviary window, circling and bobbing to their death, they are being tracked into the house. But the sun came up this morning. And my fingers found words again. img_5313

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