Posts Tagged ‘This American Life’

When the Rocker was in high school, he’d often say goodbye like this, “Peace out.” With his heavy/metal/grunge band in our garage, it really was peaceful when he left for school. And I’d remember the Flapper telling me that I will miss all that commotion when I’m old and grey. She was right.

Another catch phrase of the turn of the last century was, “Keeping it real.” It seemed to be the motto of his generation: be true to yourself, don’t be a poser, do the right thing. My son was voted the “Most Changed” in high school, probably because he started out looking like the rest of his class (beach/boy/prep) and ended up with dreads, on his way to rock stardom imho.

He was keeping it real, he was growing and changing. Some people I’ve found, never quite climb out of high school. Others learn to transcend its harrowing halls.

I listened to the podcast This American Life on the car ride to Nashville yesterday, titled “To Be Real.” It spanned a few topics, but the one I found most interesting was about North Korea – how we don’t seem to take Kim Jong-un seriously with his photoshopped ears and Russian hats. It links you to an informative podcast about nuclear proliferation  http://www.armscontrolwonk.com/podcast/ A nuclear physicist wants us to pay attention!

So what is real and what is superficial? Ira Glass explored magic and the bespoke porn business next. Yes, you heard me right, it seems that with all the free porn online, the film industry has adapted itself to create custom videos for its customers. Who knew?https://www.thisamericanlife.org/radio-archives/episode/620/to-be-real

Is this the real life?
Is this just fantasy?
Caught in a landslide
No escape from reality
Open your eyes
Look up to the skies and see

Tomorrow Queen, or whatever is left of the original band, will be playing in Nashville at the Bridgestone arena. American Idol alum Adam Lambert has replaced Freddie Mercury but nothing can replace his lyrics. He was an original.

And today is the Rocker’s birthday! Thank you for being in this world, for bringing us love and laughter, and music only you could see and play. For being a tolerant little brother and exceptional son. We hit a few speed bumps along the way to maturity, but you handled them with grace. I had an abiding trust in your character and your talent.

Marrying your beautiful bride this year was the icing on your birthday cake! You have always made me proud, and scoring the Dunkirk trailer, working for Christopher Nolan, made my heart explode exponentially. http://www.dunkirkmovie.com

Happy Birthday DJR, and thank you for always being real.  DAVECAITLY-056 2

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The latest This American Life podcast on NPR was all about summer camp. https://www.thisamericanlife.org/radio-archives/episode/109/notes-on-camp

About those people who absolutely loved camp and still think of it as a highlight of their young lives; and those who either never went to camp, or hated it for one summer. I fall into the former category. I started attending Camp St Joseph (CSJ) for Girls in the Catskills when I was around 10 years old, for the whole summer, and made it all the way to Counselor-in-Training at 16.

Which means I was a glorified waitress, but it was my first real job, and I was ecstatic.

Of course I was homesick that first summer. I had been contemplating moving home with the Flapper, and she was a working single mom at the time. So if I wanted to make the move work, she and my older sister Kay insisted I go to camp. CSJ was run like a military base camp. A bugle woke you at dawn and points were deducted from your team if you were late for the flag raising, if your uniform was wrinkled, or if a nun couldn’t bounce a coin off your neatly made cot/bed. The rafters were open so evening temperatures plummeted – we slept in our sweaters and socks.

Did I forget to tell you that each cabin had a nun sleeping in it?

Or that we went to Mass. Every. Single. Morning.?

But this is the place where I came of age. Where we sang Ave Maria on our way through the woods to a secluded grotto with a statue of Mary. Where I played Sir Lancelot in the play because I was taller than the other girl with a voice. Where I learned to play basketball like a pro. I can still remember the smell of the basketball court’s wood floor. The stomping, the cheers from the crowd, the ice cold Pepsi bottle from a machine after all our games.

I think the Flapper was pleasantly surprised that I cried when it came time to leave camp that first summer. After all, there were no smart phones to keep in touch; in fact, the camp didn’t want us to contact our parents at all. Every now and then we’d have to sit down and write them a letter, but that was voluntary – hence the phrase, no news is good news! After my first letter pleading my case to return home, my Mother never heard from me again.

Separation is an essential part of human development. Who really wants their kids living in their basement forever? Every year, when it came time to sew my name tags on all my camp clothes (khaki shorts and white polo shirts), the process of mini-individuation would begin. Raised as an only child with my foster parents, I learned how to handle conflict. I was also free to ride horses, learn archery, and play a mean game of jacks on our cabin’s front porch!

Today parents can keep track of their kids at summer camp via social media. I hate to sound stodgy, but IMHO this is not a great idea. Instead of separating parent from child for the summer, and allowing your child to blossom, constant virtual contact can give rise to separation anxiety… for the parent. Why isn’t Johnny in the river rafting picture? Where are Jane’s bunkmates in the craft cabin photo?

If I remember correctly, there were certain things I’d rather NOT tell my parents. Today, privacy is a thing of the past, and we Boomers are to blame. Kids share every detail of their lives on so many sites I can hardly keep track. Which is why I find it particularly hard to believe that Donald Jr didn’t say anything at all to Donald Sr about the possibility of digging up some dirt on Hillary via Russia last summer…

Now I get that Don Jr was raised as an entitled, elitist prep school snob. And I get that he thought he could pretty much get away with anything he did because Daddy’s money and power would bail him out of trouble. But I can’t buy into the “rookie” mistake language, or that he was an “innocent” bystander in all things Russian.

I think the President’s son needs to ship out to summer camp now, yesterday! Get off Twitter, remain unplugged and take a canoe out on a lake somewhere far away from reporters. Because even if his meetings with Russians were pure, and not illegal, they were certainly not saintly.       IMG_0809


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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




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Right before the Love Bug was born, I whispered to the Groom, “Don’t take your eyes off her.” And by her, I meant the baby. It was going to be a C-section, the baby was breech, and I knew the Bride would be busy on the OR table. He looked at me kinda funny, but I said with fierce determination, “Promise me!” And he stayed with the Love Bug till they rolled her out to us.

Call me crazy, and I’m sure some people do, but I’ve seen too many mistakes happen in hospitals over the years, heard about too many nearly averted catastrophes, plus you know that old superstition, which I highly believe, about medical families. I’ve talked about it before, how people will try and treat you differently in the hospital when they learn you are related to doctor so and so, or nurse what’s his name.

And my mind thinks in a kind of catastrophic way. It’s a wonder I’m not on IV anxiety medicine at all times. Bob is late for our wedding? Wringing my hands I think he must have cold feet; instead, he couldn’t find the rabbi. Maybe it has to do with my Year of Living Dangerously. I’ve always thought I was the least affected by that trauma – the death of my father followed by a devastating car accident that landed me in a foster home. The Flapper was crippled, my sister and nana were in a coma, and my brothers were on their own. I was just a baby, I had no real memories of my first year of life. But there were lasting scars, wounds you’d never see when you grow up between two families.

I didn’t want my grand daughter switched at birth!

I had those feelings when my children were born, but Bob was right there and he knew about my fear, so he kept a close eye on things. After all, we were in his hospital, he knew everybody, and the Bride’s little foot was banded and toe-printed immediately.  Here is a synopsis of the bizarre switched-at-birth story I had heard about before the Bug’s birth on “This American Life.” It happened in Wisconsin in 1951: “One of the mothers realized the mistake but chose to keep quiet. Until the day, more than 40 years later, when she decided to tell both daughters what happened. How the truth changed two families’ lives.” http://www.thisamericanlife.org/radio-archives/episode/360/switched-at-birth

And just when you think that with technology these things never happen anymore, think again. A court case has just finished up in France awarding two families 2M Euros. Because at the age of ten, one girl felt she didn’t look like her father.

The families of two French girls who were accidentally switched at birth 20 years ago have been awarded nearly €2m (£1.5m) in damages. The clinic involved in the mix-up was ordered to compensate both girls – now women – their parents and siblings.Both babies had been treated in the same incubator and were then given to the wrong parents. http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-31350550

This must have been a cost-saving effort, putting two babies in the same incubator. Back in Wisconsin, one mother always thought there had been a mistake, her daughter was nothing like the rest of the family. But she never spoke up.

My daughter reassured me they kept close watch when she delivered Baby Boy JH in November, with his father and a doula plus the requisite docs and nurses in the room. I was still driving and worrying but immediately felt relieved when I looked into his eyes. Plus, Grandma Ada says she knows him. I think he looks like one of her sons, or the Groom’s brother. We’re not entirely sure yet.  IMG_5254

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I’m back on the road again. My pilgrimage past Davy Crockett’s birthplace and Dollywood has me listening to another podcast of This American Life, and this time the theme is “Mean Friends.” You’ve got to love being able to laugh out loud while driving through pop-up thunderstorms and trucks-in-left-lanes on windy mountain roads. The girl’s name was “Cohen” and she fluffed off a would-be suitor in middle school by letting him think they could be “Hi, Bye” friends. In other words, she’d acknowledge him in the hallways but that’s all…and he was ecstatic!

Are girls better at being mean? Is this our first feeble attempt at self-protection? I remember in high school a boy from a private school asked me to go to his prom. I accepted, but only if he promised to drop me off at my future-husband-then-almost-boyfriend’s house afterwards. And he did! I didn’t think I was being mean at the time, I actually thought I was being kind?!

I remember so clearly chasing the Bride around a preschool birthday party, telling her it’s not OK to tease and chase another little girl. I could see it already, my tyrant in blonde curls was the queen bee of her little posse, she was the mighty, mini trendsetter. Probably our move back to NJ when she was in 2nd Grade nipped that in the bud. It’s so easy to go all Lord of the Flies when your family stays in one insular community, “,,,after all we aren’t savages really…”

I asked my little Mussolini how she would feel if her feet were in that girl’s shoes. Yes, at times like this I would go all biblical, and believe me parents, you will too. I recently read a letter on Momastery titled “Brave is a Decision” this is excellent reading before the little ones head off to school. If you’d like to instill a little compassion and not so much as a mean bone in your child’s body, this one’s for you.

We don’t send you to school to become the best at anything at all. We already love you as much as we possibly could. You do not have to earn our love or pride and you can’t lose it. That’s done.
We send you to school to practice being brave and kind.
Kind people are brave people. Because brave is not a feeling that you should wait for. It is a decision. It is a decision that compassion is more important than fear, than fitting in, than following the crowd.

– See more at: http://momastery.com/blog/2014/08/21/the-one-letter-to-read/#sthash.0aYv3r2N.dpuf

I’m meeting my “bad” in a good way MIL, the queen bee of her generation who broke a few hearts along the way, to pay homage to the next generation of “it” girls, our Love Bug is turning the BIG TWO. She has just started school and I’m hoping she’ll sit next to the kid without a lunch and offer to share her bento box. But she’ll also need to channel some mean into her young life, so she stands up for herself, so she can fight back when needed.

You can’t take Jersey out of the girl.

Carousel of Time

Carousel of Time

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Driveway before the rain

Driveway before the rain

Sometimes we get the juiciest bits of information as an aside. Most journalists know this, we get the agenda to the meeting, but it’s in the stuff we hear in the hallway where we will sometimes find the true story. Or at least, an alternate story. This is why I will always and forever love secretaries; (whoops, the Bride called here) insert – because they knew where the bodies were buried!

Take for instance the latest edition of “This American Life” with Ira Glass. The Bride and Groom happened to hear him speak at the Ryman over the weekend, and coincidentally I caught his latest show in the car. Normally  I’ll catch up with Ira on his older podcasts while driving to Nashville, rarely am I listening live stream. But there I was, left listening the other night in my driveway to “Except for That One Thing!” #518

I was hooked right away. A young couple buy their first home in New England – Check! Bob and I bought our first home in Windsor, MA. They were trying to furnish it by going to auctions, because of course there were no real furniture stores or malls – Check! She got carried away with raising her paddle and put them into debt. I used to go to estate sales and get so frustrated because dealers would outbid me and then try to sell to me afterwards, making a slight profit. What happens next, when she finds the perfect dining room table on eBay, will surprise and delight you. http://www.thisamericanlife.org/radio-archives/episode/518/except-for-that-one-thing

And this is what Glass does so well with radio. We are better able to identify with someone we cannot see.  Judgement is suspended. Their story becomes our story. He manages to find that edge, where reality and humor can border on tragedy, that middle place where we find ourselves most days.

The place between arcane and insane.

Yesterday, I was visiting with my Richmond cousins and was almost trapped in the mud luge also known as my 1,000+ ft driveway when I returned home at twilight. Tires were spinning and my CRV was churning a mighty brown spray. Just a few short days ago Bob and I had sprinkled salt and sand down our steepest hill after the plow had scooped up most of the gravel and snow. I had just heard about my MIL’s weekend travails, cousins and friends sliding off her snow and ice-packed driveway sideways into the woods. A comedy of errors. And as I sit in my aviary listening to the slow and steady drip of snow melting off the roof, I thought of a new episode for This American Life –  “Life is a Driveway.” https://soundcloud.com/tadpoles-shouldnt-drive/rascal-flatts-life-is-a-highway

This is how Ms Bean feels about winter

This is how Ms Bean feels about winter

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My journey lasted all of 9 hours. Along the way I passed a church billboard that read,

“Never give up, remember Moses was a basket case,”

and I listened to Ira Glass on NPR’s This American Life. That’s right folks, no audiobook on this trip. Just when you’re ready to give up, the Bat Building appears around the bend on 40 West. Nashville was welcoming me back. Music to my ears, I could hear the Love Bug from the street; the front door was wide open and she was enjoying her dinner punctuated by boisterously loud “Ummmms,” and Arghhhhhs.” Hooray, I thought, she’s going to be a good eater…and a great talker!

Over the past year, The Bride had told me repeatedly how much she enjoyed listening to This American Life. The Groom also listened to their podcasts on his iPhone, so before my trip, I downloaded the App http://www.thisamericanlife.org/ and plugged my cell into my car’s auxiliary outlet. The first story was about 2 doctors with the same name, and it was a medical/murder mystery too, called “Dr Gilmer and Mr Hyde.”

“Benjamin (Gilmer) starts to get very curious about the murder Dr Vince Gilmer committed, so he begins asking questions and poking around. Soon he develops his own theories to explain the murder, that never came up at Vince’s trial.” You’ll just have to listen in, I’m not spoiling the suspense.

This should be a fun week. The Bride is off for most of the time and we’re planning to celebrate her first Mother’s Day a little early – Nashville style. Maybe some fried pickles along with our blueberries and avocado?
photo copy

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