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It’s one thing to write about your life, and another to dig deeper into the details of one’s life. Bob told me he learned something from my last blog post, which is an important thing to do in any relationship – keep surprising people! The Flapper always said you should “…leave them wanting more,” a theatrical reference about curtain calls I think. But it’s also a pretty good life mantra; end your career at the top for instance, don’t descend into dementia on the job. Anyway, in case you are interested…

1. I’m a real Fan Girl. I’ve met two of my folk/rock/pop idols and tried hard not to gush, but the fine art of small talk just drifts away in the presence of greatness. Last year it was EmmyLou, but when we used to drive out to the Vineyard every spring with the little Love Bug I met Carly Simon in a clothing store. I probably turned red as a beet!

2.  I was once a certified Emergency Medical Technician (EMT). Back in the Berkshires, I convinced a friend to take the 6 month course with me. We pushed on a life-sized doll’s chest to try and get her heart beating again, “Annie, Annie are you OK?” Right after we graduated, the city of Pittsfield hired professional firefighters, so our days of volunteer work were done.

3.  Serious Crafting used to be my jam. Like Little Women everywhere, I was told that idle hands are the devil’s playground; thanks Music Man. It all started with quilting, I made aprons and pillows, blankets took way too long. Then I started knitting, mostly kids’ stuff and scarves, though I did once knit a sweater that got me stopped at Heathrow Airport. Today, I dabble with stringing pearls into eternity necklaces.

4.  I try to hide it, but this writer is a Porcelain Snob. It started way before Downton Abbey; maybe it’s the reference to homemaking, for a kid who never settled into anyone’s home. I recently had a dream where I had to explain that I wasn’t IN the foster care system, I just had foster parents. No big deal. But like a true Jersey girl, I never pay full price for my dishes. Great Grandma Ada and I traveled to Trenton to pick out my set of Lenox at the warehouse… this was when it was made in the good ‘ole USA!

5.  While my blog is named Mountain Mornings, I am definitely NOT a Morning Person. I mean I do like to start writing in the mid-morning, but coffee is de rigueur. I could stay up all night reading a good book, btw currently reading Margaret Renkl’s “Late Migrations, a Natural History of Love and Loss.” It’s a terrific antidote to the times, lulling me to sleep with short snippets of her childhood in rural Alabama juxtaposed with her current life in the city of Nashville. I cannot recommend this beautiful book of essays enough.

6.  I have (or maybe had is the better tense) an uncanny ability to Predict Trends. My fails are: I finally started painting my nails, and it still feels funny; and dyeing my eyebrows which is really funny! My wins are: I knew gaucho pants were looming on the horizon, and smartly avoided purchasing them.  I saw the snap bracelet coming from far away, same thing with oxfords for grown women. I was wearing this comfortable shoe long before Taylor Swift. It troubles me to report that I just bought my first pair of orthotics, per a sports medicine doctor who said I have a healing stress fracture in my foot. Thank you old age.

7.  Last but not least, I now have a Love/Hate Relationship With the Beach! My kids grew up on the Jersey Shore, and before that we’d travel to the Vineyard all the time. Later on, our paradise in the French West Indies was a continual winter retreat. I loved going to bed with sand in the sheets. But now, all that sunshine has crept up on me. Over the years, a dermatologist has been scrapping dubious patches of skin off my arms, hands, and nose. Looking “tan” has lost its cache, relegated to the ash heaps of time and cigarettes. Not that tanning was even possible for me. This explains my hat fetish! Still, my diagnosis of guttate psoriasis means I need some sun every day! What to do?

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What would you want your gravestone to say about you?

Hillary Clinton has been making her mark lately; traveling on a book tour with her daughter Chelsea, and speaking candidly with Howard Stern. Her latest Hulu docu/series teaser has her answer to the question about her legacy, from the cemetery’s point of view; https://www.rollingstone.com/tv/tv-news/hillary-clinton-hulu-docuseries-documentary-925106/

“She’s neither as good or as bad as some people say about her.”

So what IS she anyway? Does she walk the middle road? Is she milquetoast? I think what our final sentiments are can be quite telling. Consider that Thomas Jefferson insisted his stint as our third President NOT be etched into his gravestone:

“Here was buried Thomas Jefferson, Author of the Declaration of American Independence, of the Statute of Virginia for religious freedom & Father of the University of Virginia.”

I mean you do have to be crazy to want to be president. I like a sense of humor; there’s that grave in Key West:

“I told you I was sick.”

So what does one put on one’s grave – our greatest hits? The accomplishments of our life’s work? For me, Ive been teasing my kids forever, saying I wanted to be remembered in this way:

“She had a heavy metal band in her garage.” Or

“It could have been worse.”

Bob’s Grandfather Pinky wrote a book in Yiddish titled, “Better it Couldn’t Be.” But whenever life throws me a punch, I usually take the long view. The dog has fleas? She could have had tapeworms. I fell down the stairs? I could have broken my back. I think it’s an optimistic approach to things…hmm, what’s worse than a hard core heavy metal band? Disco?

I once heard a rabbi say that we don’t fully reach adulthood until we buy our burial plot. This isn’t true because Great Grandma Ada already bought my plot when I married her son, and I wasn’t quite ready to devote my afterlife in The Good Place to a Jewish cemetery in my hometown. After all, maybe I don’t want a plot of land with moss and stones all over it reminding people who never knew me that I existed.

We grow up to adulting when we decide it’s time to take responsibility for our lives. We stop blaming others for all our problems. Our generation is more realistic when confronting such momentous, end-of-life decisions, we consider the cycle of life, the overpopulation of the planet, and the generalized toxic waste of the funeral industry.

Have you heard you can get wrapped up in muslin and feed a tree? Or cremated and made into a diamond? Bob wants his body to go to a medical school, I’m not so sure I like that idea even if the Bride and Groom got to know each other in an anatomy lab at Mr Jefferson’s school. On a positive note, I leave you with this little ditty:

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Last night I hopped into my Lyft and the driver, who looked nothing like his picture, told me there was a tornado warning. We had one of my three best Lyft/Uber driver conversations on the way home from a quick bite with the Bride. What he didn’t know was that before our supper an actual tornado of creativity had touched down in Nashville. “City of Girls” author Elizabeth Gilbert landed in her “Commonwealth” dress at Montgomery Bell Academy to talk about female sexual desire in the 1940s!

She passed out bottles of champagne to her enchanted fans, the lucky ones celebrating a birthday yesterday, along with the most perfect combination of wit and wisdom I’ve ever heard about navigating this life in the female form. She wanted to explore the lives of promiscuous women, those girls throughout history who never played by the rules. And she was lucky enough to find a living nonagenarian, “Norma” was an old showgirl who wasn’t ashamed to talk about her experience with men over the years and her five abortions. Did she never want to marry? Does she regret not having children?

“Who wants to f— the same guy for sixty years?” 

The audience was laughing, clapping, cheering… Norma had had affairs with John Wayne and Milton Berle. But it was the author herself who delighted us. Gilbert practices brutal honesty; she calls it being on an “Integrity Cleanse.” Her previous partner, a woman named Rayya who recently died of pancreatic cancer, was an addict who treated honesty like a surgical tool in her sobriety arsenal. So Gilbert carries on being true, because it’s so much easier than deceit.

“Truth has legs. It’s the only thing that will stay standing at the end of the day,” she said.

You might as well do it now, or do it later. Why not just get it over with, put truth out there on the table so we all can breathe? She tells us she didn’t grow up this way. Her early life was unconventional yes, still she is aware of her privilege. If you want to hear about her eccentric father, who was a Xmas tree farmer in New England, you’ll have to listen to one of her podcasts!

Gilbert writes herself love letters every day – Why is this happening to me? – How can I manage? – What is the problem – When will it end? And her answer is mostly the same – “I’m here, and I’ll always be here with you – we’ve got this – it will be alright.”

It sounded like a woman praying, but she knew her answers would always be found deep inside. In a way, writing this delicious book was an antidote to her grief after losing Rayya. She had to step back into the creative river, even though she felt weighted down by her loss. She didn’t drown. She wrote like “…a drunk person running.” 

I was aware of the irony in last night. There I was, sitting next to my reluctant Bride, who was inspired to finally take the plunge and get married to her adoring and patient husband, while reading Gilbert’s book, “Committed: A Skeptic Makes Peace with Marriage.” And there on the stage was the author, Elizabeth Gilbert, who fell in love with her best friend and ended her marriage to her husband in order to care for Rayya. And here we all were inside an auditorium in a boy’s school on a humid and rain-soaked night.

But love is love. “To be fully seen by somebody, then, and be loved anyhow – this is a human offering that can border on miraculous.” a quote from “Committed.”

Here is one of the last gems  she threw out last night ladies. “If I’m all up in your business, there’s nobody home to take care of me.” I mean, how true is that? Getting into bed last night I thought about my family – the Flapper was certainly unconventional, and my sister Kay, an original Lipstick feminist.

City of Girls” hit the number 2 spot on the NYTimes Hard Cover Fiction Best Sellers List this morning only 2 weeks after publication! I couldn’t get a decent picture last night so I lifted this one – here she is in her Commonwealth dress with that author and bookstore owner, Ann Patchett! A new American Gothic. Thanks Parnassus Books and the Public Library Salon @615 for an unforgettable evening.

Happy Pride Month everyone!

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This week Ms Berdelle was rounding up the neighborhood so we could all tie ourselves to the cherry trees on the Cumberland River bank. But that’s another story

Cherry trees are exploding all over Nashville. There is new growth on every block; tulips coming while daffodils are going, backed by an orchestra of bird song. I can’t help but smile as I walk Ms Bean and wonder if passers-by are also euphoric over Spring, or are they just self/or/doctor/medicated? Passover and Easter are right around the corner and we are in the midst of starting over in our new home, the #PartyFarmhouse.

Like Chip and Joanna of HGTV fame, I’ve christened our urban oasis with its very own name – the Party Farmhouse is a simple, white shingle-style abode with black trim – built in the 1930s, the small side garden holds a gas fire pit and is adorned with party lights! Emptying the Pod yesterday was like Christmas morning; the Flapper’s Buddha, the French cupboard, old paintings and my ancient desk. In the midst of it all, I’d almost forgotten my hair stylist’s appointment.

There is nothing like a new do to make you feel alive and reborn, so of course I made a point of showing up because I love Chase! We always have the best conversations, and yesterday he told me that his dearly departed grandmother shared my name and my original hair color! We talked about one of his relatives who doesn’t believe in vaccinations, and I told him how I was lined up at Sacred Heart School to road test one of the very first polio vaccines. In my day, we still saw children who had been afflicted with polio in wheelchairs with wasted limbs.

Which is why I cannot abide by parents who are “anti-vaxxers.” I told Chase about the research I did on language acquisition in college at the Hartford School for the Deaf. Most of those beautiful pre-schoolers had been born to mothers who had contracted German measles during their pregnancy, also known as Rubella. There was no choice for these parents, not in the 1970s. The MMR vaccine today prevents Rubella and regular measles, aka Rubeola. Now thanks to certain communities in the US and all over Europe as well, measles is making a comeback.

“Italy and France have extended existing requirements (for school admission) with fines and restricted school attendance. And Germany is currently discussing making measles vaccine mandatory.

In New York’s Rockland County, unvaccinated children have been banned from public places for 30 days. But it is difficult to see how this could be effectively enforced and there is little evidence that mandatory vaccination is always the best approach.”   https://www.bbc.com/news/health-47800438

Whether you believe basically sentencing an unvaccinated child to house arrest for a month is constitutional, or not, this is a fine line for public health officials to cross. Most outbreaks have occurred in ultra-Orthodox Jewish communities thereby fueling anti-Semitic sentiments. But combined with Christian-Right homeschoolers, many children can no longer rely on herd immunity. A community needs a rate of 95% compliance in order to benefit from herd immunity.

My biological Father was a pharmacist who believed you could contract all these communicable diseases in a hospital, when in fact the measles virus floats around in the air droplets of an infected person and on surrounding surfaces for hours. It’s highly contagious and not worth risking a child’s life over unsubstantiated conspiracy theories, no matter what religion one subscribes to.

Well, it’s back to unpacking boxes for me. Ms Berdelle’s plan almost worked, since the cherry trees were not chopped down and now have another chance at life! Let’s hope most of the trees the city of Nashville transplanted to accommodate the NFL draft (and our massive voter petition) continue to bloom! We pick up the Grands today after school and just might be installing a fairy house!

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Needless to say, I’m on the “almost too old to bother” with this test. But in my defense, the first time I was scheduled, after Katie Couric made it seem so easy, Gma Ada had a heart attack. I cancelled and flew to NJ.

The second time, just last year, I bought the gallon jug of prep medicine along with two gallons of margarita mix, because we were hosting a Cinqo de Mayo party. Honest. Last April Gma Ada broke her hip, so I cancelled and flew to NJ.

This third time for my very first colonoscopy would be the charm we figured. I considered not even telling Gma Ada what was happening but in the end Bob dropped me at the hospital and drove his Mom to the dentist today. In bubble wrap.

Here is what I learned while drinking myself into oblivion last night.

1. Don’t bother buying any Crystal Light. It only changes the color which made me think I’d flunk the test.

2. Don’t try to read Southern Living Magazine. It’s all about FOOD and you won’t be having any for awhile.

3. Ditto for TV. Did I need to know that Red Lobster is having a special on lobster of all things? The PBS special on rice however…

4. Don’t start texting with that friend who writes you long letters. Your attention span cannot possibly keep up with your powder room visits.

5. Don’t leave any jelly beans or nuts lying around the house, your memory starts slipping and you might be tempted to eat one.

6. Don’t accidentally mix the infant simethicone drops in with your dog’s dinner. It’s hard to multi-task while chugging GoLytely – a most ironic choice of names for my liquid diet.

7. Don’t forget to thank your husband. For answering your same question multiple times, “Did you talk to the doctor yet?” and for cooking dinner when it’s all over. The hospital socks are a nice touch!

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In another life I used to sew. I would make tiny elephants to string across a new baby’s crib in different grey textures and patterns. You know the mom who made her kid’s Halloween costumes? That was me.

But I really loved to quilt; and not with some computer controlled techy machine. No, no it was the 80s after all. I liked to sit with fabric in hand and stitch pinwheels, Dresden plates, sunbonnet sue and double wedding ring patterns.

My friend Jean told me her favorite quilt was the log cabin. She graciously agreed to tag along with me last weekend when the rain ended to Music City Center for the Modern Quilt Guild’s Annual QUILTCON! Little did I know that this international retreat and conference of all things quilted is an epic event. There were over 500 gorgeous, contemporary juried quilts on display and dozens of vendors. It was a feast for the eyes!

We happened to meet one of the designers right in front of her quilt – a triptych of postcard-sized rectangles in white with bold black lines. Jean and I both had the same idea, “I could do this!” It’s manageable, piecework, something small you could travel with easily that finishes large. A statement. Then we turned the corner…

A huge red quilt with a barbed wire fence coursing through the lower half. Two outstretched arms, one above and one slightly smaller below, told me this was about immigration. I saw the letters instantly, red thread on red fabric: SHAME, and I knew this quilt was referencing Mr T’s family separation policy.

Art is supposed to do this to you. Hit you in the gut and open your eyes. The word “Shame” was hidden in plain sight, in fact some people didn’t see it. Some say shame is a worthless, destructive emotion. Brene Brown says that shame is all about the self, while guilt is more about our behavior; “I define shame as the intensely painful feeling or experience of believing that we are flawed and therefore unworthy of love and belonging.” 

I would posit that shame and guilt can occur at the same time, and in fact are necessary for a society to function. Seeing graphic images of children being separated from their parents at the border was enough to end this heinous policy. What kind of monster tells him/herself that a parent deserves to lose their child for wanting a better life?

The GOP might benefit from a collective dose of shame at the latest hijinks of their leader proclaiming a state of emergency over a border wall that nobody wants! The House will surely vote today to end this, but will the Senate have the will? Can Lindsay Graham actually feel shame? Or is it only theatrical indignation that stirs him to action over a frat boy’s beer-guzzling past.

Certainly not losing 90+ souls a day to gun violence.

Oh no, wait, at least one of Mr T’s architects certainly feels shame. Paul Manafort’s lawyer petitioned the judge today before sentencing and – “…insisted that Mr. Manafort was not only deeply remorseful, but “has suffered almost unprecedented public shame” for what they called garden-variety offenses.”

Michael Cohen was sentenced to 3 years for his garden variety of felonies that he pleaded guilty to, only he actually DID seem remorseful, as in he may have a conscience after all. His shame seems to have been personal, and not just public.

I found a unicorn pattern at Quiltcon for the Love Bug and a taco truck template for the L’il Pumpkin. My fingers are itchy to start stitching again!

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Last year, we traveled to Italy with a group of our old friends. I wrote about the sheep bells and the wine tasting; it was by far one of our best adventures. But you probably didn’t know that Bess, our chief archivist and amazing photographer, was the editor of our high school yearbook back in 1966. Underneath my senior school picture was a quote, “Where’s Bobby?”

It was funny at the time. Teenage Bob was a bundle of energy, always on the move. His knee like a jackhammer under my desk in French class.

This year it appears that dredging up old yearbooks is trending. I first cringed at the suggestion, in Brett Kavanaugh’s SCOTUS hearing, that one of the girls in another Catholic prep school was an “alum” of most of the boys in his class. So we learned that he and his cohorts objectify women, and love to drink beer. It was all there in black and white, not just in his yearbook, but on every calendar he kept locked away in a drawer.

I get the embarrassment of our teenage selves. When my kids came home with their high school yearbooks I was usually not “allowed” to look at them. It wasn’t so much what was printed on those pages – the Rocker was voted “Most Changed” because he came in like a little surfer dude and left like a heavy metal rock star. Instead, it was the impromptu pen to paper musings of their friends and so-called friends, the doodles and yearnings of years of adolescent angst.

But we all went to school in NJ. Is the South still grappling with our nation’s collective scar of slavery?

VA’s Governor Ralph Northam handled his shameful, KKK and blackface medical school yearbook picture poorly. First, he sort of apologized, and then he said, “It wasn’t me.” The wistful Michael Jackson moment was tone deaf! Then yesterday, I read that VA’s Attorney General Mark Herring has said he wore “brown makeup” to a party.

What is going on in my lovely state of Virginia?

I asked the Bride if she still has her medical school yearbook. After all, she went to UVA and Duke undergrad in NC, maybe I could find a clue. Are elite Southern schools still harboring a vestige of white ‘good ole boy’ entitlement? Northam graduated from med school over thirty years ago, I was eager to compare. Unfortunately, if there was a yearbook for the Bride and Groom’s class, they never got one.

Stacey Abrams from Georgia countered Mr T’s State of the Union this week with this: “We continue to confront racism from our past and in our present, which is why we must hold everyone from the highest offices to our own families accountable for racist words and deeds and call racism what it is, wrong.” 

We are living in a transparent world, anything you might want to know is just a Google moment away from our fingertips. Horrible, racist, anti-semitic, misogynistic words that were once uttered behind restricted, whites-only doors, and sometimes found their way into yearbooks, are once again finding fruitful soil in our great country under the guise of “America First.”.

The image of hateful men wearing white shirts and khaki pants, holding tiki lights and shouting, “You shall not replace us,” on Thomas Jefferson’s campus has been seared into my memory. The confederate statues In Charlottesville are still standing.

For a more visceral understanding of our racial history, I’d like to recommend a book, “Homegoing” by Yaa Gyasi. It is not an easy book to read, I finished it on vacation; it covers 300 years of the African American diaspora and follows two half-sisters, one captured and sold into slavery, another who stayed behind in Ghana. https://www.npr.org/2016/06/07/480477931/homegoing-is-a-sprawling-epic-brimming-with-compassion

Until we can achieve true socio-economic justice for all our citizens, until black mothers can stop having “the talk” with their sons about racial profiling, until images of the Jim Crow South can be placed within the context of what it was, a vile chapter of our history, until every single monument to the confederacy is placed in a museum,.. only until then will we be able to reconcile our past with our present.

Dig up your old yearbooks, they are a time capsule into our souls.

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