Monday, November 21, 2011

Not turkey day...thankful day

As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.  ~John Fitzgerald Kennedy

I love Thanksgiving...for years it has been one of my favorite holidays.  Ironically it is for someone who loves food like me not about the food...there is very little I actually like at Thanksgiving to eat and so not the big pig out without boundaries that most people fear.  

I like the idea of Thanksgiving from it's very beginning...could it be part truth and part myth ? Sure, history is written by the victors and in recent times re-written without any verification by the media who leans one way or another and on the internet ('cause we all know if it is on the internet then it must be true).  That is why we have a Columbus that is vilified for being exactly what he was ...a man of his era who many feel that now can be seen through our 21st century ethics instead of the visionary and incredible risk taker he was (the world she's a round..she's a flat...a round...sorry cannot forget that Bugs Bunny one).  It is why we forget the absolute perfection of the Declaration of Independence (read it if you never have and re-read it if you gave it the old high school history reading only) and focus on what it should have said and again not judge the writers by the standards of our time.  There were slave owners ...sorry Michele Bachmann but I actually like history to learn from not improvise with....they were imperfect....but they wrote an incredibly simple yet powerful document that still resonates years is one of the reasons I can take pride in being an American by choice and it is the reason I still hold out hope that our country, and maybe even the world, will not fall prey to fundamentalist, fearful despots that want to diminish choices and the pursuit of happiness.  There are those who look to destroy and find fault with everything, there are those who "forget" all negative and then there are the rest of us who understand that people are imperfect, wrong and wonderful at the same time ( historical and current sadists excluded of course). 

I think the ritual of Thanksgiving was one that I would like to believe, myth or not, as the a moment when the basic human need to share a meal, to share with someone you may or may not have chosen as your neighbor or  family (because both tend to be bit hoisted upon you) the gift of good food.  If the story is right the natives helped the settlers eat foods that would actually thrive in their new country and the settlers shared with the natives their own recipes.  This simple idea that has since grown into a holiday that requires no material exchange but requires us to share that which is most sacred to us...our time off and our tables.   It requires us to prepare the turkey for the most part ...a transcendent dish among all immigrants (recent and past)  that seems to grace the tables surrounded by everything from sweet potatoes, cranberries and other "traditional" dishes to traditions in the making of curries, beans and rice, lasagnas, Greek salads, Romanian sauteed cabbage, and other dishes that are as far from the first Thanksgiving as one could have imagined.  This is the holiday where even the most jaded can barely keep it up....yes we can complain about the uncle who burps at the table and tells poor jokes, the mother or mother in law who gives "helpful" hints on how you can improve your cooking, the traffic, eating too much ...but with all of that it still does not seem to stop us from looking forward to and inviting all these characters back every year. 

I host Thanksgiving, much like every holiday, and though it is tiring especially for a full time working Mother I cannot imagine giving it up.  I like the whole fancy china, menu planning (though could use a lot less advice and feedback from my husband in the process) and cooking.  I look forward to having people over and seeing them enjoy the things I made.  The passing of tradition and importance of being with family as well as the incredible reminder to be grateful is maybe the best gift I can keep giving my children.  The idea that we should have a holiday that reminds us to look around and make sense of what we should be thankful for, of what we could be without.  I wish for all those who are less fortunate, who may not have a meal, a home, a family, friends or who will not be able to even for this day stop just to take stock to have a better year in whatever way we who are fortunate to have these things can help with.  I donate to the local food pantry, am pretty sappy and buy a roll and coffee for any homeless person I encounter on these days because like the song says "there but for the grace of god go I" all of us can make a difference. I often wonder if for the days that people spend spewing hate, planning bombs, yelling, being pitiful for many who are not in pitiful situations and those who "have it all" we could instead engage in a world wide day of sharing of a table with recipes that help us understand that in the end we do not need to be afraid of one another but rather that we should be thankful to be sharing the same planet.  I wonder if we could forget dietary laws that keep us from enjoying our lives and for one day instead focus on the dietary pleasures.  I am thankful for the people who have touched my life, even the ones that negatively did so for I have tried to grow from those experiences,  but more so for the ones that keep making positive impressions. I remember fondly those who no longer are with us to share this meal.  I look forward to the memories that this next Thanksgiving will create for my future.  Mostly I am just thankful for my life...imperfect but hopeful!!!!

Give thanks for unknown blessings already on their way.  ~Native American Saying

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Things that make you go hmm

I had a whole other blog ready, written, edited, re-read, all set ...then Penn State news happened and I just felt punched in the stomach.  It is news items like that that really make me cringe, more since becoming a Mother, but even before.  The idea of abusing a child, or anyone or any thing, just is beyond my comprehension.  I used to a supporter of capital punishment but over the years even that idea has become one I cannot tolerate...we are better than that...but in cases like this or mass atrocities I have to admit to my own base instinct to say pull the trigger...the world will be better for it.  In the spirit of not adding to the news which is always so grim, murder, abuse, economic crumbles and in reverence to Andy Rooney's passing thought I would instead write this blog with things that maybe in all this will bring a small smile to your day.

Things that make me go hmm..

Well for one I love a good oxymoron that one in that saying? 
         - Slow Down get of my I should speed, speed, speed right?
I also (though admire the fact that they even tried) get a kick out of non-English speaking signs in their countries- and yes I am the dork that wrote these down
         - We have die livery and fried lamps...Greece
         - Meat is fresh with you....Spain
         - Tie you up for free ....France (OK so knowing the sexual freedom we attribute to the French this was gift wrapping not anything else)
In the US I chuckle at menus, in this day and age of spell check, that are still incorrect
          - We are open 24 hour
          - Massage give you good headache
          - Buy one get one (not free so am assuming you just got the one you bought)
Spell check itself has given me many a laugh especially these days with my iPhone
          - Text that I wrote too fast ...My posse and I cannot wait to see you.....yes change posse to a "u" for the "o" and the "e" for a "y" and you will know why my friend had to call me and say in all the years we have been friends this was the first time that offer was on the table....
Politicians - actually do not have that much space or time but here are 2 pretty consistent ones
          - Their continuous, cross party ability to "not remember" or "not identify" themselves in incidents or pictures
          - Their lack of learning from the guy before he got caught sending naughty letter, email, text, will you...
My husband still doesn't see it but I can laugh for a long time when certain letters are out in neon signs leading to
          - Dick's Sporting Goods....Dick Ting Good
Security Ties on toys 
          - Tom Cruise could do a whole new Mission Impossible on trying to open as many of these small, clear, tight, sometimes need a screwdriver bolts that they put on toys...weirdly enough not on expensive electronic devices but on something that I am going to say cost as much to make as the additional security packaging....
America's Home Videos - not even the videos which sometimes are ridiculous but the fact that people actually send them in for national viewing
Reality TV.....kind of like a car accident you have to take glance but at some point you just shudder and are glad it is not you
Shake Weight...I was not convinced not a gag until I actually saw one for sale in CVS - if you have not seen this well looking for on YouTube

These things well they are silly and light but once in a while do we not all deserve to read or hear something that just makes the dreadful background noise quiet?  I will have a heavy heart for a long time over the Penn State atrocity, I worry all the time about the EUs financial collapse (cause we are all connected in case that is being downplayed), I do not see any politicians that inspire me or are inspired (though I do vote for the one that has some glimmer of rationality) and most of all I worry about the world around my children and their peers.  In all of this it is easy to forget to look at the ridiculous and funny around us, the beauty of the trees changing, the wonderful feeling in the pit of the stomach when you are about to kiss someone, the wonder that the children see the world with....I do not want to give that to the negative news...I love to laugh so instead I will too choose to keep smiling at the things that make me go hmm.......

Monday, November 7, 2011

Political Correctness...not

I really like public television.  I don't say that in the "I am an intellectual snort, snort way" but in the "sometimes they just have the coolest stuff on" way with a giddy smile.  Recently they had a program on the evolution of the family as seen on tv.  They went back to "Father's Knows Best" to current shows.  I think I have 2 blogs out of that one show.  This one is about political correctness and how it has worked in the reverse of it's intent.

"All In the Family"....say that to anyone who has ever watched a sitcom from 1975 on, to TV Land, and you will get a reaction.  The network then was brave and scared.  They thought the show would last maybe 1 -2 shows, they hired extra operators for the influx of calls they thought they would get.  The creators and actors were also unsure of the reaction...and years later funny enough it is the same.  There are those that are so politically correct that they want to say, with that intellectual snort, that they would never watch that racist show.  There are those who are so racist they embrace Archie for all the reasons he was created to dispel.  There are those who love it because they get it, snort omitted.  They get that Archie was the perfect vehicle to use those ugly words and say those things some people were thinking so that get this ...ready -- super radical...people could talk about them.  Archie was a man who was losing his very essence...everything he believed to be true, everything he based his belief systems on, everything he thought "should be" turned out to be at every corner to be wrong.  This had to be the case for so many people, for those of us who would like to keep evolving, it should still be the case.  If you are never willing to think of your prejudices, your beliefs, then how are you ever ready to confront them and move forward?  Archie Bunker allowed the network to create a show to be able to say those ugly words and much like the bogey man -- open the closet door and poof he is nothing but a myth.

Political correctness has led us to the point where we stop thinking now though.  It is a good concept, after all words whether said in jest or seriousness, that make someone feel badly and are based on their skin color, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, intellectual capacity, appearance, etc....should not be said.  That does not mean though that we need to go the other way without ever facing our issues which is kind of where we are.  To me that is keeping us from moving I ever fear a gang of teenage boys on a subway?...sure because a gang of teenagers empowers them to do things one would never do alone...but that is based on their attitude not their ethnicity.   We actually do not need to demean the accomplishments of a people in order to make things more "equal" but we need to understand that those accomplishments often came with moral, ethical wrongs that we hopefully have learned from.  I am a history buff and I will not lessen the empires by dismissing their marches forward, that does not mean that the Romans, Greeks, Turks, British were "right" in their methods but their discoveries, their contributions can benefit all today.  I do not support any organized religions but will respect your rights to do so, however, do not expect me to not share with you my observations on their flaws through the centuries based on what I have read in the bible, koran, and parts of the kabalah.  There are many stories in these books that are of a vengeful, wrathful people who can cause havoc on anyone who does not ascribe to the same doctrine....and at the same time there are beautiful passages of forgiveness, reconciliation and love.  Please do not censor me from having these discussions because asking a question is offensive is is only offensive when it is not a real question but an insult with a question mark at the end.

I am scared of the way the world seems to be moving toward ultra conservative movements (be they in Islamic countries or the Tea Party).  They are empowered by the political correctness which they count on not to call them out as the insane, hate mongers they are.  These conservative movements are based on the theory that people should only have no choices and no questions, they thrive on xenophobia which occurs when the "other" is unknown and unreachable.  Since we can no longer say certain words, or we start to choose to think of history in terms of moral judgement, or are able to face our own uncertainties about others we have stopped moving toward integration and stepped often into uneducated segregation which is kind of why we needed political correctness to begin with.  .   Maybe we need the next step after political correctness and to revisit how we want to move back toward integration.  I would rather be Edith who in her shrill voice and immense kindness touched all those who met her with a smile then to have Archie call me a Meathead and be right.

Edith Bunker: What's wrong, Archie? 
Mike Stivic: It's just indigestion. It comes from eating his own words. ....All in the Family

Pro choice because I value life

Let me start by saying I am not pro abortion...outside of a fringe few (the genocide dictators who do it based on race/ethnicity/tribe/etc) I cannot imagine anyone who is pro termination.  I find it highly ironic that the extreme right wing who is so adamnatly anti-choice because of their supposed belief in the right of life (I chose to not say to on purpose) seem to often been adamantly pro capital punishment.  These right wing people, to quote an old cynical cliche which sadly is so true, seem to think life begins at conception and ends at birth. This is why they have no trouble cutting back on all financial assistance to those who are already born. If they care so much about a non-viable life form, because I am not sure if it is "alive" but I know it is not a "living" thing at this stage, how can they care so little for how this child, when it is a living person, lives and thrives?

Having said that I am decidedly pro choice.  This label has been demonized by the anti choice movement, because they are so not going be called right to life by me - their whole mantra is about ending rights.  They depict the people who support this choice as baby killers bent on ending world reproduction or something equally crazy.  There are extremes even within this extreme who believe that rape, incest, death of the mother are not viable reasons for termination.  This is an attack primarily on women who are poor, and families who are poor, since they will be the ones without access to free medical care from places like Planned Parenthood which provide pre-natal care, they will have the illegal abortions that could kill them, they will have NO choice...are we now a nation that believes that our poor deserve nothing...not even the simple choice they have had for the past 50 years??  This has silenced many who believe in the right to choice.  This silence is what scares me and I find I can be silent no more. 

I am pro choice because this decision should be available for each indvidual to make.  Contrary to propaganda machine from the religious fanatics and the current right wind government factions is not fear of hell fire that scares people who make this choice but the personal trauma this causes to anyone who has ever had an abortion.  Furthermore, I came from a country where first they banned abortion, then they banned birth control, since people were not having enough children mostly by choice.  Most people did not want to bring a child into that grey tinged oppressive enviorment since as a parent the thing you hope most for your child is that they will be better in life than you and hope that they will make life a little better for the generations to come.  Yet people were having children because for the most part humans are hopeful even under the worst of circumstances it is just that they were trying to have only what the family could hope to feed often.  When the decrees went out ...shocker...abortions still happened.  Only now they became life threatening for the mother if she was without a lot of money and do not kid yourselves even in Communism there are the 1%ers.  If she did have means or connections the abortions were still dangerous for her and potentially for the person who performed them.  The lack of birth control added to this by actually making abortions birth control...the fear and myth the far right loves spreading here now. The stories I have heard growing up from women from the former Eastern bloc nations where this was a rule sadden me...tales of abortions that left families without mothers, women without the ability to have any more children, and the trauma and fear that went with it.  Not the fear of a wrathful God but the real fear of being found out and imprisoned.  Yet for those of you who may read this and be anti choice you may have no sympathy because your belief is that these women were committing a mortal sin anyway...for those of you who feel that way just ask yourself since when is it not a sin to think you have the right to condemn someone as if you spoke for whatever God you chose to worship -- yes you chose?  Yet I guess for those of you who believe this way it is your choice to make...and unlike you I believe you should have that choice.  Historically speaking when abortions were illegal they were still done...less have been done with access to education than with threats of imprisonment. 

So do I think abortion on demand with no counseling and discussion should occur? NO ...this is a matter that will impact your life and the choice you make will be with you forever.  It is a medical procedure, and again am struck bit dumb by the fact that somehow the "right to life" finds no issue with terminating the life of the doctors who perform these procedures, with physical and emotional consequences.  If we want abortions to be on the decline and rare, which by they way they have been since the advent of more birth control options for women, then let's teach people about birth control (real not the I've got no rhythm kind), abstinence, protection against diseases, and of course adoption as a CHOICE.  

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Is it time to retire yet?

The challenge of retirement is how to spend time without spending money.  ~Author Unknown

Due to all the stress going on at work I casually made this comment the other day to my good friend "I am so ready to retire" to which he nicely responded "You are too young to retire".  That is the kindness of friendship....the real statement should be at the rate of what things cost, should your boys want to go to college or even scarier graduate schools, then well you will never retire...or will when you are past the point of being able to do those things that many of us dream about.  It may be dreams of languid travel not when the working/school calendar rest of the people are on vacation but those off season ones that do not need to be scheduled around work or school.  It may be thoughts of writing, painting, reading, golf, tennis, insert your activity of choice here.  Maybe you are just looking forward to not having to leave the house at a certain time or chasing hours in the day between when the kids leave and they come back.  

All these are wonderful things to do and yet with the economy, current cost of living and thoughts on the opportunities I would like to provide my children I am no longer sure what the "number" is that I need to be able to say "gimme the cheesy gold tone watch and see ya later".  Part of that comes also with the uncertainty of working in this era because even the self employed cannot guarantee how long their jobs will last and "lifers" will be a term only seen in historical context for my and future generations if they work in corporations of any size.  The Europeans seemed to know how to do this at an age when they could do the things mentioned above or simply nothing if they chose as they retire earlier....well that too is probably only to be seen in history books.  The current debt crisis in Greece, and spreading to many other countries, along with expanding life expectancy and lower birth rates show us that they may have been able to do it in the past but have destroyed the same opportunity for many future generations.  

It is a pretty bleak picture...or is it?  I dream of retirement mostly because I am tired and stressed with current times but let's face it I am a self admitted Type C (yes there is one) personality...I like things to move fast, love New York for this reason, and am usually pretty done with the languid life within 48 hours.  I do not really want to retire and have really always been bit dismissive of the early retirement of many of the European countries. I do not think either the EU or the US model actually works...a blend but that would take getting out of crisis on both continents for long enough to be able to proactively plan a future.   I do not say that with judgement but because I actually like having something to do that requires timelines and commitment.  I would like to be able to retire in my late 60s or at latest 70 but that is partially because I see people who still work and have a purpose seem to be able to maintain their faculties for longer.  It is a self-awareness that comes from many years of therapy that has made me comfortable with the fact that I take pride in my work and like to work at a chaotic pace.  I do not like the uncertainty that current work situations have put me and the rest of us in.  I believe we need to find a way to keep older people engaged and the way to put their incredible experience to use while allowing them to potentially part time retire.  I want to be able to travel, paint, write, cook, and appreciate the down time without worrying about my financial existence at the end of my life.  

I am not sure when retirement will come or if it will be imposed upon me by a workforce that does not see the value in keeping older employees.  I am not sure if I will have the "number" needed to maintain the lifestyle I thought I worked my whole life to retire toward.  I am sure that I will enjoy the time I have every day instead of only worrying about this because some of it is so out of my control.  I will keep planning my Golden Girls with an apartment in Manhattan discussions with my best friends (hey dreams are free at any age).  Mostly I will keep trying to be active in my mind and body so when I do "retire" it will be at least somewhat on my terms and with the minimal regrets of what I should have done or said before I retired.  

Half our life is spent trying to find something to do with the time we have rushed through life trying to save... Anonymous

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

The other men in my life...

Recently during a conversation with a work colleague she mentioned how much she missed one of her friends since they had not spoken in a long time, when I asked her why they lost touch I was a bit surprised to hear that it was because her husband did not approve of her having male friends.  I can put up with a lot in a relationship but have to say jealousy is a manipulative trait disguised as childish insecurity and I cannot tolerate it.  I am not a jealous person, though will admit like almost every person I can get a small pang here and there if I feel the one I care for is giving away their affections.  I do not buy the whole "Harry Met Sally" logic that men and women cannot be friends because the men always want to sleep with their female friends, boy would I be flattered if that was true but my many platonic friendships with men say "ahh...ahhhh...yes....yes...oh God.." (sorry hard to mention that movie without that scene) nonsense.  Besides even if it was true some of the time it does not mean it will lead to is friendship people that is all and if both people treasure that friendship it will remain so. Friends with benefits is a whole blog that am not writing today.  

The other thing I thought of is how much I need and flourish from my female friendships but that they are not any different than my male friendships.  As far as I can remember, and I mean to when I was a little girl, I have always been friends with boys.  This is on top of the fact that I remember having a major crush on boys since I can remember ....even then I liked them differently.  I remember in Romania my neighbors who I befriended while living with my great aunt while my parents were in the States had 2 boys and 2 girls in their family and I know I really liked playing with all 4 of them equally, though the sisters sometimes wanted to get rid of their brothers and vice versa I was pretty content playing with all of them.  My first friends in the States were a boy named Fernando (who walked me to and from school and spoke to me before and after I actually understood English for the whole walk) and Anthony (who was the son of the super in the building we lived in...he tried unsuccessfully to teach me baseball via Yankee games on channel 11).  In middle school the boy - girl thing could get weird but I was not the class knockout which in turn allowed me to be friends with most of the boys in my class, though since I developed fairly early there were some odd moments of silence when I realized my friend was talking to my boobs (sorry boys they do not respond even now).  I seem to also be able to be friends with all the boys that I hung out with outside of school... sometimes the ones I wanted to be more than friends with never saw past that but the friendship still is full of great memories.  By college men were study, travel, drinking, dancing, wedding invite + 1s, concert dates always there for a good laugh, a hug, when the boyfriends came and even more when the boyfriends left.  

I think it is really a shame when men and women cannot be friends whether for a personal issue or even more so from a societal/religious reason.  To me this genuinely stifles societies because banning friendships cannot but lead to oppression, hate, distrust and lack of understanding of anyone who is not you.  There is something so good about learning about each other and trusting one another as makes us better people.  It is easy to make jokes about men and their annoying habits, am sure there are jokes about women and their nagging, or whatever stereotypes are out there but in the end I cannot imagine my life with the men in my life.  I have learned from them, mostly how to be more self confident, not to hold on to things for as long as we women seem to like to hold on to, that usually there is no meaning to a look/a call or lack thereof, to understand that they are not always as brave as they "appear", to rely on these friendships for the advice that sometimes does not come with the emotions that my female friends attach to it.  I cannot imagine my life without the times I have spent listening to music, crying over another man, trusting them to get me home safely when I was not in the position to make good choices, discussing with them everything from politics to books to sports to food.   I love men...there it is...because they are not like women, they add another dimension to my life.  My husband knows that in my life there are men I turn to, sometimes to get a perspective on him, sometimes to give a perspective on their partners, but mostly to just enjoy their friendships with the same passion that I put into my female friendships.  I am all Team Boy since having my sons as I hope they become like the men who I call friends.  I think about my colleague and her sadness at losing the male friend she was talking about and I cannot imagine having to live without the other men in life.

“Your friend is the man who knows all about you, and still likes you.”
– Elbert Hubbard