Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Downton Abbey ....

Along with the rest of the world, well actually behind the rest of the world for me since I had to catch up on a whole season after it passed, I have started watching the goings on at a place called "Downton Abbey".  For any of us who are old enough this is a better produced, new take on the "Upstairs, Downstairs" Masterpiece classic.  That one was good but I was so young that it seemed so ...so ...frumpy!!!  I have to either understand that I am at the age when it looks like frumpy is now interesting, that this is possibly a really good show that captured my attention or the most likely scenario a combination of both of these.  

Downton appeals to me because of it's beauty.  The house is magnificent, much like the Newport mansions, you become a voyeur into a grandeur that you cannot easily imagine was once someone's home.  There are massive mansions today, many with space and lacking in taste and others that in future years will still be looked and admired for their elegance.  However, the architecture and detail (which is no longer in vogue) of these old homes remains something that leaves me slightly breathless.  I want to stay in one of these places overnight or over weekend just so I am not rushed through the cordoned off route of the usual visitor, to admire up close the craftsmanship of the furniture and to enjoy the beauty of the place.  

Downton also fascinates me because we always talk of days past with a mixture of longing...a simpler time, not encumbered by electronics, where people spent time talking to one another.  A time where reading and music were listened to leisurely rather than to fill some time before wherever many of us are rushing to.  I ask what mother reading this has not wished they could lay among the down pillows, pull or push a little connection next to that grand bed which rang somewhere (quietly) in the house and which would leave her getting breakfast in bed and the children and housework being taken care of? We all have even if we do not all admit it.  Yet we are not creatures of that era we are informed people of this one.  After my brief moment where my long blonde locks, carefully tied with a lovely ribbon by a maid the night before, are seen over my shoulder as I lie on the massive bed and I am about to ring for "service" I am shaken back to the present and know that the conditions for the people who worked were not something I a woman of this era could actually stomach well.  I know that the price for my leisure would be very great for me as well as for those who worked in the house. 

I watch the show and am grateful for being a woman in this era.  I do not have to wait on some man (with a gasp if I am past 20 wringing my monogrammed, lace hand-sewn handkerchief) to either marry me to keep my fortune or to have one by marrying him.  I do not have to be idle and often have nothing to do that be the victim of the bitch of the area or be the bitch of the area.  I can choose....yes choose!! I can choose who I marry, occupation, birth control, pregnancies and whether to take a lover or not.  These may not always be socially acceptable even today for women but at least the choices will not lead to the banishment they did back then.  I do not have to be a maid because there are no other options if I come from a family of working people. It is still not easy being a woman but for all the comforts of being a "lady" back then it sure does seem that it is more comfortable being a woman today.  

I am also reminded to be glad for the progress we have made since then.  Yes it was a less "connected" time but I like my connections and I still marvel like a child at the wonders of the iPhone/Pad that I have.  I look around me and I am glad for electricity, refrigeration, advances in medicines or even just having vaccines and medicines, the ability to have my child in a hospital with an epidural (my choice words to my husband when he was coaching me with breathing are not fit to be printed) and for those women who choose not to go this route the access to knowledge to make that choice, birth control options, and a host of other things that no longer require me to do things by hand or have them done by an army of people.  I am glad that corsets are are now something for play rather than for day to day.  

I am addicted to the show because it is a fantasy...one of affairs of hearts that cannot be together and must longingly look at one another without being able to touch (oh the lack of being able to kiss someone seems so cruel)...one of admiration of beautiful things but mostly I am addicted because I can watch it on my iPad with my earphones in my era so I can admire the setting without having to be imprisoned within it.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Battle of the Bulge aka If I only Were a Size ___

"I'm not overweight, I'm just nine inches too short"....Shelly Winters

I have spent almost my entire life battling some sort of weight thing.  As a child I battled to gain weight...if there is a wise ass crack comment out there about that trust me I have thought of it already....because I had a terrible time with my tonsils.  They were always infected, and since in lovely Communist Romania the government did not always want to buy medicines there was also a shortage of oral antibiotics.  I spent many a day listening for the nurse that used to come and hiding under any piece of furniture that had a hard reach for an adult arm...my father had long arms.  The needles were much bigger than today but the anticipation of the pain was giant for a child under 3.  They reused needles too...sterilized (much later this would cause an AIDS epidemic in many of these countries where AIDS got reported at 0 cases) ...but that made them dull.  Yes it was as unpleasant and painful as it sounds...with my father (long and strong arms) often holding me over the toilet to pee since my small behind was bruised from these shots.  As soon as winter hit this was the routine of many of my weeks - coupled with ear infections.  Needless to say food and I ...well not the best of friends.  So I existed on a diet of mainly mashed potatoes with a soft boiled egg beaten into them.  Small portions ...still a comfort food for me.  I was skinny...not scrawny ...but skinny.  My father had amazing metabolism...he could eat and eat again ...carbs not foe but an addition.  My mother...well let's just say she did not have the same and knew how to work with it.

If these phrases send a shiver up your spine then you know how I have felt; "oh she has a pretty face", "have you tried (insert diet here)?", and the famous "umm you look different".  The battle I wage is hard because I like food and particularly good food.  I do not like fast food, now that I can have it without parental admonishment, or diet fake food but real butter food.  I want to eat like the French, Italian, Spanish...and look as though I live there rather than that I ate those countries.  I have tried the bagel a day diet, the protein diet, the tea with lemon diet, the low carb diet...oh the list is long and yes they all work. I went to see a great doctor who told me  that all diets work until you stop dieting..but even she has yet to inspire me to give up carbs the way she tried and I have yet to like doing weights at the gym enough to allow her advice to help me.  I am not one to tell you I have no idea why I gain weight -- it's just that even when I lose it the brain tells me I don't look different until I get a little tired and lapse (lapses turn into habits cycle starts again).  I yo-yo and have all my life and through it all I found that my best way to lose weight is Weight Watchers who seems to understand that I rather eat less of a good thing than loads of a "diet" food.  I do not buy into the whole, very American, purge and deny method...let's face it Americans are FAT (not all but too many) so their Puritan approach to extremes like giving up whole food groups seems at best like flagellation.  I do not buy the crazy things some of my friends in Europe do, the cabbage soup diet comes to mind, but do like that they seem to not diet with any sort of obsession like the Americans...and let's be honest they are in better shape.  

Portions..portions...portions....eat real food, in season, less processed.  Yes I know it ...but as I hit 40 I find it harder and harder to lose any pounds...and not comforted by the fact that I am not gaining any either.

I am trying to teach my boys how to eat in portions so that they do not have this battle.  If you have never had to deal with this well I applaud you.  For those of us who have it is time consuming and in some ways can stop you from achieving your best.  If you have never stopped a lover from touching you because you are embarrassed by the fat they are touching or if you could not deflect the touch then obsessed about how they felt when they touched that area, afraid to be undressed in bright light because you can only hold your breath so long, bought pretty underwear and hoped it detracted from your body, changed outfits multiple times in the hope that one will be magically the one that you like and settling for the one that you can live with ...well you are lucky.  There are health benefits to being an ideal weight but unless you are morbidly obese let's be honest the driving factor is how you look....and what you cannot look like.  I made some peace with my body when I realized it was the place that gave life to my 2 very amazing children but it is a fragile peace...shattered easily and often daily.  It always amuses me when people think that I am tough woman, self-assured...this probably comes from the fact that with the exception of a select few ..and now all of you..I do not spend my time moaning about my insecurities.  I have learned to let my ability to be funny deflect from anyone's ability to wound me with a remark since I already made it...I am surrounded by friends who accept me for the non-size 2 that I will always be (when I decompose I know my bones will not even be that size)....I am beautiful in my sons' eyes (and dread the day the look around our very fit, skinny, obsessed community and realize oh yeah...Mommy does not look like that in her Not My Daughter's Jeans), and mostly I know that this battle will go on and have come to appreciate some of my other attributes (am a good friend, funny, fairly smart, inquisitive, kind, open minded...and yet as I write these am tempted to question these too).  I will still continue to like food and continue to count points.  I will continue to battle ...and my inner super model well she will live in there forever...because there are health benefits to managing weight which I need to be able to be in sons' lives for many years.  Maybe, who knows, there may even be a day when it will All Quiet on the Waistline Front ...and I will be happy with the image in the mirror....

Monday, January 16, 2012

I am still following Dr King's dream

America will never be destroyed from the outside. If we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves.
Abraham Lincoln

Ahh Dr.King...hero to most ...anti-hero to some ...someone who no one can deny changed the world.  I like the fact that we have evolved in the States to a place where Dr. King gets a day of recognition, though am annoyed that many corporations took away Columbus Day to do this...really 1 extra day would have stopped the company?!!!  I grew up learning about Dr.King ...we learned about him in middle school as far as I can remember and my kids are learning about him from nursery school on.  They learn to celebrate a man who advocated equality ...not overthrow, not asking for more than anyone else...just an equal opportunity.

I can never write this blog with even 1/10th of the eloquence of the speeches Dr. King wrote but I can write and be part of the many who applaud his efforts.  He reminded us that we are all entitled...yes entitled a word that has become negative in many right-wing campaigns...to have the same paths to choose from...choice another word that seems to make the far right wince.   Entitlement is not a bad thing...what happened to the days when Americans believed they were entitled to race to the moon, to build great things, to be that much better off than their parents????? Choice is not a buzzword...it is the paths we go down weather right or wrong and which lead us to the evolution of who we are (oh yeah forgot evolution annoys the right also).

I think of Dr.King and his marches, and can usually be found crying as the dogs were unleashed upon these young people who wanted to do nothing more than be recognized for the wonderful people they could be.  I can usually be found shoulders down when I see that there are still places in the world today where the color of your skin (not just the US), the choice of worship, sexual orientation, gender have come to stand in back of Dr.King and his marchers and still have to march while hoses, bullets, clubs and other methods are turned against them.  I look at the Middle East and think they need another Dr. King who can advocate through peace and his belief that eventually people will not only listen but act to lead them toward the future.  I hear my children's sad questions about why someone would shoot Dr.King and all I have as answer is "fear".  People fear change, fear confronting what is not pleasant about themselves, fear of what change will mean to their station in life, fear that maybe those in power are not the best for the people around them..fear!  Dr. King was  not a saint, nor perfect, nor without sin or flaw or whatever you want to call his errors...he was a man who had all those but who did not let his lesser parts govern his ability to move people forward.  You do not have to like Martin to appreciate and respect Dr. King.

So as we all get set to honor Dr.King maybe more than a day off we need a day on.  A day on where we look at how we can treat better someone who needs more than we do, how we can admit our own prejudices and learn to dispel them, to give everyone the respect they deserve.  To remember Dr. King not for the legend but for the leader who showed that one person can make a difference.  We are not perfect as a country and maybe we will never be but we have come a long way from the days before Dr.King...and we can keep moving forward.  I too have a dream, that my sons will inherit a legacy of hope and equality and opportunity for themselves and for all their peers.  To that far-right fellow citizens I say your way is not that "right" way because it is about NO rather than about Yes we Can...I am not a bleeding heart liberal but I am a bleeding heart believer ...for that I thank those who I disagree with for showing me what I need to still work on and build for, and with, my sons and those like Dr. King whose presence in our history makes our future brighter through their courage and actions in our past.

Nonviolence is the answer to the crucial political and moral questions of our time; the need for mankind to overcome oppression and violence without resorting to oppression and violence.  Mankind must evolve for all human conflict a method which rejects revenge, aggression and retaliation.  The foundation of such a method is love...Martin Luther King Jr

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Prohibition...trying to know history so not to repeat it

"Mistrust those in whom the urge to punish is strong."
Friedrich Nietzsche

For most of us Prohibition seems ludicrous, ridiculous, difficult to understand not only how such a law was passed but how it could have also lasted from 1919 to 1933!!!!! At the time the far right a fundamentalist temperance movement decreed that alcohol was immoral and leading to sin.  This fringe portion of society lobbied and ranted and lobbied and ranted some more until Congress instead of listening to the majority of people, who stayed silent since they could not imagine such a ludicrous, ridiculous act would actually pass, or heeding their own thoughts on this process passed this act into law. It is a cyclical thing in history, the Dark Ages with the religious imposition that were followed by the Enlightenment period where we embraced science and gladly applauded free thinking.  It needs to happen in Islam...sooner rather than later ...these prohibitive, inflexible rules that keep the people from achieving their potential through fear. 

As I read about Prohibition in a book, that by the way in my usual sidetracked writing way will say is magnificent called Why Sinatra Matters (and yes it is by the man I am currently calling my literary booty call Pete Hamill), I felt as though I am almost reading the headlines and newspaper accounts of the current political landscape.  Many people feel we should live in the present and we should but not at the expense of not learning about, and from, our past.  I think that the Volstead act is very relevant to today's climate.  Then as now these groups believed that government should be small or non-existent yet well funded and involved in mandating and enforcing their agenda. I find it ironic that they keep saying how Ronald Regan is their hero yet do not seem to be aware that he raised taxes 11 times, increased government (not just military) more than his 2 previous predecessors and did not believe that government had any role in individual decisions....yes I know his faults and there are many but he is not the anti-tax, anti-government icon they claim, he almost seems middle of the road in comparison to today's Conservative element, almost.  A small, fringe group of fundamentalist under the guise of religious belief and freedom is despartely trying to tell the majority of the country that their way is the better way, that they represent "us", that they somehow know how the God they worship has chosen them as a vessel to help the rest of "us" sinners...can I hear an Amen?!!!! The sheer hubris of this is I believe is a sin.... they obviously have spent no time looking at history.

The Volstead act was an act of racism as well.  I know - what am I saying???? This is pretty well documented though ...the folks who were pro-Volstead were very anti-immigration particulary of immigrants who were not as light skinned (Italians, African-Americans) or not Protestant (Jews, Catholics).  These groups all used alcohol as part of familial celebrations, religious celebrations, not for intoxication but the Klan (who by the way were supporters of the Volstead act) and the middle of America fundementalists (small percentage by the way) did not want to make these immigrants welcome.  They wanted to make them feel illegal in this country and created a law that ensured that they hoped would make these immigrants criminals.  They were saving us ...they were cutting down the evil crimes and lewd behavior that alcohol induced...they were going to make us bible thumping born again ...oh yeah fundamentalists. Most of these fringe elements today are also pretty well tied to isolationist, racist groups ...scary how history repeats itself - or how we can write our own!

The Volstead act created the Mob, increased the number of saloons into speakeasies by three fold, created a corrupt police force in most major cities and oh yeah did not stop lewd behavior, if anything it created a criminality where for many there was none before.  It allowed the worst of society to flourish while using the money, that could have been used to potentially buffer what would become the great depression which followed in the 30s, from the government.  Fast forward to today and what do you have a minority of far right, religious fanatics whose goal is to curtail rights, to enforce their version of morality on the rest of us, to dismantle the very foundation of this country (remember that pursuit of happiness, individual liberty portion the founding fathers thought worthy of capturing on paper..well guess since these folks usually want to also not teach anything to kids that exposes their lack of foundation for their beliefs it may have escaped them).  We cannot be silent now though, 14 years of Prohibition was 14 years of increased crime, racism and money poorly spent by a government to appease a small minority who should have never had this much power to begin with. It is time to take back the country to a place of separation of religion and government, to a place where progress and science were given priority, where funding for education and healthcare were seen as positive for all citizens, not to creating more laws that criminalize personal choices ...it is time to shout that we the majority want to move to prosperity and enlightenment!....I'll raise my full glass to that. 

"Government exists to protect us from each other. Where government has gone beyond its limits is in deciding to protect us from ourselves."
Ronald Regan