Wednesday, November 30, 2005

It all depends on what IT really IS

By my way of thinking (and occasionally I do think before I blog) we live in a culture where the look of everything is more important than the core reality and function of the thing itself.

For instance, we are told that we should exercise and eat well for good health. Yet anyone who does this and still looks chunky is not regarded as healthy by the general observer, even though their health may be better than the skinny person standing next to them who exercises rarely and eats a quick donut and coffee for breakfast. It is all about the superficial look. Not the color of the skin and the healthy glow of the hair.

We envy that designer bag that is an ugly color and doesn't hold stuff very efficiently, but costs lots of money and sends the message that we are rich (and also stupid with our richness). It's not about what the bag does, but the message it sends.

We buy fruit in the grocery store that no longer tastes like freshly picked fruit with the juice of its season, but tastes like cardboard fruit. BUT the appearance of the fruit is perfect in color (maybe enhanced) and certainly perfect in shape. We don't tolerate any blemishes on those perfect orbs, while sacrificing freshness. It is about how it looks, not what it is.

We idolize athletes that win games and break records, yet they are running on steroids and metal pins and pain killers and braces. They are not exactly their original selves anymore.

We worship entertainment icons that are usually more plastic and toxic botoxed than real---especially the women. Their talent alone is not enough to hold our interest and our honor for their hard work. They must NEVER show their real age. We are amazed that pregnant celebrities are back in shape days after giving birth while real mothers actually look like the mothers they are--which is the real parent? (Watch British television for a refreshing change in making older people the primary characters in the television stories. They appear with their weight problems, faded teeth and all and BBC casts the younger people who actually look like the real girl or boy next door!)

And finally, the McMansions that we build are not to shelter our loved ones. They are hugh cavernous entities with specialized rooms that may never be used or never even furnished. It is not about the function of our dwellings anymore. A house is not a home.

(By the way, talking about reality vs image, did anybody see that terrible lip synching job Mariah Carey did at the Lions vs. Atlanta Falcons
football game halftime? It all depends on what singing really is, I guess.)

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Mixed Thanksgiving

I think most families find the holidays very mixed, at best. Relationships with relatives and in-laws are not perfect and so we try to be on our best behavior to make the holiday perfect. On top of that, we may see people we haven't seen in a year or more and want this time with them to be filled with the best of sharing while trying to run around and do all the other tasks at hand.

As I look back over my holidays while growing up, there were days with tears, days with resentment, days with fullness of feelings to the point of exhaustion. Most of my holidays were good, a few excellent, and a few (especially during my teens and twenties) filled with foot-in-mouth disease and anger.

Last week's Thanksgiving was at my daughter's. She invited the parents-in-law and my son (whom as you know I don't see often enough). The main attraction, besides football, was Xman, of course. He was on his best behavior, while being exhausted before the evening hours. My son was very affectionate to us, and both my husband and I were a little surprised at this since he is 25 and also a bit of a withdrawn person. I thought this over and think it was because he has not seen us in a little over a month, and he saw the change that age brings with time. I remember not seeing my parents for two years and flying home and feeling so shocked at the airport to see how old they had gotten while I was busy living my rich life. When you see someone weekly you don't notice these changes in them.

I had to cook only the sweet potato casserole and the sausage stuffing casserole. Everything else was done by my daughter! So that made the work insignificant on my part.

Another strange thing about this Thanksgiving was a call to my brother in Colorado to touch base with that side of the family. My sister and her family were there. My other brother and his wife are in Madagascar on a volunteer research project and not in attendance this year for the first time. My father has moved in with my brother in Colorado since the death of my mother this past spring, so this was the first Thanksgiving for them without my mother. I and my family played pass the phone to talk to all, except for my Dad. He wouldn't come to the phone saying he was too busy eating. I know that he wouldn't come because his hearing is so bad these days that phone conversations are very difficult for him, and this embarrasses him. He has always hated the phone, even when his hearing was fine. He will talk to my sister when she calls from Denver mid-day to check on him, but he is very comfortable with her and her voice. I am wondering if this means I may not speak to my father again before he dies...he is 91. They are talking about trying to get him out this spring to us when our new house is done. But, I know enough about life and its tweaks and turns, and that this visit may not happen.

As you can see, it was a very different Thanksgiving for me this year.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Epilogue to Life Story #2

As sometimes happens in life, an action or memory will be followed closely by a coincidental activity that makes you pause. Those of you who read my posting " Life Story #2" may be interested in something that we received yesterday in the mail. A distant relative of my husband's was going through her mother's things and came across the letter and enclosed photo above that was taken in front of Morro Castle. The letter was written by my mother-in-law regarding the infamous Cuba trip and now at least gives me a dated reference.
This photo above is just a little different than the one I posted, isn't it? The letter went on to say that Castro's two sisters who fought by his side were also at the hotel. She also wrote about the stories the Cubans told of Batista's cruelty and the details (if true--30,000 people tortured) which are just as awful as the details from Abu Graib and from Saddam's despotic rule. She wrote about a story she was told of 3 million dollars stashed in a graveyard as the revolution came down and an urn of Batista's that was filled with human eyeballs! The more things change the more they stay the same.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Egg Candy

This is a gift of "candy" from some Japanese colleagues. I am not fond of Asian sweets and I have a feeling that these will not surprise me when I taste them. The Japanese like raw eggs and these really look like raw eggs! At least the wrapping was beautiful and the thought was good. It was wrapped in pretty Japanese paper covering a box and then the plastic wrap which is shown and another layer of plastic covering over the actual tray of sweets.

(and later...)

Ok, the outside is sweet and as gelatinous smooth as it looks, The inside is powdery and grainy, exactly like the texture of a well-cooked egg yolk. Probably one of the most unusual foods I have eaten in a long time.

Monday, November 14, 2005

A Fall Walk in the Woods

Yesterday afternoon was too nice to stay indoors so I went for a walk in the woods just north of where I live. Most of the leaves were off the trees, but there were still some nice photos. Wandered through the grassy field to find soft green deer beds in the middle. The final picture of a tree in rock sure makes my life look easy.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

This is not a Meme

If you are younger than 50 you probably don’t read Ronnie's blog. But she has been writing about ageing for many months now and if you are younger than 50 (including you 20-somethings) and you read blogs of those 'older' you should read her most recent post linked above. It has some great insight both from Ronnie and her other bloggers about blogging relationships.

I challenge those of you under 50 (or older) to post about blog friendship---not about those you know personally in your life, but about blog friends (any age) that you have made and why you think these friendships work for you at your time in life. Leave me a comment or link to your blog, so I can read this.

The blog friends that are my age inspire me, because we share common ideas, experiences and problems. I love the way we pat each other on the back and support each other as if we were old friends. I connect with those who have similar hobbies (gardening and photography, for instance) and look forward to exploring these more in-depth when I retire. I see similar challenges in our lives and this helps me focus on the big picture.

My blog friends that are younger add so much to my life, since I agree with Ronnie in that we wouldn’t have such an in-depth exchanges of ideas if we were sitting together at a dinner party or luncheon. Their cell phone, children, good-looking passersby, whatever, would be a distraction and interruption. I get to give unsolicited advice (a bad habit of mine) but I also get great perspective from them, energetic ideas, and they help me remember the challenges I faced when I was their age.

Blog mates that are older than me help me see what lies ahead and help me prepare for the next part of my life. They prove that while some parts of the body may be presenting new challenges, that old brain and personality can still shine through when we are not distracted by appearances. They also remind me about how healthy humor is.

And finally the bloggers that I connect with that live in other countries add a tremendous new kaleidoscopic beauty to the exchange of ideas and experiences over blogdom. I get to re-visit those areas of the world I have previously seen or see these places through different eyes. I also get to take a new trip to an area of the globe and have tea in the back garden with the blogger.

I guess what I love about blogging friendships the most is the opportunity to exhange ideas with the whole smorgasbord of the world. (And I love the Internet so that I can look up "kaleidoscopic" and "smorgasbord" since my poor typing can mask my terrible spelling for only so long.)

Monday, November 07, 2005

Make Your Life Count vs. Counting Your Life Away

The summer that I was twenty-one waiting to begin my first teaching job since graduating from college, I worked at a local K-Mart store. While I had worked in the past as a waitress, this was my first retail experience in a store working behind the register. It was a little stressful since over $100,000 crossed my register each week, and they regularly sent fake customers through the line to see how you were doing and to see if you caught one of them hiding jewelry in a winter coat pocket or some other little test. My supervisor was an attractive, petite woman a little over 60 years in age. She dressed very well, and I kept wondering why she worked there. I am now guessing her job was due to a divorce or sudden change in finances in her life. I remember her telling me that she was counting the days until she could retire. And then she wryly added, “This is kind of stupid, because my life is short enough, why do I want to wish part of it to go by faster?”

Driving down to the house the other day, my husband repeated one of his mantras…something like: “I don’t want to winterize the boat just yet; I’d like to squeeze in another outing before that. I only have 20 more years of this before I am too old to get out anymore.” This statement always takes me back, because I have no idea what he is picturing in his mind twenty years from now. I also find this kind of thinking very depressing. So, I don’t even go there. I just like to live each day as fully as I can…John Lennons “Life is what happens while you're busy making other plans.” approach is fine with me.

Last Saturday night at my daughter’s house my son actually showed up for dinner. We hadn’t seen him in weeks. He had another cold and was low in energy. I told him he should sleep in this coming Sunday and should have slept in on Saturday so that he could repair his health instead of ‘jamming’ all day with his band. (He works nights.) He looked at me and said, “I have 52 weekends and I am not giving up anyone of them!”

Well, I have to take the garbage to the apartment shoot. I am going to count the steps there and magically will that number to be the amount of millions I will win when I buy a lottery ticket this weekend which should help me extend my life.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Fiddling with Paintshop

Blue Ridge Muse, manababies and others got me inspired this morning. Since I have nothing to say and since pictures speak louder than words...The grapes were cropped, made redder and I tried to sharpen the foreground which was blurred on the original. The others I just fiddles with all the artsy fartsy options in the software.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

One Reason I Love My Husband or What Men Might Be Surprised to Find is Sexy

Hubby was at a lengthy meeting with scientists from Norway all day yesterday. This is a big meeting where a huge number of scientists in lots of disciplines from Norway come to meet and exchange ideas with scientists in the U.S. At the cocktail party last night hubby was talking to one of the high level administrators who asked him, "If there was only one day to spend in D.C. what should I see?" The answer that hubby gave him, surprised the visitor. Hubby didn’t recommend the Air and Space Museum or the Museum of Natural History or any of the popular art galleries.

Hubby said: "Washington D.C. has much to see and it would be hard to see it all in one day. But, I would recommend the following: The Roosevelt Memorial, the Jefferson Memorial and the Lincoln Memorial. Read the words carved in granite at each of these memorials, because they reflect the important ideas on which this country was founded. These ideas are what America is really about, and we will get back on that track someday."

Needless to say, this well-traveled Norwegian was surprised and impressed by my husband’s suggestion. I hope he follows up.

My favorite is the Roosevelt Memorial. Most people miss it because it is located at the West Basin Drive which is usually only frequented by tourists during the cherry blossom festival. This memorial covers a good amount of space with four outdoor 'rooms' or 'retreats' built from walls made of red South Dakota granite. It is a very peaceful and quiet place and creates an atmosphere where one can ponder the meanings of the words. It makes me smile to note that all of these words were written before I was born.

For those of you who cannot visit D.C. the quotes from FDR are too many to post but here are a few from each room (comments in parens after some quotes are, of course, my two cents):

"No Country, however rich, can afford the waste of its human resources. Demoralization caused by vast unemployment is our greatest extravagance. Morally, it is the greatest menace to our social order." Second Fireside Chat on Government and Modern Capitalism, Washington, D.C., September 30, 1934. (Those who are against funding work shelters for illegal immigrants need especially to read this!)

"I never forget that I live in a house owned by all the American people and that I have been given their trust." Fireside Chat on Economic Conditions, Washington, D.C., April 14, 1938. (Can you imagine GWB saying this instead of “I have a mandate.”?)


"We have faith that future generations will know that here, in the middle of the twentieth century, there came a time when men of good will found a way to unite, and produce, and fight to destroy the forces of ignorance, and intolerance, and slavery, and war." Address to White House Correspondents' Association, Washington, D.C., February 12, 1943

"They (who) seek to establish systems of government based on the regimentation of all human beings by a handful of individual rulers call this a new order. It is not new and it is not order." Address to the Annual Dinner for White House Correspondents' Association, Washington, D.C., March 15, 1941.

"More than an end to war, we want an end to the beginnings of all wars." Undelivered Address prepared for Jefferson Day to be delivered April 13, 1945.

Where are the descendants of Roosevelt when you need them?