Archive for November, 2010
The turkey is awaiting final preparation as the holiday season has officially begun. The sights, the sounds and the smells of the fall & winter holidays are alive with tradition. Whether the gathering of loved ones, sentimental rituals, or the taste of a a favorite family recipe, the romance of the season is in our memories of those past, and our hopes for those to come.
Traditions are merely memories. Memories we attempt to relive. Whether the smell of turkey in the oven, the magic of holiday lights, or the suspenseful wait for Christmas morning; our holiday celebrations attempt to recapture the best we can remember, and grab hold of the best we can imagine.
I love honoring old traditions, but believe each holiday is an opportunity to birth new ones. That is why, I was disappointed to realize that in my frantic preparations for this year’s new Thanksgiving tradition, I had forgotten the tradition I started a few years ago with my family. Each year on the eve of Thanksgiving, I prepare a very special meal.
Gratitude is a virtue worthy of celebration and practice. Ironically, my sense of gratitude causes me to have less enthusiasm for the holiday of Thanksgiving, than the act of giving thanks. We gather at tables set with plump birds and rich gravy. There will be stuffing made from bread and hot rolls with butter. There will be two kinds of potatoes, numerous side dishes and probably two kinds of pie. Thanksgiving is a feast of excess, in which we barely pause to consider all that we have. Many are the years, I’ve sat at tables listening to those assembled, list things for which they were thankful. If we truly took the time to acknowledge all the things for which we should be grateful, there would be no time to carve the turkey or cut those pies.
It is because of this, I started the tradition of serving my family a very special meal. It is a meal which might be served in any country on earth–a special dish which truly puts me in the proper mindset for the rest of the holiday season. I look forward to this meal each year, but not nearly as much as others who might eat this same meal today. This meal prepares me for a happy holiday season, by reminding of things taken for granted.
Our very special meal is rice. Not ordinary white rice like what might accompany Moo Goo Gai Pan, nor is it the fragrant Byrani basmati of Indian cuisine. It isn’t the creamy risotto from a trendy bistro, nor a tasty pilaf hiding flavorful treasures.
It is rice, simply rice. Barely substantial, no special preparation. Just rice.
The first time I served it my children were barely old enough to understand it.
The second year, they had already forgotten the previous year, and anxiously looked to see what would accompany the rice.
By the third year, they were beginning to better understand the meal. I am very thankful their understanding is the abstract type–not the kind had by those, for whom this bowl of rice would be a luxury.
In our country tomorrow, our garbage cans will be overflowing with food scraps–remnants of a feast, tossed, when those who ate it, had too much. We will try to figure out what to do with the leftovers, never considering the many in the world who live for weeks on less than what we discard. Alas, tomorrow, across our planet others will search garbage dumps to find food enough to stave off hunger.
Whether it be food we mindlessly waste, clothes we cast off for charity, or money we squander on unnecessary things, we hardly consider all that we have. We are more than fortunate, we are blessed beyond what those in many countries could even imagine.
Today as we sit down at our tables, I wish for you the kind of gratitude that is appropriate for the bounty on our tables, but also for all that we have in America.
Men wrongly believe women talk about nothing–because they get lost in the number of words women use. They also falsely believe everything should be distilled down to a few important facts, but women know it’s the details that matter. Focusing on the details has me completely frustrated with mascara, or more accurately, the perfect mascara.
For women, it’s all about the details–small subtleties that make a difference. While, women will buy a dress because of a small detail or another shade of lipstick because it matches a favorite blouse or sweater–men have trouble identifying lipstick in any color other than red. And though, sometimes the attention to detail is intended to be noticed by men, it’s usually only noticed by other women.
This is particularly true of make-up. I have yet to hear a straight man say, “That woman needs more make-up.“ Though men generally like the way women look when they are attractively made-up, most men say they prefer women with little if any make-up. Though they may decry the use of cosmetics, it doesn’t keep them from being attracted to a pretty face, especially when they haven’t a clue how much make-up they’re seeing.
Men do notice eyes. No matter what else they like, eyes are usually near the top of the list. Whether it is because of their appearance or what they reveal about a woman, men see eyes. (Sometimes it takes them awhile to see them, but after they’ve looked at everything else they find interesting, they usually find the eyes above the other attractions.)
Tut-tut, enough about men! I never wore mascara until a few years ago when my once-show-stopping eyelashes, seemed to need an understudy. My first mascara was chosen with very little discretion from a drugstore. It cost about $5. Fortunately, it turned out to be a good one. It became my lash-booster of choice, until it was discontinued.
With cosmetics counters offering hundreds of choices, it didn’t seem like a big deal to find another. What’s the difference? It’s black stuff in a tube tube, eh?
You’d think so–unless you had experienced this frustration. It was the beginning of the ongoing quest to find the perfect mascara. Buying and trying tube after tube, I was amazed at how many different kinds of mascara exist and how different each was.
Like one grieving a loss, I was in denial. I refused to believe it was really gone. I checked store after store, hoping to find my brand. When this proved futile, I moved into the second stage of grieving–anger. I contacted the company convinced that it must have been renamed or repackaged. No response. Eventually, my anger turned to acceptance. It was time to move on. I had come to terms with my loss and decided to explore new possibilities. I chose another mascara of the same brand. Like many to follow, within a few hours, this smeary concoction gave me the appearance of having been on a cocaine bender.
I tried one whose new and improved brush style promised no clumps. Several no-clump mascaras later, I am convinced there isn’t such a thing. Each brand promised something, length, curl, volume, fullness–I found most of them to be more of the same. I tried products costing from $5 to $25. Went to the high-end cosmetics store and asked them for a recommendation, they assured me that the overpriced mascara I’d just purchased was revolutionary, innovative and sure to become a best-seller.
I’ve lost track of how much I’ve spent on the dozens of styles of mascara I tried. Some gave me caterpillar lashes, others turned my eyes into Alice Cooper-like stars.
I decided to throw all those tubes out in favor of Latisse, a lash-growing product. Latisse produced noticeable results, quickly, but I had trouble remembering to put it on. It is a pricey product and the results are contingent on faithful usage.
Mascara is not a one-size fits all item. Some have long lashes but too few of them. Some have plenty of lashes which are too short. Some want their lashes longer or darker or fuller. All I wanted was a teensy bit of help, to make mine look the way they used to. Just as every woman has a favorite color, a perfect pair of jeans, or a perfect outfit, there is a perfect mascara for every woman. I am still looking for mine.
I’m all for knowledge and it seems knowledge should be empowering, but sometimes knowledge is just knowledge. In fact, knowledge can be paralyzing. When we know everything we need to know, we don’t always know what to do with the information. Knowledge is very overrated.
Ignorance, on the other hand, is under-rated and rarely seen as power. Yet, there are many circumstances, in which, ignorance is at least as empowering as knowledge. The old adage “Ignorance is bliss”, is my favorite of clichés, because I find it so often true. Innocent ignorance is the thing that makes childhood so much better than “grown-up hood”.
Ignorance allows us to suspend logic and believe the impossible. Knowledge on the other hand, ruins Santa, The Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy. Knowing that The Tooth Fairy isn’t real is part of the “older, but wiser” thing. Personally, I prefer wisdom to knowledge. Older but wiser is good, but not nearly as daring and optimistic as young & ignorant.
Such is the case of 20-year old Marisol Valles Garcia. She’s a college student, so her head is probably full of knowledge, but she’s also blissfully ignorant. If she knew as much as she thinks she does, she would have never accepted the job as the Chief of Police in one of Mexico’s most dangerous little cities. She’s probably a smart girl, who has studied just enough criminal science, to make her believe in stuff which works better on paper than in real-life, consequently, she took the job nobody else would take. Like a modern day Joan of Arc, she has only her convictions to convince her she can stand against armies of drug thugs.
With less than 10,000 residents, and a single police car, this small city has been victim to hundreds of drug-related murders, kidnappings and even assassinations. Yet, in her ignorance, she believes she can turn around the climate of this city, by hiring more police officers–especially women, and by building a greater sense of community, through more interaction between the citizens and law enforcement.
God Bless her. She’s just young enough to believe everything she learned in school. That would make her almost a cliché. If she had a realistic idea of risk she’s embraced, she’d probably have been happy with a job at McTaco. What will happen to her is anybody’s guess, but you gotta admire her moxy.
That’s the beauty of youthful ignorance. It gives us the ability to believe in stuff and take risks–but her idealism may cost her life. Call it courage, call it chutzpah, call it cojones–by any name, it’s the idealism of ignorance that has allowed her to believe she could have an impact. Let’s hope she’s right.
Here’s to ignorance.
Another election cycle has ended, causing us to wonder if we can expect any change. Currently, we are facing controversial social issues and a shaky economy; the cost of health care is at the forefront of our minds, and as if that weren’t enough to make us all nervous, we face the unknown consequences of this year’s flu strains.
In addition to the seasonal flu, and the dreaded “swine” flu, Americans are also vulnerable to the aftermath of the recent wave of another disease–the strain known to some as Affluenza.
Affluenza is a strain that has been growing, largely unaddressed. Our materialistic society has allowed this once-rare affliction to quietly mutate and spread. Some areas of the country are on the verge of devastation; and unless you have developed a resistance, you may be at risk. Almost everyone is born a carrier, but not everyone will succumb to the affliction. Susceptibility to it, crosses economic and class lines. Affluenza begins with a feverish desire to have. Two parallel strains have been identified, by the populations they affect. The have been classified as Affluenza H1, which affects “The Haves” and Affluenza HN which affects “The Have Nots”.
Apparent differences between these affected populations are easy to see, but the line separating them is not easily understood. There are many factors which will determine one’s classification. These may be present at birth or caused by environmental factors such as dumb luck.
Having been fortunate to have always had “enough” classifies me as an H1 aka a “Have”. I could say I’d earned everything or that it’s possible for anyone to be a “Have”, but I’ve benefited from things which had little to do with me. There is no understandable reason why some people end up at the end of the blessing stick, while others are continually battered by the baton of misfortune. Therefore, lest I take credit for things, for which I deserve no credit, I preface all other remarks by saying I am humbled by and grateful for all that I have.
Many wrongly believe money is a problem solver. It can be; but many problems cannot be solved by money. If a “problem” can be solved by throwing great amounts of money at it, it’s not a very serious problem. A wrecked car can be restored with money–a person killed in that car cannot. Think of the people you know who struggle with addiction or disease, you can throw money at those things all day long, but it won’t fix them. Those are real problems.
Ironically money-problems are rarely fixed by money. Those with money-problems often erroneously believe having more money would solve their problems, but this is rarely so. Because most money problems are the result of behaviors or beliefs which cause people to live outside what they can realistically afford, more money usually feeds money problems. If you don’t believe it, examine the plights of lottery and sweepstakes winners.
Money is a looking glass which reveals who we are. It is a magnifying glass which exposes our values and priorities. Many people say they would give money to the poor, if they had more. Others say they would save more, if they had it to save. These things are rarely true. Savers save and givers give regardless of how much they have.
Having more money means different things to different people. It can mean more to spend, more to invest, more to manage, more to share, or more opportunities. Any of these can be legitimately good things.
The very rich and wise Solomon said “Love of money is the root of all evil.” Because I love money, I would refute that. I don’t love money a lot, but I love it enough. I especially love having enough to share–even if it’s only enough to pick up a girlfriend’s latté. I don’t really care how much I have, as long as I have enough to be able to live without fear–and enough after that, to be able to share how blessed I have been..
I worked very hard as a younger gal. Long hours, several good pairs of shoes and a half-dozen bars and restaurants were the source of my college fund. Those were hard-earned dollars. Back then, I didn’t understand money as well as I do now, but the aching feet which came with the paycheck did much to educate me.
I viewed money like a fashion accessory. I naively believed that money would make me more attractive in some way. I spent stupid amounts of money on expensive clothes and other whims. I spent lavishly on food and entertainment. Realizing how much faster one could spend, than earn, was the beginning of my appreciation and understanding of money. Here are a few of the things I’ve learned.
1. Unless you are very lucky, money comes hard-earned. Many people wrongly see money as the result of luck. They are usually the same people who believe those with the most money are the happiest.
2. Money is much better than many of the things we spend it on, because it keeps. Fashions go out of style, food gets eaten, cars get old, entertainment is quickly over, but money keeps well. Knowing this, one would do well to hold on to more of it.
3. Holding on to money is a good thing, but only to a point. If you insist on holding on to everything you get, you will be be disliked for your stinginess and you will probably be miserable. Realize that having money is a good thing. Sharing good things is fun!
4. Sometimes with money, comes status. In lieu of status it can be used to buy symbols of status. Status symbols will elevate your self-worth, but only in your own eyes. If you live in such a way that your status comes from within, you will soon realize status symbols are no substitute for the real thing.
5. The very best thing money can buy is freedom–freedom from hunger, fear, stress or debt. Using money to avoid becoming a slave to debt, will also prevent becoming a slave to worry.
6. There is such a thing as not enough money. I don’t know, or care to know, if there is an amount which is too much. I like having enough. I have lived on very little and found it to be enough. I have more now and find it to be more than enough. However, there isn’t enough money in the world to make you happy, if you cannot be content with less than you’d like. Ask anyone who has lived among the poor, and they will assure you there are people with far less than you, who are as happy or happier than you.
7. Some people think that the “rich” have too much money. Don’t be fooled. Being rich is expensive and there are just as many rich people in bankruptcy courts, as there are poor.
8. If you believe that money can buy happiness, the process of finding out will probably make you miserable.
9. Not having money is humbling, but many without end up being wiser than those with plenty, because they have a pretty good understanding of what money can’t buy.
10. If you should be lucky enough to have lots of money, you would be wise to be kind. Even if you are kind, many people will resent you, simply because they can’t relate. The more money you have, the more important it is to remember a reversal of fortune could have you looking up at the people around you, instead of down.
As I was considering what to write about today, the civic responsibility of voting, seemed a logical topic. However, with mailboxes stuffed full of campaign ads, televisions blaring endorsements for candidates, and voicemail boxes full of long pleas for support, most of us are already tired of being urged to vote.
Since your first lessons in civics, you were told your vote counts. The party to which Beloved Soul Mate is registered, wants to know if they can count his vote. They have already called a couple times, to ask whether he intends to vote. His vote must count more than mine, because nobody calls for me. (The man hasn’t missed an election in all the years I’ve known him, they can count on him to show up, but not to always vote their platform. If they realized this, they probably wouldn’t waste so much time on him).
Somewhere between Kennedy and Ford, my Democrat father stopped voting. He had become disgusted with the candidates, and decided his vote wasn’t helping anything. (Since, my mother, a Republican, realized he was no longer canceling her vote, she continued to vote faithfully.)
I understand how Dad felt. Many, many years of campaign ads, elections and election promises, followed by the ensuing results can cause one to become jaded. Once elected, most politicians don’t seem much different than the ones they replaced. We keep voting different people in, but keep getting the same results. This is why many were so enthusiastic when our current president campaigned with a promise of change. Though our president has succeeded in making some big changes–he hasn’t succeeded in changing our politics, which are still partisan and poll-driven.
With so many Americans dissatisfied with the current state of The Union, or convinced we are headed down the wrong road politically, does a single vote really matter? Not much.
Voting for the best options our ballots have offered, hasn’t caused any significant improvements, so I have some ideas. Since everyone wants real change and would like to undo some of the politics of the last few decades, why not vote for the candidates you feel are most likely to screw things up. Throw caution (and sound judgment) to the wind! Why not? You’ve voted for candidates you believed in, only to have them disappoint you.
Think about it. Politicians do things they promised they wouldn’t and rarely do the things they promised they would. Why not see if it works the opposite way? Elect a radical oddball and see if being in office will turn that candidate into someone who looks nothing like who they campaigned as. After all, aren’t all those incumbents with their network of good old boys, wallowing in their pork barrels, scratching each others’ backs our biggest problem? Let’s give the clowns with no experience and goofy ideas a chance. I’m guessing we’d barely notice a difference–but there is always the chance that an inexperienced candidate might hit a streak of beginner‘s luck.
Next idea–vote for all tax increases! Vote for every proposition, measure, bill and sales tax increase that will take more of your money. Surrender your paycheck for the good of the country! This is the only way to find out if America has enough money to buy our way out of the trouble we’re in. (You’d only spend that paycheck on your family anyway.) Why help so few, when you could help so many? Let those who have done such a stellar job so far, have the rest so that they can really have a shot at it.
Lastly, vote for anything and everything that promises more cops. We need more law enforcement–policemen in every neighborhood, like they have in North Korea. No city, state or country can ever have too many cops–ask Mexico. Those who write campaign materials know you are terrified of having less cops, firefighters or qualified teachers. If you don’t vote for the right things, you could wake up on Wednesday morning to looting, anarchy, chaos, arson, and stupidity–we can’t risk it!
In all seriousness, it may not seem like your vote matters, but voting is a right, a responsibility, and a great privilege. If you didn’t have a voice or a vote, you’d wish you did.
As you go to the polls here is my real advice.
Vote your conscience. Vote what makes sense to you.
With this in mind, remember you don’t have to vote for someone just because your voter’s guide(s) tell you to. You don’t have to vote for everyone who belongs to your party and voting for someone because you recognize their name doesn’t always guarantee the best candidate.
When you don’t understand an issue, it’s okay to leave it blank. There are many who understand the smaller municipal issues, you may have not had time to study. It is my belief that those who are best informed usually do a decent job deciding those issues for the rest of us.
Ask advice from those you trust, who understand the issues or know the candidates, then decide for yourself. Your vote is your right to think for yourself. Exercise your right.