Archive for June, 2011
I have a college degree and some other educational credentials. They are mostly useless, but I have them. I have yet to apply for a job where it mattered whether or not I had anything other than a college degree, yet the two least prestigious pieces of parchment I hold are the most significant to me. They are my high school diploma and my certificate in mariachi music.
A few years ago, a college in my area became the first in the United States (and I believe the world) to offer an accredited program in the study of Mariachi. I had been dabbling in mariachi for some time and made it my goal to be the first person to receive that degree. A friend of mine beat me to the pole position, but I was still able to become the first woman to ever receive this degree in a genre of music which was once exclusively the domain of men.
This might lead you to believe I’m an accomplished or scholarly musician. I am not. In fact, compared to my peers, I’m a hack. I suppose, if I were highly motivated I could parlay what I’ve learned into some kind of lucrative livelihood. Certainly my rudimentary knowledge of mariachi music, history and instruments would qualify me to teach, and while that might be a good fallback, it wasn‘t my motivation. To me, this degree is indicative of what it means to be an American.
I was born in America, taught to salute the flag and pledge allegiance to it. I was taught the principles of The Declaration of Independence and The Constitution of the United States. I was born in the time before being a celebrity meant having a platform for expressing contempt for America. In fact, when I was young, being anti-American could still get stars black-listed in Hollywood.
I was taught The Pilgrims were decent folk who came here seeking religious freedom. Now, school children are taught that the pilgrims represent the ruination of Native America. My ancestors were pilgrims, but not the Mayflower kind. As your ancestors probably were, they were just pilgrims seeking a better life for their families.
One side of my family came from Europe, the other from Mexico. Both came to The United States, because this country offered freedom, education, economic opportunity and a life free of government hostility. You’ve heard it all before, but the opportunities and freedoms unique to this country have given many the chance to build a better life. It was certainly true for my family.
In my grandmother’s country, she didn’t go to school. From the time she was very young until her death, she worked.
There are still countries in the world where children work, instead of going to school.
My mother’s life in this country meant she learned a new language and was able to go to school.
There are still countries where girls are not allowed to go to school.
When my mother left home, she set her sights on becoming a nurse.
There are still countries where governments decide what you will become.
She met my father, and married him two weeks later.
There are still countries where younger daughters must wait for older daughters to be married and husbands are selected by parents.
In just a few years, she had gone from living in a poor two-room house to living The American Dream in a home with bedrooms, heat and indoor plumbing.
What might take generations in many other countries, can be achieved here in decades.
I am grateful for having been allowed to go to school free of political indoctrination. I am glad to have been able to decide for myself where I would live, what I would do, and who I would marry. I am glad to have been able to work beside men, choose my own religious beliefs and receive a paycheck in return for my work. Surrounded by nice cars, appliances, and electronics, it is easy for Americans to take things for granted.
Our clothes, our shoes, our abundance of food, our books, our medicines would be luxuries in many other countries.
I am thankful for my high school diploma, because in those years, I learned something many schools no longer teach. I learned to be proud of this country. I am proud of the degree in mariachi. because it reminds me people of any race can come here, without sacrificing their cultural pride.
In other parts of the world, being a different race means being a target of genocide.
This country isn’t perfect. Our history is rife with mistakes. The politics of our country may leave us discouraged or disgusted, but individuals have the right to expose the flaws of our government.
In some countries, governments control access to information.
We can speak out against our leaders, without fear of retaliation. Men and women are allowed a vote.
In many countries, the citizens have neither a voice, nor a vote.
If I had been educated today, I might be ashamed of America. While there are certainly many shameful and regrettable things in our past, like slavery, our treatment of Native Americans, the bombing of Hiroshima, segregation, our economic policies, or some of our other military actions; this nation has done it’s best to respect the worth of the individual. We haven’t always gotten it right, but no other country in the world has demonstrated a greater commitment to freedom and democracy for all people.
America isn’t done making mistakes, but there isn’t a place I’d rather live. It is no small thing to be a woman who has opportunities and the right to make her own decisions in regards to her body, her family, and her future. Each time I drive past the plot of land where my mother once lived, I am moved. I am thankful for the opportunities America has given to me and to so many others. For being a woman born in America, I am as grateful as those pilgrims were on that first Thanksgiving.
May God bless and preserve all the best things about America.
Overheard from an 8-year old: “Snooki? I think that’s short for Sun-burnt cookie.”
When it comes to summer sun and fun, it’s all about skin and thin. Preparing for vacations means striving to eat less, do more and get a some color, before the body’s summertime debut. Before you embark on efforts to get ready for swimsuit season, ask yourself where you’d want to go–not on vacation, but in the next five, ten or 20 years.
You can fake-bake in a tanning bed, but while the tan is temporary, the effects on the skin are not. Today’s California tan could turn you into a California raisin in a few years. In addition to premature aging, excessive exposure to ultraviolet radiation increases the risk of developing melanomas, cataracts and can even suppress immune function. The World Health Organization now considers ultraviolet rays to be a significant cancer risk–like smoking.
There are now a number of excellent tan-in-a-can products, but self-tanners do not protect the skin from the harmful effects of the sun. Even with a tan, moisturizers and sunscreen are vital for protecting the skin. Wearing sunscreen is one of the simplest things you can do to protect your skin from aging. If you wear make-up, consider using an under make-up moisturizer with a good SPF. It’s an excellent practice all year long, but even more so during the seasons when we spend more time outdoors.
Readers, certainly you already know the dangers of tanning, but there there comes a time when you will either look at a friend and wish you looked as good, or be thankful you don’t look as old. Your good friends will say you look great, your best friends will convince you that you haven’t aged a bit, but mirrors are not friends, they will tell the truth.
It would probably surprise the Beloved Soul Mate to learn we share a bathroom counter. The poor gent hasn’t seen ours in years, because it is well hidden under an unnecessary clutter of necessary stuff–like moisturizers and sunscreen. Fortunately, we have our own sinks and mirrors and for some time, I have thought about personalizing the mirrors on our respective medicine cabinets, with little avisos like those on my car mirrors. One mirror would say “Objects in the mirror are older than they appear”, the other “Objects in the mirror are younger than they appear”. I’m not saying who gets which message, but I will tell you one of us never leaves the house without sunscreen.
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Checking my oil, the best brother in the world, reaches not for a paper towel to wipe the dipstick, but for a piece of discarded paper from the trash bin. As he does, he comments though his wife is committed to green living and the environment, she uses more paper towels in a month than he does in a year. This got me to thinking about how many paper I use or waste.
Even those of who don’t fear Global Warming or “climate change” are concerned about conserving the limited resources of our planet. By now, most of us are conscious of how our use of paper causes deforestation and stuffs our landfills. Whether it be trees, air or water, we hope there will be enough for generations to come.
The advent of the electronic age, promised to decrease our paper use and allow us to go paperless, but we are using more paper than ever. In fact, worldwide paper consumption is projected to expand 46 percent by the year 2040. Even with technology, it is estimated that approximately 95% of business information is still archived on paper, instead of electronic media. The popularity of printed media like books and newspapers has diminished, but everything from advertisements, mail and catalogs is still printed on paper.
Once men were the biggest generators of paper, because they ran business and industry, but times have changed. Today women may now buy more cards & send more personal correspondence than men, but it wasn’t always this way. According to a Hallmark historian, “The card industry really took off after WWI because of men. Soldiers enjoyed getting mail so much while overseas they carried on the practice of sending cards when they got home.” 1
There are so many things women love, like clothing, shoes, chocolate, and charming men, but though many of us are passionately committed to caring for Mother Earth, we are also hopelessly devoted to paper. We love pretty stationary, fancy cards, beautiful gift wrap, and the wonderful assortments of papers for hobbies and crafts like scrap-booking. I like to avoid the waste associated with gift-wrapping, but even when I recycle a gift box or bag, I am compelled to stuff it with a decorative crush of colored tissue.
We are the primary purchasers of paper towels, paper plates, and paper napkins. The entire industry of party goods exists for us. (When was the last time you saw guys at the Party City, choosing decorated plates and napkins for poker night?) Men would eat off shingles and use their shirts for napkins before they’d go out for paper goods.
Some paper products are more fun than others, but even when it comes to the least enjoyable paper products, like disposable diapers, the worthless paper dresses worn at the gynecologist’s office, or our feminine hygiene products, we are heavy users. And if that isn’t enough to make us feel like paper pulp pigs, it should come as no surprise that we use the most toilet tissue.
With the exception of rocker, Sheryl Crow, who has suggested we each be limited to one square of bathroom tissue per visit (except on those occasions when 2-3 squares are necessary) we use WAY more toilet paper than men. Don’t get me wrong, I love Sheryl, but if she’s using a single square of paper per visit, there is a good chance she’s not a human, and NO chance she’s female.
Even in more practical matters, we use the most paper–even toilet paper. I used to wonder if “racing stripes”, AKA skidmarks,–a problem exclusive to men was a biological difference. After Sex and The City devoted an episode to the subject, I had to accept the truth. Men are just more comfortable with their own body grime than we are. So, we use the most toilet tissue than they do. We use it for it’s intended use, but we also use it for important things like removing lipstick from our teeth, mascara smudges from our eyes, spiffing our dusty shoes, dabbing away tears and sniffles, and grooming the faces of children.
The switch to reusable grocery bags may make us feel we are doing our part for the environment, but the paper used to package the products we buy, is now the single largest use of paper. Whether it be the food cartons which entice us to choose one product over another, or the seductive packages wooing us to buy perfume at a department store; paper packaging is designed to sell, but destined for the landfill, and our worst waste of paper, is the green money thrown away on things we will discard. Hey, it’s only paper.
So, while we are separating our trash for recycling, and feeling virtuous that we have a trunk-full of our own shopping bags, if we are truly committed to doing something real to save trees, we could begin encouraging manufactures to adopt less wasteful packaging. The U.S. currently uses about 25% of the world’s paper. The average American now uses almost 750 lbs. per year and of every 100 lbs. of trash generated in the U.S., approximately 30 lbs. is paper.
Sadly, women are probably responsible for a disproportionate share of paper waste in our landfills. We routinely change our hairstyles, we tire quickly of our clothing, we get rid of our cars when we need an update, we even discard men when they become bothersome, but nothing is more transient to us than paper. It’s something to think about.
In researching for this post, I came across this amusing little verse from the age when paper was made of rags.
RAGS make paper
PAPER makes money
MONEY makes banks
BANKS make loans
LOANS make beggars
BEGGARS make RAGS
For more interesting facts related to paper:
This June marked my 21st year of marriage. Considering, more than two decades ago, I walked down the center aisle of a small church wondering if it would last, I suppose it’s remarkable, but considering the 50+ year marriages of my parents’ generation, it doesn’t seem like much.
A favorite Mexican proverb says “Cuando una mujer es lo suficientemente madura para escoger a un compañero correcto, ella ya ha estado casada por años”. Roughly translated, it means “By the time a woman is old enough to choose a good mate, she has been married for years.” Or as Dr. David Schnarch says in his book, Passionate Marriage, “Nobody is ready for marriage–marriage makes you ready for marriage.”
Someone recently wrote a bio on me, in which I was called an expert on marriage. I laugh each time I think of it. It seems to be a contradiction in terms, as the only individuals arrogant enough to think they are experts on marriage are most-likely single. Whether it is our successes, or our failures which make us expert, learning about marriage isn’t easy. I’ve learned a few things along the way, but I know way more about weddings, than marriages.
I couldn’t count the number of weddings I’ve attended. As a child I attended the weddings of people my parents knew, later came the weddings of my own friends, now I am often invited to the weddings of my friends’ children. Over the years, I’ve seen weddings in all sizes and colors. I’ve attended weddings built around holiday themes–Valentine’s Day, St. Patrick’s Day, Christmas, and even Halloween. I’ve witnessed marriages in small living rooms, and great churches. I’ve been served obscenely-expensive food on fine china at some weddings, and potluck grub on paper plates at others.
At this point, I’d like to think I’m sort of an expert on weddings–not a Martha Stewart or Colin Cowie expert, but still very much a wedding aficionado. Every wedding is different, but whether the bride & groom are wearing silk or denim, they are optimistic believers in the happily-ever-after. Almost without exception, there will be two people who believe they can go the distance, but I’ve attended weddings where even the bride & groomed seemed to know they were doomed before the Bridal Chorus began. One such wedding, was on where the groom was conspicuously absent from the reception. At another, the bride was shouting obscenities at the groom within moments of tying the knot–or perhaps the noose.
When I truly believe the couple is doomed, I usually send an R.S.V.P with a lovely card, but who can know which couples will succeed or which will fail? How some couples eke out years of marital bliss, despite the head-scratching of friends; is a one of those intimate secrets that only some couples know. Like the secret oath of a fraternity, you will not learn those secrets, unless you are inducted into the very exclusive Benevolent Order of The Happily Married.
But enough about marriage–on the big day it’s all about the dresses, decorations, and flowers; a very auspicious celebration for things yet unknown. It is much ado for the “I do”. If we understood what was ahead, perhaps we’d be less inclined to eat cake and toast champagne with such jubilant capriciousness. We often imagine that marriage will be an unending romantic state, but it’s often far from romantic, challenging even those with the most impeccable qualities.
Perhaps God was afraid of letting me raise a girl, as I have only sons. That’s too bad, because if I had a daughter, I’d save her some trouble by teaching her some of the useful things I’ve learned about men, life and marriage. I’m not jaded or cynical, just experienced. I tell girlfriends planning weddings, not to listen to me, lest my remarks persuade them to call it off.
I don’t regret having married, but I am often astounded at how difficult it can be to live in harmony with another human being. The fundamental differences between men & women, as well as those of each individual’s personality, guarantee the joys in marriage will be tempered with the challenges of reconciling those differences.
Marriage is sharing, and while that sounds very nice, even small children understand sharing means giving up stuff you’d rather keep. You give up some of your stuff in return for some of their stuff. That’s great, if their stuff includes things like a generous inheritance or a beach house in Malibu, but it is more likely their stuff is at least one family member you won’t like, and furniture you can’t decorate around. Of course, they get half of your stuff, which means they get to embrace your oddball behaviors and the mismatched pieces of your emotional baggage, which will be the wrong style, but still enough to guarantee that as a couple you’ll have a full set.
For each and everyone who is bold enough to stand in front of family and friends pledging their all–I have one thing to say GOOD LUCK. You’ll need it!
Reading fairy tales gave women the notion that once the handsome prince showed up, we’d all live happily every after, but life is rarely like a fairy tales. There are no fairy tales about princesses who spent their lives looking for their prince, nor are there charming stories of queens who were widowed or divorced.
Because of this, some women end up living lives on hold, while waiting for their prince; others find themselves starting over when their first prince reverts to frog or worse. No matter what we’ve been through, too many of us waste time looking for the person who will make us believe in happily ever after again.
There are women who prefer living alone, but most of us crave the company of someone, with whom we can share our joys and struggles. Sure, we have our girlfriends, but it’s in our nature to want to love and be loved. Even the most self-sufficient independent female can find herself wishing there was a man in her life, but finding the right man is often an exercise in serial frustrations.
With the world full of eligible men & women, it shouldn’t be so hard to find someone, but it often is. Woman sit at home lamenting their loneliness, as if they expect someone to come to the door with a glass slipper that fits only them. Finding that special person doesn’t happen in a vacuum. Even the prince with the glass slipper, went knocking door-to-door before he found his dream girl.
Modern society isn’t nearly as friendly as it once was, but you’re a big girl now. If you were taught not to talk to strangers, it’s time to switch it up. You won’t meet anybody new or interesting if you can’t talk to new people. Relationship experts tell us to go where the men are, but while there are plenty of men to be found at tractor pulls and strip clubs, if you’re looking for normal men, go to normal places. The places you frequent, are the best places to meet people with whom you are likely to have things in common.
Don’t limit yourself to meeting only those people who interest you, even dull guys can have interesting friends. Don’t approach every guy with the goal of making him your husband, in the same way dogs smell fear, men sense desperation. Lastly, don’t disqualify someone before you’ve taken the time to find out his story. Most people are largely more interesting than thefirst impression would lead you to believe.
Once you’ve found someone you’re interested in meeting, a smile is a subtle, but time-tested opener. After the smile, strike up a conversation. It isn’t necessary to be brilliant or interesting to strike up an interest-starting conversation, in fact, ordinary conversations are best for putting others at ease. Talk to strangers as if they are friends, and they will usually respond in kind.
Speaking of friends, even if the person you are interested in is drool-on-your-own-shoes gorgeous, approach them as you would anyone else. Don’t let someone’s career, status or appearance convince you they’re out of your league. The rich, beautiful, and powerful have the same inadequacies as everybody else, and they are just as susceptible to sincerity and charm as everyone else.
Likewise, be approachable, not intimidating. Men love attractive women, but those who are unapproachable snag the imagination, not the heart. There was a time when hard-to-get or waiting for men to make the first move were good tactics, but in the culture of feminism, being aloof can mean being alone. Most men won’t waste time on women who make them feel foolish, and even the bravest guys are frightened by scary women.
To get things started, almost anything can be an ice-breaker. A clerk at my grocer recently told me she was amazed at how often strangers end up exchanging phone numbers after casually chatting in the check-out line. Not a big surprise, as grocery items provide clues to the other person’s lifestyle and are easy conversations starters. For example:
Guy Buying TV dinners:
Bad Question: The old lady throw you out?
Good Question: How’s the Salisbury Steak?
Guy buying dog food:
Good Question: What kind of dog do you have?
Bad Question: Have you tried The Moist & Meaty Steak Dinner?
Guy buying a bag of limes:
Bad Question: Trouble with scurvy?
Good Question: Making margaritas?
Be playful, not serious. You ask if he’s making margaritas, he tells you he’s having friends in to watch THE game. Ask what team he likes, but if he likes a team you hate, there is no need to tell him he’s a sports cretin. (You can convince him of that after you’ve dated a few months.) The idea is to convey interest, not intensity. If he responds favorably, it’s game on.
If you succeed in engaging him, offer your first name. Once you’re on a first-name basis, keep the conversation open long enough to give him time to decide whether or not to ask for your number. If he doesn’t show any interest, move on. He may not be interested, may be taken, or if he’s too socially inept to figure out how to ask you out, he may not be your guy. The interaction is over and you’ve lost nothing.
If this seems insultingly simple, it is. There is simply no good reason an eligible person should be alone, unless they choose to be. Meeting people of either gender is as easy as making the effort and taking risks. Alas, meeting people is the easy part, finding the right person takes more effort. Nevertheless, ti’s a great place to start and with a little luck it’ll keep you from spending every Saturday night crying along with The Bachelorette. In the near future, I’ll be chatting with Marry Him, author Lori Gottlieb about how women inadvertently prevent themselves from finding great guys and offering tips for how to sustain relationships.