Saturday, February 28, 2009

Slightly Late Friday Journal Class, Saturday Edition

I love making lists. I may never get organized, but I have the illusion of it when I write out what needs to be done or bought. Or you can just have fun with here are some ideas:
1. Make two grocery lists, one reflecting what would've been on your childhood table and one from your adulthood. What have you learned?
2. You get to throw a dinner party for 8-12 guests. Whom would you invite, living, dead, historical or fictitious, and what do you serve?
3. Make a list of words that you like. Forget the meanings; just make a list of words that, as a writer friend of mine put it, taste good in your mouth.
4.What ten historical events in your lifetime have influenced/impacted you the most?
Have fun, most of all.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Choosing Gratitude

The day just has to unfold on its own terms. It's not a bad day in and of itself. In my own world, things are peaceful. We are inside and safe from the thunderstorms shattering the warmth into raindrops and tossing them against the windows like so many pebbles. Orion naps in the arm chair, dreaming of dry, sunny times to come. I have the computer on my lap, and have made the rounds of my favorite websites for the day.
Still, the flash and rattle of bombs dropping into the lives of loved ones reaches me in my cozy vantage point. Two cancer diagnoses for people connected with friends; another round of eldercare follies for a relative; a hospitalized grandchild.
Prayers have been said for all concerned. We, too, have had our share of challenges. Family issues; the epidemic uncertainty around the economy; questions about how stable The Spouse's company is. Yet, we have so much and our shared life flows serenely like a river negotiating a boulder filled bed. The three of us are healthy. We'll have a lentil concoction or a variation on the leftover chicken theme for dinner. We have music, books, and plans for the future.
Complaining is the easy way. Gratitude takes patience and vision.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Like Junior High, Only More So

I didn't bother with the Oscars this last Sunday night.
OK, you caught me. I watched a little of the entrance on the red carpet in the event of a fashion disaster, but nothing stood out. One bit of trivia from the commontators caught my attention: there are two lanes for traffic on the red carpet. One is for the writers, directors, composers and so on not considered A-list. They get trundled into the theater at a quick pace. That way, the A-listers get their photos snapped without the risk of commoners contaminating the glamor.
Why do we support these people? I wondered to myself. As much as I would love to say that I have disengaged the buttons about popularity and prettiness installed during my overweight (thanks to much later diagnosed adrenal and thyroid issues), awkward adolescense, my inner thirteen year old cringed. Why do we give money to an industry that has developed ridiculous standards of beauty and wealth? It would be cheaper to hire a dominatrix to abuse us for an hour or so at a time rather than deal with the in your faceness of it all in mainstream media.
Some years ago, I found out that I wasn't the only one who felt this way. In a writer's group that I used to belong to, I met a survivor of the Hollywood scene. Over post-meeting coffee one night, he was asked what working out there was like. "Oh, my god; it's like junior high, only more so," he said, rolling his eyes.
Aha. It wasn't just me. I mulled this as The Spouse and I spent the evening watching a detective film from Sweden.
In the morning, we flipped on the news to see the results. "Slumdog Millionaire's" welcomed but anticlimactic victory for best picture warmed my heart, as did "Juno" winning best screenplay last year. Maybe the Academy will take the hint and start making pictures that will help us all grow up.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Friday Journal Class and an Update

Let's start with the update. The reporter who had to deal with the "nutritionist" that I wrote about this week sent me a personal email. Ends up that the "nutritionist's" PR person had misrepresented her to the party in charge of booking guests. The reporter was even more dismayed than I was, and forwarded my email to several producers as well as informing the guest in question that she'd never be on the show again. We send virtual roses to her for fighting on the side of good nutrition.

Journal class? Get your journals, pens and tea. Is your music on? Let's get started, then. We're going to use a prompt today, a word that helps you stay focused. Today's word: Journey. Keep your pen moving. What comes to mind? Just keep writing. If you get stuck, just write "journey" until the flow returns.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

The Search for Nourishment in These Times

Earlier this week, my favorite source for midday news had a guest described as a "renowned" nutritionist. Under the skeptical gaze of the health reporter, the guest proceeded to show how products from her company (a major multinational target of several boycotts) could feed a family on a budget. Well, the food may have been inexpensive, but is giving a child what amounts to a milkshake for breakfast (an instant mix with milk product loaded with sugar) and a banana (one of the higher glycemic fruits) really going to be that much cheaper than a slice or two of toast with a tablespoon of nut butter (almond or cashew, natural)? How sound is it to let a kid drink a lot of juice (high in sugar) while munching on trail mix made from marshmallows and chocolate covered raisins?
It bugged me to no end. I sent an email to the station, and received a standard auto-response.
It bugs me to no end, too, that so much of what passes for food has heavily subsidized ingredients with no redeeming nutritive value or potential for creating allergetic responses. Corn syrup, sugar and its cousins, various forms of gluten, oy. Many times they find their way into processed foods just because they're there.
It is hard to cook, even though for some freaks like me, it is a great source of pleasure. I have days when it's challenging to get dinner on the table for my little family (me, spouse and dog on homemade food due to age-related digestive issues). I don't even want to think about the lives of other women with children and out-of-the-home jobs.
What helps? I plan leftovers. We have an electric indoor rotisserie/grill, and once the chicken gets trussed and spinning, I'm free for a couple of hours. I do a legume dish at least once a week. All three of us munch veggies. We do the bulk of our shopping on a ten day to two week cycle at an employee owned regional chain.
What we don't do: coupons. I've started to look on line for those lovely little nuggets from healthy food manufacturers. I'm open to suggestions on where you get them.
Some people feel eating healthy is too expensive. With some careful planning, it can be pulled off economically. Consider this: how much does bypass surgery run in your area? And what is the look on the vet's face worth when you tell her that your dog's favorite treat is cauliflower?

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Why Is This News? The Tuesday Edition

Oh, what must I wade through to check weather? This morning's non-event on "Today" and "Good Morning America" involved Travis, a trained chimp who had appeared in several commercials. For reasons known only to him and St. Francis, he attacked several people and was eventually shot by local police.

Tragic? Yes. Do people need to understand that primates do not make the best companion animals? Yes. Could one plead minor celebrity status? Yes.

But why is this story receiving more air play than the economic stimulus package and two of the Big Three laying out their plans before Congress for how federal loans will be used? What makes it override the real possibility that Illinois will have to go through another political battering thanks in part to its former governor?

Intellectually, I know why. There's nothing like sensationalism to stimulate ad revenue. There's nothing like morning network news shows for blurring the line between real news and non-news.

It will be interesting to see where Katie, Brian, and Charlie place the news about Madonna and her new boy toy, the 22 year old Brazilian model, tonight.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Illinois Politics: Here We Go Again

OK, Mr. Burris, what's all this, then? A revised affidavit? Something about a $15K contribution to former Gov. B's campaign fund and a chat with his brother about the senate seat? Hmm?

Mr. Burris held a press conference over the weekend. So did a couple of the Republican legislators. The impeachment committee will be reviewing his testimony this week. Where this will go, I can't tell you, but I have my suspicions. Winter's not over, is it?

Friday Journal Class: Monday Edition

Due to technical difficulties, I wasn't able to get on line Friday to post this. Thanks for your understanding.

Let's play with listmaking.
1. Make a list of things that you'd like to accomplish before your next birthday ending in a 5 or a 0. Now, pick one item and develop a plan to bring it to fruition.
2. Pretend you're in elementary school. You're going to the grocery store with whoever was in charge of food shopping. What was on the list? How does that compare with what you buy now?
3. Valentine's Day fell this last weekend. What are your five favorite romantic songs, and why? Conversely, what's on your list of anti-Valentine's songs? Why?

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Depraved Indifference as a Springboard for Change

And now The Great Whatever be thanked.
I post over at Palin's Travels (as in Michael, not Sarah). Two of our members live near Melbourne, Australia, where wildfires have raged for the better part of the last week. Both of them are fine, physically. For that I am truly grateful.
Thanks to its hot, dry climate, Australia is no stranger to wildfires. Usually, an act of nature sparks them. That's bad enough. However, this round looks like an act of arson. Law enforcement officials found evidence that several fires had been restarted, and have declared impacted communities crime scenes.
Despite an MS in psych and experience at a social service agency, I will never understand what could damage someone's soul and psyche so deeply that one could find satisfaction in the destruction of that many acres of nature and a death toll closing in on 200 last night. According to Kazzzz's post this morning, every burn unit in the area is filled to capacity. There's a legal term here in the states: depraved indifference. It doesn't get more depraved then this.
One of our other members brought up a good question: what is justice in this situation? Is there any? What punishment, as Gilbert and Sullivan put it, would fit the crime?
Obviously, get them off the streets. Then we as the global community need to ask ourselves two questions:
1. What wounds to our collective psyche need to be healed? What circumstances gave permission to treat the planet and their fellows like this? When I wonder what happened to hurt them, I ask not to let them off the hook, but for clarification so that this doesn't happen to anyone else. (Please keep in mind that some of the alternatives I've mulled over for punishment would get me banned from Amnesty International for life.)
2. The state of Victoria has had an unusually dry, hot summer even by their standards. That exacerbated the spread of the fires. Can you think of one small thing you can do in your life today that can help curb global warming?
Whatever else you do today, please keep the people of Victoria in your spiritual practice. And please hold an image of the day when we grow up enough as a species that stunts like this are a long past chapter in human history.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Friday Journal Class

Go get your writing implements, your journals, your candles, tea, chocolate. Turn on some music if you'd like. I'll wait.
OK, ready? Let's try a couple of short exercises.
1. Take a couple of deep breaths. We're going to work with the prompt, "Here and now, I am..." Complete the sentence and continue writing. If you get stuck, start over again with the prompt. You'll know when you're done.
2.Set a timer for ten minutes. Write as fast as you can until it dings. You may do this on a selected topic, or you may simply let the pen rip until time's up.
My experience with these exercises? I've had nothing, or apparently nothing happen. I've also had ideas for projects begin to crystallize on the page, like maple syrup on snow. Most importantly, they've both given me insight into where I've been on a given day and direction on where I need to go from there.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Illinois Politics and Other Train Wrecks

The first order of post-holiday business dealt with by the Illinois House was drafting the articles of impeachment for Rod Blagojevich, former governor turned professional talk show guest.
The morning that the House reconvened, there was an incident on a commuter train bound for the city. Reports of a man with a gun lead to an unscheduled stop highlighted by a visit from the SWAT team. Passengers returning home that night on the same line encountered delays thanks to derailment of an Amtrak train.
Freud once observed, "Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar." Let's hope that this isn't an omen for Governor Quinn.