Monday, November 30, 2009

The Double Standard is Alive and Well

    Rewind to a week ago Sunday. On one of the music award shows celebrating artists not aimed at my demographics, one Adam Lambert kissed his keyboard player on the lips. The furor took days to die down. Contrast that with the open-mouthed kiss Britney Spears exchanged with Madonna some years ago. Controversial, yes, but neither were bumped from later TV appearances because of it.  Maybe I'm a bit prudish underneath it all, but I find public kissing like that, whether same sex, different sex, or interspecies in bad taste.
    Move onto this last Friday. Golf pro Tiger Woods went flying out of his driveway at 2:30 a.m. and backed into a tree and a fire hydrant. Paramedics took him to the hospital. His wife was seen breaking windows out of his SUV, ostensibly to help him escape. He hasn't given a statement to the police. Word came down the TMZ pike today that investigators want to obtain records of his ER treatment to see if his injuries were consistent with physical assault or with an accident. A 30 mph jaunt down a driveway shouldn't have done that much damage. Rumors of an alleged fling and alleged confrontation by his wife have sparked a lot of speculation that the ensuing argument became physical. 
   Compare that with the case of Chris Brown and Rhianna from earlier this year.  Mr. Brown has been rightly vilified for his assault on Rhianna. Even though the Woods case is embryonic, the reaction over the possible assault on Tiger by his wife Elin has been more like a reaction to joke on the old "Tonight" show.
    Only it's not funny. 
    Violence has no place in a home, especially with small children, and no place in our hearts, whoever the perpetrator may be. 
     Allowing loveless expressions of sex, regardless of orientation, to be portrayed as the norm, should have no place in our media rooms, either.

Monday, November 23, 2009

The Turkey Run

    T-day minus 72 hours and counting.
    This cool, foggy morning, Orion navigated to the farm where we get our turkey every year. He hops into the passenger seat, eyes peeled for law enforcement personnel lurking along the side of the road. I don't know what he'd do if he made the connection between one of the cars with lights and big antennas and Mommy getting into trouble, but it gives him a job. 
    Without incident, we pulled into the parking lot outside their store. The family also sells chickens and pork products, but today's focus is on the turkey. Good to get there so early today, since the craziness grows as the day draws closer. Only one person ahead of me, a good thing. I pushed it to the last minute once and a drenching in a cold rain as I waited in the interminable line taught me my lesson, and taught it well.
   Worth it, though. They grow a very fine turkey, indeed. Treated better than the factory farmed ones, too. These turkeys are free range and have only one bad day.   
   My next job will be getting it into the oven. On his way home tonight, The Spouse will make a stop at our favorite store for the random items that round out the holiday dinner. The stuffing, potatoes for mashing, and a green vegetable as well as some kind of dessert will round things out.
   Over our meal, we speak of things we are grateful for as Orion stares at the turkey: our health, that his job with the steady income has held on for another year, that we've not suffered any major losses. With the way that development threatens to encroach on our area, we give thanks that we've been able to celebrate with another local turkey, too.  

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Why We Still Need "Star Trek" and Its Offspring

   The Spouse and I rented the new "Star Trek" movie this week.  We're hanging on to it for one more screening this Saturday night.
     Even if someone hadn't watched much of the original series, it made sense as a stand-alone story. Some bits might twist the underpants of purists into a knot, such as the romance between Spock and Uhura (huh?), but those aside, fans and non-fans should find the back story of how they ended up on the Enterprise quite enjoyable.  While spectacular, J.J. Abrams, the director and producer, never allowed the special effects to override the human aspects of the story.
   Despite creator Gene Roddenberry's self-deprecating description of "ST" as "space opera," it could be argued that the show offered  (and still does) a vision for an evolving society. The original series debuted in 1966, a time eerily like this one. We're engaged in not one but two useless wars. We have another round of civil rights issues to contend with, both ethnically and with gay rights. We still fight to take back control of government from special interest groups and labor pains birthing the vision of a just and green society still reverberate.  
    Social change never happens overnight. It's been said that it takes a generation for an idea to be seen as acceptable. We've had two generations since the original series. Some of the changes, such as women's equality and peace between races have taken hold, but still have a long way to go before truly becoming a part of who we are.  We need the visions to keep the dreams alive.  

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

I Lit a Candle Today

    I lit a candle today. 
    Before I struck the match in the darkness, I paused and thought about the places that need light. May its glow extend to nations where the violation of basic human rights is a way of life. May all people be fed; may all know freedom.
     For a few moments, I thought of three women whose lives have been touched by cancer. One holds her own in the face of an inoperable pancreatic tumor. The second lives with the knowledge of the inevitable on the horizon, and with fatigue as her companion, wraps up her business on this side of the veil. The third will be starting radiation treatments as soon as the incisions to remove her lesions have healed. I have only crossed paths with one of these ladies in this realm, yet my heart is with them all. May their healing bring them to a place of peace, a place of knowing their wholeness. 
    Wouldn't it be wonderful, I asked myself, if those who observe the holidays that are stacked on top of each other at this time of year, if they could remember that it's not about competition for spending the most or throwing the biggest party, but celebration? That families make an effort to behave for the sake of the children involved?  Maybe it's a lot to ask, but even petty squabbles need a break in the name of peace. May we regain our perspective, gifting one another with memories of our best sides.
    That's why I lit a candle today.     

Monday, November 16, 2009

Stretch, Iburoprofin, Heat, Repeat

     I don't know how they started. All I know was that last Thursday, I stood up, only to have my back muscles contract into a macrame wall hanging. 
     My first instinct was to hit the ground writhing and screaming. Not very effective, since Orion was the only one home at the time. He would just stared at me, then hopped up on the sofa for a nap, unimpressed.
    I chose instead to gently stretch and grit my teeth, then start popping iburoprofin. 
    When the first wave of pain subsided, I entered "back spasms" into my favorite search engine to see if there was anything else I should be doing. Back spasms: Stretch, iburoprofin, heat. Done that. But what's this? I clicked on several other links about back pain. Blown discs; fractured vertebrae; kidney disease; heart attack; a large tumor, malignant and inoperable, might be pressing against my spinal column.
    Tumor? Malignant? My God, the links were worse than "Readers' Digest" articles that I amused myself with on pilgrimages to the ancestors' homes.  Before I began to write my last will and testament in my journal, I logged off and took calcium and magnesium, then called a friend who'd trained as an EMT. Her response: stretch, iburoprofin, heat.
   After a few days of rest, all but a few twinges under and between my shoulder blades have subsided. I used an herbal heating pad, one filled with grains and peppermint and lavender. Two minutes in the microwave equals two hours of relief. Two hours of relief escorts me into a good night's sleep, and after a solid seven or eight hours, I can handle just about anything.
    The whole incident left me with two questions: why the need for drama, and if I do my spiritual practice, and get enough exercise, why, then, does my body react to the daily stresses in such a violent manner?  Is there something that I'm not dealing with that needs my attention? 
    Or, could it just be a glitch in this imperfectly formed world, and perhaps I should just take a square of Trader Joe's 72% and lie on my heating pad until it goes away? Yeah, sounds like a plan to me.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Can We Bring Them Home, Please?

    Let me just start by saying this: in no way do I support any military action taken by the US since World War II.  We were on the receiving end of an attack by a specific nation, not bullies with superior organizational skills who could have been stopped by security agencies. McCarthy-era fear fueled entry into Korea and Vietnam. Human rights for Iraq Part I? For Kuwait, a country that doesn't allow women to drive? Please. Iraq Part II did nothing but destablize a country in the name of nonexistant weapons so George the Second could wreak revenge on Saddam Hussein.
    That being said, we have so many troops coming home from doing dirty, thankless, and unending jobs with the invisible scars seared into their souls and minds.  We need to get them home, and to get them proper mental health care so their healing can begin.
    Even if a soldier doesn't see any action, justified or not, it can still take a toll. Over half a life ago, I was engaged to an enlisted man (it was the Reagan era; convinced that I wasn't going to live to see age 22 because of the posturing with the then Soviet Union and wanting something to show for my life, I accepted his proposal despite his pressuring me to get married right after graduation despite plans made for a little down the road). He worked on electrical systems for fighter jets, and never left the states to the best of my knowledge. He served his country, but did his country serve him by getting him the help that he needed to prevent him from becoming another statistic? I don't know.
   I do know, however, that the night Timothy Mc Veigh was arrested for bombing the Murragh Federal Building in Oklahoma City, I had my glasses off when the footage of him being taken into custody rolled on TV. For one heart-stopping moment, I thought it was the ex-fiance--both blond, blue-eyed, all-American type boys. Putting my glasses on, I saw that it wasn't. 
   I still wouldn't put it past the ex to pull something like that. Charming one moment, manipulative the next, no impulse control or anger management skills to speak of, I would not be surprised if he pulled some comparable stunt. Shocked, yes. But not surprised.
   We don't need any more war, especially not for oil. The cost is just too high, not just in terms of lives, but in terms if lives that could have been.   

Monday, November 9, 2009

True Confession

I despise holidays. There. I said it, and it felt so good I'll say it again:
Thank you; I feel better now.
It's not just despair over the material exploitation of the season. I just never have had good ones.
Well, not quite that long. Since I was ten. 
The previous summer, my mother unexpectedly passed away.  Christmas had been her show. She loved the decorating, the music, the hiding of gifts, rising above the running battles between other family members to bring a better than Disney holiday to fruition. Now we reeled and staggered in a pale imitation of her effortless dance to pull the thousand tasks off by December 24. My father (posthumously diagnosed with Aspberger's syndrome) unsuccessfully cauterized his wounds with Scotch. A question about Santa lead to being dragged out to the kitchen by my forearms and reprimanded in a cloud of fumes. I stuck close to my sister the rest of the night.
As the youngest child and the last one at home, more and more of the responsibilities were dumped on me along with admonishments that Grandma would be so hurt and disappointed in me if I didn't have the decorations up and so on.  Couple that with ongoing quibbling between siblings and father, and the season lost any meaning or spark beyond a huge stress trigger.
So for years, I took on the task of dinner and gatherings. I tried to hold it together, I tried nontraditional menus and unconventional celebrations. I struggled to be a good hostess even though I lost too many Januarys to emotional exhaustion. I tried to keep going with it despite the siblings having the same fights they've had since my brother was conceived. I struggled to be a good hostess despite feeling as if our hospitality was never quite enough, despite the old friend of a feeling of not really being a part of things.
The breaking point came when my niece and nephew reached the same age I was when the holidays had been jettisoned into my lap. The usual round of never resolved fights and explosions swirled around our heads. They had fun, still. I watched and wondered why they didn't have to do what I'd had to do, and then I was jealous, and then I wanted to stand up and yell, "WAIT A GOD-BLESSED MINUTE! ENOUGH!" 
The Spouse and I went for a quiet trip the next year. Not perfect, but walking and watching movies does have therapeutic value. Another year I took Orion to visit at a nursing home where we volunteered, garnering a big hug and a "God bless you, honey," from one of the cleaning ladies on duty.  
Since relinquishing Christmas, I haven't lost days crying after New Year's. The sky didn't fall down; in fact, only one relative acknowledged my absence. When it's just me and The Spouse, we go shopping on Amazon for each others' gifts (we've been married long enough to have no secrets),we eat a simple but festive dinner, and watch movies quietly. I go out in the yard with Orion at dusk as daylight starts to dig in its toes, providing a couple of more minutes of sun. 
As the shadows grow across the yard, if  I can still my heart and mind enough, I can hear my mother whispering across the veil, "Good job, honey; good job."

Friday, November 6, 2009

It's Not a Moslem Thing, Darling

    I'm not watching the news today. 
    The story about the Army psychiatrist shooting up the graduation ceremony at Fort Hood yesterday hurts on so many levels. We have the families of the ones who lost their lives.  It's heartbreaking to see the footage of the spouses unable to reach their loved ones on the base because of the lockdown. The images will spill before our eyes repeatedly until the story loses its luster of newness.
     It hurts that the good people of Fort Hood face deployment to one of two wars the US had no business starting in the first place. They're mostly kids, aren't they? Just kids lured by promises of financial aid and adventure and job skills that don't translate that well to the civilian world. 
    Once again, we have the unbalanced person expressing his pain through an incomprehensible act of violence. How did he fall through the cracks, especially when the signals (giving away most of his possessions, and comments made during a presentation that had nothing to do with the assigned topic, for example) were as loud and clear as the sirens and PA announcements of his actions rang through the base? 
    Making matters worse, the alleged gunman is Moslem. The communities prepare for the backlash. He did no one any favors by choosing this method to protest his upcoming deployment, least of all his brothers and sisters around the world.
    "Islamic terrorist." "Moslem terrorist." To some, the modifier and the object are melded into  one longer word. Luckily, others realize that the violence has nothing to do with the religion. The conflicts and customs in the Middle East have much more to do with tribal politics than with the actual religion, not unlike how verses from the Bible were and in some instances still are to justify subjugation of women, slavery, and child abuse.
   Terrorism's logic dictates that the perceived enemy can be coerced into accepting their viewpoint by inciting fear of the consequences. Why, then, have those who have harassed women seeking health care services at Planned Parenthood clinics or shooting doctors who believe in the basic right to choose not been called "right-wing fundamentalist terrorists?" What about participants in the Spanish Inquisition? How about Adolf Hitler and his buddies? Or the kids who, like yesterday's alleged shooter, have some switch break in their brains and make them think it's fine and dandy to shoot up an entire school because of popular cronies snubbing them.
   Let's not forget Timothy McVeigh, a disgruntled Gulf War veteran who somehow thought the government was the cause  of all his troubles? Some fifteen years ago, he parked a literal truckload of explosives in front of a federal office building. When it exploded, it took out the intended target and a day care center. I don't recall him being called a "terrorist"
with any modifiers attached.    
     If we step back an objectively look at world history, every culture is guilty of violence against another, or within its own boundaries. Every culture also has members who are disturbed enough to think it's a viable solution. We may not be able to stop things on a global scale, but could we individually take stands by being part of the solution?

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Questions for the Manifestation Movement

It doesn't work. Sorry, darlings, it just doesn't work. Putting vast amounts of mental energy into creating one's desires doesn't work. Spending a little time mentally rehearsing is good, but the vision needs to be backed up with some work on this plane.
The theory is that your thoughts create your reality, so one must keep eternal vigil over them to avoid drawing negativity into your life. You must think clear and positive thoughts all the time, and think about yourself as nothing less that worthy and deserving of the very best. My experience is that if this worked in real life, the Cubs would've won the World Series and Sting should be calling to beg me to do a duet version of "We'll Be Together."
Does this mean that someone who follows this philosophy gets punished if they're having PMS or some other physiological problem that might life seem a little less than rosy? Does this mean that the people of Darfur and the women of Afghanistan brought their misery on themselves? It's hard to be positive on a chronically empty stomach with gunfire going off in the background or when you can't leave your home unescorted for fear of beatings.
I'm sure they don't sit around questioning what they are doing wrong to block their highest good. No one has that kind of power, darlings.  
We can delude ourselves to an extent, and we can choose to see the glass as half-full or half-empty. But when all is said and done, isn't this just another expression of fear? Fear that we won't have our needs met (needs, for wants are not necessarily in one's best interest), fear of relinquishing perceived control over the flow of life. 
A workshop that I heard of taught participants that using words such as "can't" or "don't" as in "I don't know" would block their good from coming to them.  I tried crafting spoken sentences using the guidelines. That lasted about two minutes. I didn't like feeling as if I were damming and stilting the flow of my life in the name of something that will never be.