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Archive for April, 2014

An old/rich/white/guy tells his mistress not to bring one of the most respected black basketball players in the world to one of his games. He owns the NBA team you see. And whatever you do, he told her, don’t post any pictures with him on Instagram. This octogenarian knows about Instagram? Why is he all hot and bothered? Because his other old/rich/white/guy friends are calling him up… to what, ridicule him or complain about his loss of photographic control over his seriously augmented girlfriend?

Why am I not surprised. Some people are incapable of change. This guy has been living in his NBA bubble of privilege, making money off the very black backs he’d rather not see taking a selfie with his paramour. We all feign outrage. But in reality, the racism that is rampant in the sinew of our country’s soul has been on display for all to see for years. It’s a systemic problem, a kind of subtle apartheid that I’ve mentioned before. We took down all the “Whites Only” signs, and replaced them with hidden borders for our public schools. And since an education is a one way ticket out of poverty, our African American brothers and sisters haven’t got a chance.

Just because we integrated public transportation, swimming pools and restaurants with the Civil Rights Act in 1964; just because we passed Brown vs the Board of Education a decade before, doesn’t mean the courts haven’t thrown federal integration laws out the window. Since 2000, school districts throughout the South have been released from enforcing laws mandating court-ordered integration. A recent article in the Atlantic puts it flat out there. Sixty years later “Naked prejudice” hasn’t gone away:

Some big-city school systems are as segregated as they were in the 1960s. Leading public universities are admitting fewer black students than a decade ago. The black-white wealth gap has grown in recent years. Blacks are no more likely than whites to use illegal drugs, yet four times more likely to be arrested and jailed for it.     http://www.theatlantic.com/features/archive/2014/04/segregation-now/359813/

Some people cast their votes for an issue. This Republican slashed that town’s budget and brought a project in on time; that voter is fiscally conservative. This Republican voted against an assault weapon ban, I’m voting him out! That’s your progressive liberal. Let’s not even bring up abortion. But never let anyone tell you the power to select a Supreme Court Judge isn’t awesome, and a very good reason to vote for a Democrat!. Thanks to an increasingly conservative judiciary over the Bush years, courts have ruled that school districts no longer have to prove they had eliminated segregation. And that, along with gerrymandered districts based on racial populations has produced our current “apartheid school system.”

Now when I see another old/rich/white/guy rancher holding up a dead calf, complaining about having to pay grazing taxes on federal land, hating our government and telling us he thinks blacks had it better during slavery, I have to turn away. I stopped laughing at these idiots long ago, because they make me physically ill.

"The Problem we All (STILL) Live With"  by Norman Rockwell

“The Problem we All (STILL) Live With” by Norman Rockwell

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Shouldn’t Animal Rights be a bi-partisan thing? We all know the EPA is a left-wing agency and that gun owners and hunting enthusiasts are pretty much right-sided. Yet shouldn’t they all want to protect the animals they love/eat/hunt equally? I posted an innocuous sentence on Facebook about one Canadian Goose and started a mini-firestorm.

Animal Rights. It’s a relatively new movement that gained steam with the publication of a book, Animal Liberation, by Peter Singer in 1975. Before we knew it, chimps were being freed from laboratory cages and walking in a fur coat down Madison Avenue could be considered dangerous. For me, I drew the line somewhere in the broad/general/middle. I grew up with dogs, I can’t really remember a time when I didn’t have a dog and though I never really dressed them up (except for that one Xmas picture), I considered each and every one a part of the family.

But my anthropomorphism stopped there. If we needed our medical students to learn something of a child’s vein and practicing on a cat was necessary, so be it. Today the dog and cat labs at most medical schools have been replaced by virtual learning devices. Sacrificing a rabbit to see if a woman was pregnant was common in the last century, but experimenting on a rabbit’s eye to test mascara seemed senseless. Even today, scientists will use pigs and not just crash test dummies, to determine the best, safest design in car seats for children. Maybe you can see where I’m heading?

If an animal’s life could serve a greater good – save a child’s life for instance – then I would be alright with that, within of course some pre-required ethical limits.

What’s troubling me lately is so many small, but extremely vocal groups have emerged that would like to see pretty much all animals exist only in their natural environments; even as we humans dig, damage and develop their natural habitat. Let’s get rid of the horse drawn carriages in NYC! What about Charleston, they are a big industry in SC. And though I do feel that Orcas should probably not be swimming around in a tiny Sea World pool, I’m surprised by the latest rally that will be taking place this weekend in front of the John Paul Jones Arena. You see the circus is coming to town!

A group called Voices for Animals says “…circus animals spend about 11 months a year traveling, chained up and isolated.” They are distributing a video that shows an elephant being abused to further their cause. “The tools of the training include bull hooks, which are similar to fireplace pokers and electric prods. Animals are beaten, they are isolated. Highly social animals are isolated,” said Wendy Harper, a member of Voices for Animals.       http://www.nbc29.com/story/25323589/animal-rights-group-protests-circus-coming-to-jpj

The Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus of course have denied any abusive treatment and say their trainers have absolutely lovely relationships with their animals. The truth I’m sure is somewhere in the middle, depending on the trainer and the size of the circus. But my kids grew up going to the Big Apple Circus every year, and it was a wonderful experience all around. And for the Love Bug, going to the zoo with friends is a favorite outing. Where else would we see a giraffe in the US? I remember bringing the Rocker to see a brand new baby Rhinoceros born at the Bronx Zoo, I’m sure I was more thrilled than he was.

Should we send our Giant Pandas back to China from the National Zoo? Send all the horses pulling tourists off to a farm in Montana and the elephants in the circus back to India? Let’s send all those geese back to Canada! I believe the Big Apple doesn’t have an elephant act anymore, partially because there are not a lot of them left, and maybe also because of the protesters. But our species doesn’t get to lay waste to animal habitats, pull more and more fossil fuels from the ground and continue to make trillions of dollars with disastrous consequences for our planet AND tell us where and when we can see wild animals. Sorry folks, it doesn’t work like that.

Dogs in the Wild while surrounded by an Invisible Fence

Dogs in the Wild while surrounded by an Invisible Fence

My Facebook sentence? “And in breaking Cville news, a lone Canadian Goose walked across Rt 29 N this afternoon and all 5 lanes stopped for him #whyiloveva”

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Happy Earth Day everyone. I was reminded of my favorite psychologist, Abraham Maslow’s, saying this morning, “At any given moment we have two options; to step forward into growth, or to step back into safety.”  I loved his theories when I was an undergrad Psych major – only I’d add another option. We could also choose to stand still and do nothing.

Doing nothing is a choice. We all know these people. They are the ones who say, “Oh we tried that before and it didn’t work.” They are the self-involved, solipsistic loners. If they are not talking about themselves, well then what’s the point? Which is why a film about a young environmentalist falling for the middle-aged mom of a prescription-drug addicted daughter caught my attention.

“Bottled Up” explores the life of an enabler. Melissa Leo plays the quirky, lovable mother who flirts with denial like a pro – because for any addicted child to continue to live at home in their childhood bedroom, they would need the full cooperation of someone, right? Getting this reclusive mom to stop doing what she’s always done, and open her heart to a little, light Indie film romance gives this timely, weighty topic a humorous edge.

This Earth Day, instead of committing to changing your light bulbs, or remembering your grocery totes, why not think about what parts of your psyche may need an overhaul. Throw out the cobwebs in your head that keep you stuck in a “monkey mind,” adrift in a sea of indecision and inertia.

Instead of worrying about your carbon footprint, today let’s pull on our work boots. Get out in the yard, make the choice to start living a more healthy life. To make a few small, incremental changes toward growth, thank you Dr Maslow! After all, if we heal ourselves, maybe the planet will have a chance? Our hydrangeas need pruning and food! I’ll  eat more oranges, walk more and complain less. Maybe try to avoid sick/germ carrying people – unless it’s my Love Bug, then all bets are off. I’ve been wondering if all the Puffs tissues I’ve been going through with my latest virus are biodegradable?!

Speaking of my little Easter bunny. This is what you get when your adult children have to work on Easter Sunday. The Bride, my Jewish ER doctor/daughter and her husband the Christian Groom, who was on call in the MICU, sent the Bug off to a day filled with chocolate and jelly beans courtesy of their wonderful Nanny Kristy and her son Caiden. And for this moment, I am eternally grateful.        10271536_10203190002052914_8222434554150655467_n

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By no means am I a fashionista. I know I know, it’s the second post in two weeks about fashion, but this time it’s a new angle, two new angles to be exact. If you like to know where your food is coming from, and you love the ‘ farm to table’ movement, you’re going to love this company – JUST! http://projectjust.com

JUST is a start-up company my BFF’s daughter, Natalie Grillon, co-founded to create transparency in the fashion industry. They help connect designers to ethical suppliers in the fashion supply chain. When we consumers hear about child labor in silk factories in  developing countries we are appalled but what can we do? Boycott a store, look for another label? Very often the thread from one silk or cotton farm in Northern Uganda to a store in the US can be convoluted.

In a nutshell, JUST provides designers with a database to search for ethical suppliers that will fit with their specialty and geographic location. When their clothing reaches the racks, it will be tagged with a JUST barcode so that we can immediately trace the journey of our new purchase. I absolutely love this idea; it’s fair trade all around. After spending time in the Peace Corps, Natalie received her MBA from Cornell where she studied Sustainable Global Enterprise at S.C. Johnson Graduate School of Management. just-mobile-view

Congratulations Natalie, I wouldn’t be surprised to see you at a TEDx conference soon! I can’t wait to start seeing those JUST tags in Cville stores.

And next up is an online fashion company that would like to become your own personal shopper! Now I’ve never used a stylist, though some might say I would benefit from one. I remember when the kiddos were little and people would ask me where I got a certain item of clothing, I’d look down, look flummoxed for a minute because let’s face it, I was sleep-deprived most of the time, and then it would dawn on me. “OH, I picked this up on vacation in (insert our latest jaunt).” Because all kidding aside, shopping with a toddler in tow was a nightmare. Half the time I’d be trying to find the Rocker running between racks of clothing.

Well the Bride just turned me on to Stitch Fix http://www.stitchfix.com. Genius idea really especially for young women with little ones and little time. You go to their site, fill out a quick style chart about your likes “Boho Chic” and dislikes “Glamorous,” your size and the kind of lifestyle your clothes would need to represent, like mostly work or casual or evening, (I wish they had mountain-dwelling-writing- nana) and Voila! For $20 they will ship you a package with their picks and you keep what you like and return what you don’t.  Here’s one of their Pinterest pages I like http://www.pinterest.com/stitchfix/wanderlust/ which seems apropos.

Wishing everyone a joyous and warm Easter Sunday. And I thought you’d enjoy this throwback picture to my pre-adolescent self with my red headed cousin Joey in Dover, NJ. Notice the gloves and the Easter corsage! It’s pretty obvious I was fashion-challenged!

Chris n Joey 20140418 web 2

 

 

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Do you take offense easily? Are you wedded to being politically correct in everything you say and do? A few years ago I took a course on Buddhism at UVA. The first project our instructor asked us to do was to write down a list of words to describe ourselves. You can imagine when we gathered them together on the blackboard what that list looked like – lots of “mothers,” “fathers,” “friends,” and family ties and occupations galore. I probably added “writer,” and “wife” to the mix. The purpose if I recall correctly, was for us to banish all those words from our consciousness, words that separate us into different groups by clan or class or religion or education, and think in terms of a more universal, inclusive identity. We are all human, deal with it.

Now I’m not writing this just for Bob, who absolutely hates political correctness. He has since the term first appeared. I have to admit that what first attracted me to him was his iconoclastic nature, so even when I’m disagreeing with him about something, I understand his position, for the most part. So when I read this essay in The Spectator by Nick Cohen, I immediately forwarded it on to him. Can we really change the world simply by changing the words we use? I grew up when “mental retardation” was considered a birth defect, and calling someone “retarded” wasn’t cursing, it was just a fact. These children were not mainstreamed and so we knew very little about them. Then later we used words like “intellectual disability.”

Worry about whether you, or more pertinently anyone you wish to boss about, should say ‘person with special needs’ instead of ‘disabled’ or ‘challenged’ instead of ‘mentally handicapped’ and you will enjoy a righteous glow. You will not do anything, however, to provide health care and support to the mentally and physically handicapped, the old or the sick. Indeed, your insistence that you can change the world by changing language, and deal with racism or homophobia merely by not offending the feelings of interest groups, is likely to allow real racism and homophobia to flourish unchallenged, and the sick and disadvantaged to continue to suffer from polite neglect. An obsession with politeness for its own sake drives the modern woman, who deplores the working class habit of using ‘luv’ or ‘duck’, but ignores the oppression of women from ethnic minorities. A Victorian concern for form rather than substance motivates the modern man, who blushes if he says ‘coloured’ instead of ‘African-American’ but never gives a second’s thought to the hundreds of thousands of blacks needlessly incarcerated in the US prison system. http://blogs.spectator.co.uk/nick-cohen/2014/04/you-sexistracistliberalelitist-bastard-how-dare-you/

Cohen believes the right and the left are equally responsible for pitting one group against another, and fighting pretend wars so that all that exists really is the argument. Think about that video of Obama saying something about the middle of the country, or was it PA, “…clinging to their religion and their guns.” Think about that leaked video of Romney at that $50,000 a plate dinner where he said it wasn’t his job to win the 47 percent of voters who were committed to President Obama, because they are “dependent on government” (and he will) “never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives.” That pretty much deep-sixed his campaign. And I think it’s true. The media is always making it about us and them, except every now and then when a clear voice cuts through the rubble.

“As the late and much-missed Robert Hughes said, ‘We want to create a sort of linguistic Lourdes, where evil and misfortune are dispelled by a dip in the waters of euphemism’.”

Words of course can hurt, and they can heal. We returned last night from Great Grandmother Ada’s Passover Seder. We read through a whole book of words in English and Hebrew before a dinner filled with symbolism and meaning. It’s meant to recall our journey from slavery to freedom, to cement our Jewish identity, and it happened right after some KKK nut job in Kansas yelled “Heil Hitler” after killing three people. He will be charged with a “hate crime.” But Jewish people everywhere know it was so much more than hate. We remembered the six million in our reading of the Haggadah. Until we can break down the mental barriers that divide us, by race or sex or religion – and not just with words but with real legislation and dialogue devoid of political semantics – what should we expect of our politicians.

 

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Whenever I see a newsworthy writing prompt, I keep it in a folder for a rainy day. And even though it’s stopped raining, this one has been calling to me for weeks. “Rejoice, Dressing Your Age is Dead,” by Erin G Ryan in Jezebel. http://jezebel.com/rejoice-dressing-your-age-is-dead-1515208677?utm_campaign=socialfow_jezebel_twitter&utm_source=jezebel_twitter&utm_medium=socialflow

Despite the best efforts of survey respondents and dating advice columnists, women aren’t necessarily heeding the social directive to stop caring about fashion once Hollywood stops casting women their age as the love interest in action movies. Gone are the days of No Miniskirts After 35. Women well into adulthood are storming Asos to deplete its supplies of unicorn sweaters…

First of all, I hate unicorn sweaters. And I hate those fashion magazines that deign to advise us how to dress at “any age;” we see the layouts for our 20s, 30s, 40s, and 50s. Then what happens? Are we supposed to sail out to sea like a Viking warrior, put on grannie shoes and call it a day? Here’s how you dress in your 60s ladies – however the hell you want!

I got my start in the newspaper business with a very tongue-in-cheek essay called, “The Fashion Hot-Line.” It was 1980, and I was all about the local custom of wearing flannel everywhere. Big hair and bling hadn’t quite made it up to the Berkshires. To be honest, the whole fashion thing had eluded me for years. Except for the occasional trip to Loehmann’s while visiting Grandma Ada, my style was more mid-century mama – ie, comfy.

Still, I admit to not liking the look of young girls and their moms dressed alike. That whole leggings and sweatshirt Falshdance craze just seemed too contrived. But matching Laura Ashley dresses? Now that I could understand. The Bride soared beyond my stilted fashion sense while she was still in high school; even cautioning me not to wear what I had worn in the 1960s. Which does not mean I don’t love hippy-chic baby clothes for the Love Bug!

In an industry that must change every season in order to maintain exceed its sales, I’ve always given short shrift to trends of any kind. Florals are IN for Spring, how original! If malls are dying and no one knows where teens are buying their clothes these days, as Ryan says in her article, then maybe that’s a good thing. They are probably raiding their mother’s closet, going to thrift stores, and shopping online at TopShop with the occasional trip to TJ Maxx. Maybe they are even saving their money?!

My 20 something Rocker has another modeling gig in LA. Remember when the band did that photo shoot for Paris Vogue? Well they want the boys again! I never would have thought my sweet son, who wore a black armband for weeks over his grungy surfer tee shirts 20 years ago when Cobain died, would be the fashion forward face of our family! Everyone always said the Bride should model, she was so tall, so svelte. But fashion is fickle, Rock on Dude!

2 Guitarists: the Rocker on Top

2 Guitarists: the Rocker on Top

 

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Raising a child today can be fraught with danger. There’s the fear of strangers to instill, not to mention all the little accidents that could end in bone or tooth shattering chaos.

I’m being facetious, sort of…it’s no wonder young working parents of today spend more time with their offspring than the last couple of generations ever did. Certainly my foster Mom Nell would let me bike around the neighborhood until dark, learning important lessons in survival. And I would deposit my kids at The Beach, where they could get into all kinds of mischief and usually did!

So I had to laugh when the Bride told me to read the latest article in the Atlantic, “Hey Parents, Leave Those Kids Alone!” It’s all about how children need to challenge themselves in order to grow up healthy and strong, emotionally and physically. They need to force themselves to do the thing they are afraid of, “…in order to overcome their fear.” http://www.theatlantic.com/features/archive/2014/03/hey-parents-leave-those-kids-alone/358631/

Children need to:

  • Explore Heights – like I did when I walked alone across a log over a river and fell, and knew how it felt to have the air punched out of your lungs.
  • Handle Dangerous Tools – like the Rocker did when he fashioned a sword out of a stick (which he did often) and beat the crap out of a bee’s nest; he knew what dozens of bee stings felt like. Or the Bride zip-lining across our backyard.
  • Be Near Dangerous Elements – the Bride and Rocker both spent most summers around the ocean, barely supervised; so yes, they did learn how to swim.
  • Rough and Tumble Play – did I mention they were building forts with lounge chairs and climbing up lifeguard stands and jumping off and such?
  • Speed – yes, that was the Rocker’s middle name. For him it was ice skates and rollerblade hockey on the street, but the Bride could also rollerblade out of my sight in a quick second.
  • Exploring on One’s Own. Probably the most important element of all.

Things started to change around issues of child safety when lawyers started to sue towns and municipalities for damages resulting from playground equipment. Grassy areas became covered in rubber, some equipment disappeared entirely, like that metal merry-go-round that kids pushed and could eventually jump on. I can still remember the thrill of that ride. When I think about it, it was around the time my children were growing up that things started to change – the first handbook for public safety equipment was published in 1981.

I remember my nana allowing me to walk into the town of Scranton, PA to buy an ice cream cone by myself under the age of 10. The risky thing about it was getting the change right! The Bride walked up the street herself to her piano lessons in the Berkshires; the Rocker routinely disappeared at the beach. But like the newfangled idea of a semi-supervised, wild, junkyardish playground called The Land in the Atlantic article, a day at the beach offered many of the important elements of danger and excitement to fuel a young child’s growth.

I think if we are anxious parents, we will raise anxious children. When we scoop up our child to remove them from harm’s way, we do not allow them the opportunity to fix something themselves, to overcome an obstacle. And when we go out of our way to accommodate our child’s fears, we reinforce those fears. Of course this is all age-dependant. A toddler may need a little scooping every now and then. “Fear Not, Child,” by Jerry Bubrick http://www.nature.com/scientificamericanmind/journal/v25/n2/full/scientificamericanmind0314-46.html

Can you find the Corgi?

Can you find the Corgi?

 

 

 

 

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