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Posts Tagged ‘lifestyle’

It’s almost summertime and the living isn’t so easy. Today, the third Climate Assessment has been released by the White House, and our general prognosis isn’t so good. We’re heating up the planet, severe storms are increasing and seas are rising. It’s like a set-up for a sci-fi horror movie with Tom Cruise, only it’s real. But we all know that. I have a friend who lives in town and sold her car. She’s happy walking most places and discovered Charlottesville’s excellent transit system. She gets an “A” in my book! For the rest of us, I’m afraid we’re failing miserably.

Living a green life isn’t so hard and it’s not so new. Back in the late 60s when I was in college, we learned about chemical dyes that didn’t degrade in sewers. We knew how to compost, and in fact we did back in the Berkshires. In Windsor in the 70s I had a solar clothes dryer – I hung my babies’ diapers on a clothesline.

My old fashioned diapers

My old fashioned diapers

We were all children at the dawn of the Age of Aquarius, and we felt an affinity for the land. The three Rs were real and we lived by them. I rescued my baby’s crib from the curbside, along with her rocking chair; we recycled all our friends’ baby clothes and toys. We planted a Victory Garden!

So what happened? The 80s happened. Right about the time we left the Berkshires, when the Rocker was just 2 and the Bride was 7, I noticed some distinct cultural differences. Maybe not as obvious as moving to the South, but strange just the same.

Moving back to suburban NJ from New England left me in super culture shock. Women thought I was odd because I mowed our lawn, with a push mower – was it because Bob didn’t do it or because we didn’t have a landscaping service? And I ground our coffee, with a coffee grinder… and I actually played with the kids on a field trip, instead of standing under a tree comparing nail polish. Reaganomics was the law of the land. If we didn’t eventually move closer to the beach, I might not have survived that transplant.

Ostentatious, obsequious wealth was flaunted by our neighbors with their MacMansions sitting nearly empty of furniture and their big SUVs in 3-car garages. I put up a clothesline even though one mom told me she didn’t think the town allowed them. We always believed in asking for forgiveness instead of permission. Then I got back to the business of reporting on town meetings and school budgets; interviewing interesting people and writing biographies.

And it didn’t much concern me when the town’s Annual Meeting on January 1st started with an Anglican minister and a prayer. He was a hospice preacher and an EMT who rode on the ambulance. His yearly prayer (they didn’t do this before every meeting) was pretty interfaith and profoundly peaceful.

But praying for this planet won’t stop our reliance on fossil fuels and the corrupt lobbying by corporations to keep the status quo.

The assessment warns that current efforts to implement emissions cuts and to adapt to changes are “insufficient to avoid increasingly negative social, environmental, and economic consequences”. According to the White House, climate and weather disasters cost the US more than $100bn in 2012, the country’s warmest year on record.http://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-27296417

I’ve started following a Canadian climate scientist on Twitter, Katherine Hayoe @KHayhoe, along with Michael Mann the “hockey stick” scientist. She is sort of an anomaly since Hayoe is an Evangelical Christian, with a compelling world view. It would seem that religion and science CAN co-exist! Chris Mooney at Slate just wrote an excellent essay, “Why Should Evangelical Christians Care About Climate Change?”

http://www.slate.com/articles/health_and_science/climate_desk/2014/05/conservative_christians_and_climate_change_five_arguments_for_why_one_should.html

Why indeed. Here’s one reason – our grandchildren.

Visiting with Great Grandmamas

Visiting with Great Grandmamas

The Bug's new-fasioned diapers

The Bug’s new-fasioned diapers

 

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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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Holden 09 005 FB

Serenity in a mountain view

August and September are filled with birthdays in my family. The Bride and my sister Kay share back to back birthdays, I call us Virgo/Libra types (you can count me in later this month) – the Christmas party babies! Happy Birthday to them on this glorious weekend.

These two share more than a couple of dates on the calendar. Kay introduced the Bride to art in her New York City apartment. My sister studied at the Art Student’s League and she also helped to illustrate many medical books during her years working at Mt Sinai Hospital and producing graphic art for the Medical School. With sun pouring through her beautiful Upper East Side window overlooking a garden, the young Bride was given a pencil and a blank canvas along with the love and encouragement of her Aunt Kay.

Painting has been a common thread throughout both their lives. After a long high school day filled with too many AP classes, the Bride would settle into her art class and paint along with beautiful music.  My home is filled with drawings from those days. And Kay’s renditions of our farmhouse in the Berkshires, and our beautiful Welsh Corgis will always decorate our walls.

This meditative time, setting up the instruments of art, the pencils or delicate brushes and turpentine, the smells, the easel outdoors, the time alone to ponder and really see – to see their way into a subject – this bit of creation helped them deal with the everyday stress of school and work. It helped them to slow down.

The Bride sent me an article this week about being busy. http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/06/30/the-busy-trap/?_r=1&

Almost everyone I know is busy. They feel anxious and guilty when they aren’t either working or doing something to promote their work. They schedule in time with friends the way students with 4.0 G.P.A.’s  make sure to sign up for community service because it looks good on their college applications. I recently wrote a friend to ask if he wanted to do something this week, and he answered that he didn’t have a lot of time but if something was going on to let him know and maybe he could ditch work for a few hours. I wanted to clarify that my question had not been a preliminary heads-up to some future invitation; this was the invitation. But his busyness was like some vast churning noise through which he was shouting out at me, and I gave up trying to shout back over it.

The author, Tim Kreider, calls this addiction to busyness a kind of hedge against emptiness, an “existential reassurance.”  We impose it on ourselves and it makes us feel important. After all, if we’re always so busy, how can we ever take time off for self-awareness. He posits that you don’t hear people holding down two jobs with four kids complaining about being too busy, because they’re just plain exhausted. Interesting stuff, this monkey brain!

Surprisingly an old friend simultaneously posted an article about being a distracted parent, about always saying, “Hurry up!” to her child. And I could see how this attraction to being busy can get its start. The child who likes to dawdle, who stops to talk with strangers, who wants to engage with her environment soon learns to make a goal and stick to a time schedule. And if she or he doesn’t, they may be labeled “special” in school…instead of “artist.”

The Love Bug likes to stop for ice cream with her parents. Slowing down is something children can either help us to do, or we can teach them how to be anxious. We’re the adult in this equation, it’s our choice.  photo

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I have a theory. There are two kinds of people in a marriage – the collector (or clutterer, depending on your inclination) and the minimalist (the one who throws everything away). Go ahead, look around, admit it. Somebody has to be in charge of the memories, and somebody always has to clean them up. It’s inevitable, and after knowing me for just 300+ posts I’m pretty sure you know which side I’m on.

Here is the tiny tidbit of news that sparked my theory. There is a very historic Apple I computer that’s going up for sale at an auction shortly….it was bought for $600+ and it’s estimated it will sell for at least a quarter of a million! I’d say that’s a pretty good return for your money.

“An early Apple computer dating from 1976 has been put up for auction by a retired school psychologist in America. Ted Perry had kept the Apple 1 in his attic in a cardboard box, in his home outside Sacramento, California.” http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-23047462

Our dirty little family secret is that Bob would always take the opportunity to clear out our family room whenever I’d take the kids to NJ for a visit with Grandma Ada. His theory was that they had too many toys and we wouldn’t miss them. Except when I did. The Bride’s Aunt Becky had bequeathed to her a beautiful Barbie doll in her original pink carrying case with lots of clothes and shoes. Now Becky is in her early 50’s, so I’m assuming this was a pretty early Barbie. I’m also hoping Becky doesn’t read my blog.

My feminist side didn’t particularly like the doll; remember this was the early 80s so Barbie wasn’t retro, or vintage yet. But since we had just found out that the baby Bride was allergic to mites, which meant no stuffed dolls or animals, I embraced as best I could the pointy, plastic Barbie.

Then one day she was gone! Disappeared into thin air, and I started to think we had been robbed. That’s when Bob confessed rather than listen to my conspiracy theories for years. And now, when we watch Antiques Road Show, especially when they do the reruns and compare the valuation of a piece from maybe a decade ago, I look over at Bob. And it’s one of those moments where words are never needed, because he knows what I’m thinking without saying a word… B A R B I E

Here are the kiddos in my mid 80s barn wood-sided family room, on the edge of a bird sanctuary in the Berkshire Mountains. The TV is right next to the woodstove. Notice their playthings – my old sandal, a pair of Wayfarer sunglasses, and some rawhide dog bones. Poor babies.

photo

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In “Purse Politics; Tote and Vote,” the NYTimes thought it might be fun to do a puff piece on what women Senate and Congress members carry with them all the time. And thanks to Jezebel, I found it! Sen Claire MacCaskill said, “I think most of us, while we may look at the cute little purses, our lives don’t fit in a cute little purse. Our lives fit something that is in between a purse and a briefcase, and that’s what I carry.” http://jezebel.com/new-york-times-profiles-powerful-congresswomen-and-thei-511022241

Right, something in between, like a big purse…a tote maybe. In 2013 we have a record number of women on The Hill, 20 in the Senate and 81 in the House, and all we want to know about are the things they carry? iPads and phones, chap sticks and wallets? This article led to a bit of stream of consciousness for me, so follow along if possible.

A book on my teenage children’s summer reading list was, The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien. It just so happens their English teacher Mr Shea was a friend of the author, and this book has been coined the next best thing to Hemingway in writing fiction about war. It won the Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Critics Circle Award and the French Prix du Meilleur Livre Etranger. Unlike lady senators, soldiers in the Vietnam War carried mosquito netting, writing paper, letters from home and tarps to keep the jungle at bay; “For the most part they carried themselves with dignity.”

And I started to think about the things I carry around hither and yon. The damnable iPhone leaves me feeling rudderless should I forget it, and because of my shoulder problem, I’ve switched to a smaller summer purse. I sling it cross-body like a bandolier setting forth to do battle every day with life in the country. Keys, check! Water, absolutely! Wallet is a must have, along with all those plastic cards that let retailers know all my personal information. I’m holding out at Panerra Bread, why do you need one of their cards, really?

When I was working for a newspaper, I always had a small notebook and pencil with me, very old school Lois Lane. Now, I just send myself a text on my phone if I need to remember something. And my text said “WWII and sex.” I’d been listening to NPR’s “All Things Considered” about our GIs and prostitutes in Normandy around the end of the war. Mary Louise Roberts wrote her non-fiction book titled, What Soldiers Do: Sex and the American GI in World War II France, to bring some attention to some of the lesser known evils of war; like the rise of VD in our troops and the increase in African American soldiers charged and promptly hanged for rape in Le Havre.  http://www.npr.org/2013/05/31/187350487/sex-overseas-what-soldiers-do-complicates-wwii-history

Soldiers to senators, writers to doctors, we all carry a microcosm of meaning with us every day. Diaper bags are toted everywhere with new moms and dads, and they always have less to carry with the second and third child. Still I’d rather read a book about what lady legislators actually do, and how their approach to politics may differ from their male colleagues. What kinds of policy are they willing to compromise on, when do they stand and fight for a bill. Are they cookie-cutter voters with their party mates? Do they bring in cookies for their aides? Are they furious with the GOP for trying to repeal Obamacare for the 36th time? Is a woman fundamentally different in building consensus?

Because in the end, it’s not about what we carry, it’s about what we do with it once we get there. Let’s see; can you guess who is the DC lawyer, the San Francisco businesswoman, the Chicago child psychologist and the Nashville ER doctor?

J&M  0992

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“There are people who make an art form out of not being intense. They can remain on an amusing yet completely repetitive level. I can’t operate that way.”

Do you remember when I said I wanted to join a writer’s forum, and the only way to log in was with a twitter account, so I joined the Twit-o-Sphere? Well, it’s through that writer’s website, “Medium,” that I found myself reading an important essay this morning on friendship: “The Games Women Play: Part 2” By Lauren Mechling (author, editor and saint).

The author interviews another author, Susanna Sonnenberg. about the ebb and flow of friendship.  She Matters, is a memoir  of Sonnenberg’s twenty most important female friendships done as a chapter-per-friend. They talk about neediness and intimacy, about expectations and loss. https://medium.com/the-lauren-papers/a30ac0d4b1d0

Sonnenberg asks, “What do you want out of a friend?” Mechling says she wants somebody she can call on the phone any hour of the day or night. Which means she wants her friend to answer her calls, and be there if she

J&M  0569

needs her. I had a different take on that question, although maybe it’s in the same general category.

I want a friend who knows where the spoons are in my kitchen.

For me it’s about the comfort of showing up and listening. My BFF Lee from MA showed up at the Rocker’s bris with armloads of flowers from her garden. No one asked her, she just knew what I needed and she always knew the right thing to say, to bring me back to myself. To help me see my best self, and even coax me toward grace when I was listing away. Here is Lee to the left at the Bride’s wedding; and the Bride’s Duke roomie Sally on the right, who just had a baby last week!

Obviously, no one person can fulfill every longing we may have for a friend or a mate for that matter. Is she intellectually curious; fun to be around; supportive in a good way; adventurous? We all know the sunny-day vs rainy-day friends paradigm. It’s a rare and wonderful thing when that type combines – it’s the lottery of friendship! And yes, things do change once our identity shifts into motherhood. There can be rifts, and ruptures, not all friends can stand the ebb and flow, the test of time.

Like a good marriage, a good friend will still love you with all your faults. “If I show you this, will you still love me? If I show you this, will you still be with me?”

Honesty and loyalty, pretty much says it all. Like the authors, I need to have a certain intensity in order to fuel a friendship, we need to go deep sometimes, soul-baringly deep. I feel lucky to have found a few good friends at this stage of my life, in my empty nest. ps The spoons are to the left of the kitchen sink.

County Fair 008FB

 

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How to begin? My Mother used to tell me a couple of things, repeatedly, that I’m sure she never said to my brothers: 1) “You have to suffer to be beautiful,” and 2) “You can never be too rich or too thin.”  I’m afraid that while combing and trying to braid my daughter’s wavy, sand-soaked hair at the beach I may have repeated her first message. Here is the Bride and Bug considering beauty products. I hope she doesn’t hear that message about beauty. photo copy 3

But I tried to banish the second from my mind.

In fact you can be too thin, and if you care to read about one woman’s struggle, Mika Brzezinski and her friend Diane Smith co-wrote a book together, Obsessed. It’s like Jack Spratt and his wife; Brzezinski went from a size 2 to a size 6 (and yes, I guffawed at this) and Smith, a fellow TV journalist, lost 75 pounds.

But Mika was honest about how she may be perceived as the mad, “skinny bitch.” They talked candidly about food as an addiction problem, as a public health problem when I happened to tune into their conversation one morning on Morning Joe, and it was enlightening. They were 2 sides of the same coin, a woman’s body image and our country’s dysfunctional obsession with food. It all started when Mika confronted her friend about her weight gain, calling her “fat and obese,” in case she didn’t hear the fat part. Smith called her a “food Nazi.” And then Mika confessed to a life-long struggle with anorexia and bulimia

Mika said, “How I eat, diet, and look has tied me up in knots my entire life, and I know I am not alone. I have been held hostage by food since I was thirteen years old. My body started filling out more than the figures of other girls in my class, and that set off what has become a thirty-year battle with my body image. Food has been my enemy.” http://tv.msnbc.com/2013/05/06/an-excerpt-from-mika-brzezinskis-obsessed/

My psychologist brother Jim has often said that people are either wrapped too tight or too loose. I worried when the Bride went off to Duke. She was surrounded by Type A young women who were wrapped pretty tight with body dysmorphia – exercising too much, throwing up in bathrooms. It was hard not to see it and not to buy into it. But my daughter is a smart cookie IMHO, and moderation was always her approach. I once heard a friend of hers in med school describe some food as “bad,” and I couldn’t help lecturing her about how food can’t be “bad” or good for that matter. Applying a moral code to ice cream for instance is ridiculous. But putting the spoon down before the pint is finished is a matter of choice. And I realize now, it’s much harder for some of us.

I had a dance teacher who used to say, “I only need a taste,” to be satisfied. What will power, what control she had over her hunger. I was always thin, without trying. I would drink a frappe in Boston on my way back from a dance class. But approaching 40, I was unhappy about moving from MA, I had put on about 10 pounds (don’t laugh, I was a size 10 and these things seemed important at the time) and took my anger out on food. I found an aerobic dance class I loved and started restricting food until I got down to 118, a size 6, with my clavicle protruding. Oh, the attention I got. People said I looked so good and yet I was desperate inside. Thankfully, my self-abusive relationship with food didn’t last long. We moved out of a suburb I hated to live close to the beach, in a town that was very much like New England. And I started writing again for another newspaper.

My feminist brain just loves to think – would this ever happen to a man? Do people ask men how they will juggle this new job with a family? Does that shirt make them look fat? So, here is a little play on that Dove commercial about women and body image. Enjoy!

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/05/01/dove-real-beauty-parody-b_n_3191883.html

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