Thanksgiving

"Be the master of your destiny." -- ...
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Once, long ago, I wrote a poem on Thanksgiving about a couple who were standing on a stone wall outside their house. They were wearing matching Fairisle sweaters with wreaths around their necks and were in their fifties. A bird swooped down and took the husbands sweater in his mouth and flew away with him. The wife was too embarrassed to explain what had happened so she spent the rest of her life ignoring the fact that he was gone.

Why am I telling you this story? I have no idea. I think I am telling the story because on these overly loud and food filled holidays I wonder if I made the right choices as I find myself not surrounded by family but surrounded by friends. It seems more peaceful this way. I am staying at a  wonderful hotel in Half Moon Bay where the ocean pounds the shore constantly and it is impossible not to stop and look in wonder every minute one is outside. I am grateful to be here with friends having a good time  and enjoying my life. I see many families here who are apparently happy with three or more generations of family milling around. Some of these families are noisy and some are quiet. I like the noisy ones. I have always longed to be Hispanic as those families seem to have the most lively fun.

 Our Thanksgiving as children was generally over in one hour. My parents won the contest for the fastest eaters in the east. On Thanksgiving there were butter shaped turkeys on the butter plates and ice cream in the shape of a turkey. The butler carried all the platters to our table where we were each served in turn. If we went to my Grandmother’s things were usually more interesting as there she set up a children’s table where there was much less supervision. I was still sitting at the children’s table when I was 40.

I sat next to a lady at lunch whose husband was playing golf so she was lunching alone. I like to chat up strangers. Out of the blue she told me she and her husband had run away from Sacramento to escape their families. I said I understood and commented that there were many families who tried to escape each other even when living in the same house.

I love the clear truth of Thanksgiving and the comments of strangers. Hope all of you are enjoying a calm and peaceful time whether alone or with a group.

Russian Women Learn Pole Dancing to Attract Husbands!

Chinese Pole Dancing
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In Russia rich husbands are a scarcity so women are learning pole dancing to attract rich men. I wonder what men could do in the United States to attract rich women? This reminds me of the mating ritual of the peacock but in reverse. If a man were to learn something to attract a wife, what would it be? Please send me your suggestions? A handsome face is always a good thing. Good muscle tone, yes. No use of hair dye or additions is mandatory.Sense of humor, yes. Top of the list? Kindness. Well, maybe kindness and intelligence but sometimes too much intelligence can be a problem. I know this from my own experience. I am curious as to what you think so write in and tell me. The male equivalent of pole dancing…Now what could that be?

The Secret Lives of Single People

Family watching television, c. 1958
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                                                  The Secret Lives of Single People

We can’t imagine how we would feel if others saw us alone at home. They might catch us lying on the couch in the middle of the day reading a junky magazine or eating popcorn for lunch. We might be seen staying home all day without speaking face to face with one single person. We sometimes can be found on the floor with our dog on our tummy just staring deeply into their eyes. Sure some of us work but some of us don’t and if that is the case life can sometimes be a bit perplexing to the subconscious. One hears voices at funny moments and these voices berate us for not getting out there and doing something with our lives. Reading is not an acceptable option. Nor is watching TV unless, that is, it is the middle of the night and you can’t sleep. There are different codes of conduct for all of us single, live at home people, some more strict than others. It is not easy to be past retirement age and living alone. The voices inside our heads are more demanding than those in the real world.

I found myself spending a lot of time at home when I became a full time writer and some days are easier than others. I hate a schedule which is part of the problem. The only thing I seem to be able to schedule is exercise which I do every morning. After that, it’s a crap shoot as to what I do with my day. This is how I like it so I can’t complain.

I have a few nonprofit things I am working on, a writer’s retreat I am organizing, a new house I am restoring, and some good friends, but I still feel I don’t have enough work to do. This feeling started as a child. I liked cleaning up all my toys. I liked this so much I never took them out as then I would have to clean them up again. Once I was in serious school I learned very quickly that it was not a good thing to complete your class assignments in a timely manner or the teacher would see you sitting there twiddling your thumbs and give you more work. I do things quickly no matter how many times I tell myself to take my time, when I have a task to complete I stick with it until it is completed. I am like a dog with a bone. Most people would enjoy their work and spend hours doing what I do in one hour. I hate this about myself. I don’t know what all this speed is doing for me.

Anyway the other day I was talking with a friend about this feeling of worthlessness as I wasn’t going to work anymore and she said she knew exactly what I meant! She told me that she writes down in her calendar exactly what she has done all day even if it is mundane just so she can show herself what she accomplished that week. She has the demon voices as well. It was at that moment I began to realize there were other people who were driven by this unknown taskmaster who tells us we are lazy and useless. So interesting.

I keep buying books. They are my biggest extravagance. There are so many things I want to know about. I like the feeling of all these books surrounding me in piles all over my house. I really want to stay home and just spend all day reading but I can’t because of the voices. At least that’s what I tell myself. I really want to read the classics again and have read two of Fitzgerald’s books in the past month. I am on a tear of watching Hitchcock films as well. Sometimes I feel I want to fill my mind with all these things and then maybe it will be enough. I know it never will be enough, though, as I am always more curious about something else. I exhaust myself sometimes.

Anyway, in the long run, this is the reason single people get more worn out than people who are partnered. If you have a partner you know at the end of the day someone will be coming home to be with you. If you have that simple bit of information in your mind you also have a stopping point to your activities. You have a time to relax. For some reason this is easier to do if there is someone else in the house.

Daylight Savings Time

On the Way to Work
Image by Old Shoe Woman via Flickr

                                                     Daylight Savings Time

Winter’s claw is upon us

In the local parking lot at five in the afternoon

We scuttle for the supermarket doors

Sliding open and closed

Accepting anyone

And back hurriedly out of the marked white lines

Heading for home.

The dark mountains sigh and fold into their crevices

While the roads narrow even further

Making the trip home longer.

A reunion .

More on Women and Violence

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Image via CrunchBase

Today in the New York Times there are a number of articles about the brutality of men towards women. Sometimes it amazes me how many of these stories we find. I know there are good men in the world but I constantly read about violence against women on the front page of every major newspaper. Today’s paper told a story of a woman in Afghanistan who had tried to kill herself by covering herself with cooking oil and then igniting herself with a match. She has burns which cover 60 % of her body.

She did this because she was ashamed to not have brought a gift to a birthday party. A male relative had scolded her for forgetting and this remark was the straw that broke the camels’ back. It is easy to imagine what her life was like and the abuse she had suffered from male relatives in the past to make her do this horrible thing to herself. Evidently this is a favorite form of suicide in Afghanistan as the tools are readily available: cooking oil and matches.

I wonder how long the world will have countries where women are second class citizens who have no rights and are physically and mentally abused with no consequence. Will it be another 100 years? Another 50? If we look into the future how will we begin to stop these practices? NPR was broadcasting the trial today of the man who abducted Elizabeth Smart  and the audience heard in detail what he did to a 14 year old girl. Rape, terror and all the while this was watched by his wife who supported the kidnapping. I can’t get my mind around this behavior. What twist of psychosis makes men want to possess a 14 year old girl? The trial of the man who broke into the home of Dr. William Petit and raped and killed his wife and daughters is also going on and the man was found guilty and sentenced to death. I wish he could be killed immediately!

What really offends me is the time and money which will be spent on this sentence and on the trial and retrial and retrial again. If it were up to me I would have them taken outside the court and shot to death. I know. There are a lot of people who will be shocked at my language, argue that our system protects its innocent, and form an argument that shows how wrong I am.

In this case it is clear what these men have done so let’s punish them immediately and not wait around. Maybe if the consequences of such a crime were equally violent things would shift. This is a radically un Buddhist thought, I know, but I am filled with disgust at these crimes and imagine that it was my daughter.

The last article today in the Times that moved me was the story of the parents of a young American woman who was killed in Palestine while protesting in a rally by soldiers who ran over her with a tank. These parents were suing the army and the government in order to make the soldiers aware and accountable for what they had done. Good for those parents! Instead of sadly accepting their daughter’s death, they are fighting the government who made it happen and publicizing the tragedy to the world. Imagine being strong enough to do such a thing.

Life is precious and brief. Violence has always been with us. I have no suggestions on how to make it stop.

Saturday Thoughts on Bullying

An electrician hooking up a generator to a hom...
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Saturday Thoughts on Bullying

Sometimes men speak very loudly when dealing with me and when they do this it hurts my ears .I see and hear men doing this to other women as well from time to time. The other day I was at my new house where I am interviewing men to work there. I would have liked to hire only women but it seems there are only male electricians and plumbers which are what I need. I do have a female architect who I like very much as well as a great designer but that’s about it in terms of people who will restore my lovely house.

Actually it doesn’t need much restoration as the lady who lived there was as in love with her house as I am now. It does not have wiring and plumbing and heating that match this century, however, and I need those things. I am a big fan of electricity, heat and hot water. There’s nothing I like better than a nice hot bath, a good book, a glass of wine, and central heating. Well, maybe popcorn.

Anyway the other day I interviewed another electrician and he was a very loud talker. He fired off technical questions as if we were on a quiz show and I was a contestant. AMP’s, BTU’S and CAT 5 were flying all over the place. I felt refreshed and stimulated by this interrogation as I batted the terms right back at him and stared him straight in the eye. Wow! It was fun! Though he was much larger than me in every way I felt as if I were just his size and that we were very well matched. St the time I didn’t really take notice of how much fun this interaction was but in reflection I see I enjoyed it as I wasn’t being bullied. I might have been had I not responded as I did but I didn’t take that road.

Probably this guy had bad experiences working with women who didn’t have a general contractor working with them. Maybe it took too long for him to explain things and this frustrated him or maybe he simply was a bully or maybe he is just kindove gruff. It really doesn’t matter. What mattered to me was how much I enjoyed not allowing myself to be bullied and how it wasn’t even an issue.

So I have learned something, I think. Some of the time, anyway, we allow men to bully us and it really isn’t helpful to the man or to us for this to happen. I went to a conference on abused women and the focus was on how to help the men who did this. I went, initially, because a friend of mine was working on this cause and invited me. I was prepared to be disgusted and unsympathetic but left with more understanding of why this happens.

I still think the men who do this should be locked up for a long time but now I have a little more of a perspective on the dynamic of it all. I liked feeling as big as that man and at the end of our interchange I know we respected each other. I hope his bid comes in a good range as I would like to hire him. I found that learning how to be strong verbally is almost as good as learning to shoot was.

Life gets better as I get older. Others worry about aging and losing power and being alone. I share those worries at times. It is a strange time to be alive. Everything is changing yet so much is the same. Hope is in the air. The other day there was an article in the New York Times talking about how people are learning to solve problems and face the future by being inclusive in their communications. How wonderful is that? Arguing for the sake of winning seems a foolish exercise while discussing for the sake of a more agreeable and profitable outcome seems very sensible, indeed.