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Love Letter To America

Like any true love, we want the best for those we care about. It is also essential to be honest. And so I will be honest with you because I care and because I love you. We were tested by this pandemic America…and we were found lacking.

While politicians and business owners are chomping at the bit to resume life as usual, I feel that something will be lost if we don’t take time to consider what the Corona virus shutdown was meant to teach us and why we are so quick to act like like it never happened.

Although I am not a nurse, doctor or respiratory therapist, I was considered “essential” and therefore worked through the last 6 months of this ongoing pandemic. It is perhaps the fact that I was not furloughed or quarantined that I find myself longing to embrace a once in a lifetime chance to see how the world was without us in it and to see what we can now bring to our lives that we wouldn’t, had we not been forced to pause.

I feel strongly that we got a glimpse of what life would be like without humans. And it was amazing. When human activity came to a halt, murky lagoon water returned to a beautiful aqua color and dolphins frolicked in the canals of Venice. Around the world, animals came out of hiding and took up residence in city streets and town centers. The air was clean. Even though I continued to trudge back and forth to work, the peace in the air was palpable. It was quiet!

I suppose I quasi-quarantined at the weekends and when I wasn’t on the hunt for toilet paper and Clorox wipes, I began to feel the need to gain some control of my reality by beautifying my back garden with flowers and doing a quick redecorating of my living room. I checked on family and friends, relieved that they were ok. I felt that we were all part of something bigger than ourselves. Yes this was global technically but the pandemic called us all to rise above routine and comfort, above convenience and what is known.

It wasn’t until people took to the streets with signs saying “I want my manicure” that I realized we were not all in this together. Other than procuring essentials, there was nothing to busy ourselves with. This was a chance to see the world differently and to perhaps make some changes. It was the first time I could glimpse peace on earth.

Yet people screamed out “I HAVE TO WORK?” “OPEN UP!” We have been tested America and we have been found lacking. This was a golden opportunity not to only stop a pandemic (that has gone on to kill over a hundred and sixty thousand people…and counting), but to reset, regroup and maybe even get in touch with our hearts that have been crying out for change. People complained before this that they felt lonely, unfulfilled, that they hated their jobs. That they didn’t have time to exercise or meditate. People in the millions were playing the lottery, hoping to strike it rich so they could walk away from soul-destroying jobs. What are we racing back to? Smog, traffic, pollution, sick wildlife? To paraphrase Thoreau, did we really want to race back to leading lives of quiet desperation?

People were willing to risk their lives, as well as ours, to work, when every health expert advised against it, not because they loved their jobs, but because they hadn’t saved ANY money or prepared themselves in any way for the eventual disaster that would befall them. We’ve seen severe reactions and blatant disregard for human life in the name of desperation. Protesters belittling and spitting on battle -weary healthcare workers was the breaking point for me. This is not us being our best selves. I promise you I’m not here to judge, I’m just asking you to think about what transpired. Because people don’t plan or save.

It’s more important in our society to have the latest iPhone, or the newest model car than to be adult and make our selves feel safe. So afraid are we to be judged or found lacking that we put our own lives at risk. Believe me, I’ve had to learn some hard lessons too but that is the thing, are we willing to learn from this and make better choices?

If everyone had a year of savings to get them through tough times, what would this time have looked like? Would people still have taken to the streets to demand to return to dead-end jobs? Who knows what life may have looked like. Some may have taken up painting or learned to play an instrument, they may have welcomed time to rest or learned to perfect that souffle. Others may have delved into nature or started reading books. We didn’t just fail our healthcare system and those who perished, we failed ourselves.

What I found most striking was the sheer inability of people to calm and soothe themselves. Some people were making more on unemployment than they did in those jobs they screamed to get back, Instead of being more loving, caring and generous, or adopting the “neighbors helping neighbors” mentality, many responded with anger, nastiness , hoarding and pushing others around in supermarkets. We witnessed something I never thought I would see; grown adults having temper tantrums in supermarkets and stores that attempted to protect their employees by asking them to temporarily, wear a mask. Temper tantrums! And denial that this virus even existed was off the charts. People were so accustomed to soothing themselves with things. That they were jumping out of their skin when left to sit with their own thoughts. Many took up drinking as a pastime and still others gave up completely.

My dear fellow humans, we must do better. We have to be able to endure, to soothe ourselves when life events take us by surprise. We must be able to handle distress when it comes to our front doors. I give you that this was a shock, most of us have not experience wars, famines, plagues or natural disasters. Yes it was stressful. Yes we had to take a step back and figure this thing out, maybe get creative and find new solutions. But to see the most basic aspects of civility, values and decency go out the window because people were unable to regulate themselves?

Again, we failed to teach ourselves, our students our children, the fundamentals of something we all have….feelings, and how to manage them. What do I do when I’m scared, when I’m lost, when I’m paralyzed with fear? What do I do? I know I didn’t learn that at home or in school. Why not I find myself asking now? Why not? What messages to do we get in our society about feelings? There’s no place for feelings in the workplace, in the military and in many homes. It’s ok to be happy right, but what about all those other feelings? We get the message that we should keep them to ourselves. Black people know all too well that they are not “allowed” to be angry in society. That doing so can at best have them judged and stereotyped or at worst get them killed. Women are supposed to be pleasant, have it together. What do we do when she’s crying uncontrollably or seething with rage? We don’t like it. And men of all colors learn very early on that they can’t be themselves, that they can’t cry, they can’t be confused. Look at the language that’s cropped up in the past 15 years or so “Man up, Suck it up, put on your big girl panties”. If you don’t hear it anywhere else, know that these are insults. These are negating statements meant to keep us in line.

We must be able to identify, acknowledge, process and release our emotions. It is essential to being human. How likely do you think it is that a young boy of 16 would shoot up a school if he had been allowed to own his feelings and those feelings were validated by others? So often we choose being cool and being aloof, cutting ourselves off from our own humanity.

To add insult to injury, we just happen to have a political system and media system that pushed fear agendas prior to and during this worldwide event. It is so easy to see the shortcomings of our country because we watched as country after country before us, handled this virus that was heading straight for us. They shut down, people donned, masks, they helped one another, they sang to each other and they cheered their health care systems. Their news was not alarmist, it was factual. Countries pulled together as we did not and have not since in many respects. We should not be too proud to learn from others. It’s a sign of intelligence.

Instead we fought with each other about science, about facts, and cue Q Anon…some of us left reality altogether! We blamed each other, railed against recommendations. We fought over rolls of toilet paper or we shunned our civic duty, refusing to do our part to contain the virus. At the time of this writing, people are getting summons for having Covid parties and not wearing masks. Other countries have seen us as the “teenager” in the room, always brash and unsophisticated in the ways of the world, but this time of lockdown showed us to be petulant children.

The good news is that many people did show up by helping others, wearing masks and understanding frayed nerves rather than striking back. We can still make lasting changes. We can learn to take care of our emotional states by using coping skills. We can reach out to others, to groups, we can journal, meditate, use mindfulness techniques, we can take walks in nature or get a pet. We can ensure our security by putting money aside. We don’t have to go from crisis to crisis. We can choose to pay of credit cards instead of buying that new video game or iPhone. We can choose love over fear, knowing that it will be ok, that we will make it out of this stronger and wiser for having had the experience.

What will you tell your grandchildren when 2020 goes down in history? That you refused to wear a mask, that you threw your groceries around or coughed in someone’s face? Or that you helped neighbors obtain groceries, that you learned to meditate and it made you a better person. That you realized with some quiet reflection that you don’t actually like being a lawyer and you only did it to make your parents happy. And that is what made you the best at what you do today.

Grasping or holding on for what was, only gets you more of the same. We could have come out of this time wanting to save our beautiful planet, having valued so much how the earth renewed herself in mere weeks. We could have championed the rights of animals after we saw how they gathered when not constantly harassed by well-meaning humans. Such was the case with a pair of pandas that finally mated when they were afforded some privacy!We could have opened our hearts to so much more love and compassion; having empathized with the staggering suffering we saw before us.

Is it too late? I don’t think so. It is never too late to love and be loved, to care for the earth and the animals, to beautify your lives and listen to your heart. Yes this is America, and we have choices. Let’s choose the healthy ones, the grown up ones next time around. Let’s connect to our human-ness and take care of ourselves and each other.

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When Intelligence Takes A Vacation

Image

mdebona

Frustratingly, my cat meows loudly when I am on the phone. She jumps up on the chair or sofa where I sit and attempts to climb up on me, meowing all the time.  She can sleep all day and half the time I don’t even know where she is.  But as soon as I start a conversation on the phone there she is “MEOOOOOWWW, MEOW, MEOOOWWW.”

I have to push her off of the furniture to get her to stop.  It is very annoying.  Everyone can hear her. “Wow, she’s loud” they say, “She must want attention.”

Thought number one:  “What is the matter with her? Can’t she see I’m on the phone!”

Thought two: “I’ll Google and see how others have dealt with this and what they believe her behavior means. I felt there must be some biological or mysterious reason behind this specific behavior and more than a mere look at me, pay attention to meeeeee!

I began to type in why does my cat meow when I’m… and lo and behold the subsequent “on the phone” popped up. Aha! Others have had this same question and surely I will find my answer. I opened up the first website and the first thing I read was “she thinks you are talking to her.”

Thought three accompanied by uncontrollable laughter: My cat does not understand the concept of the phone and talking to another human being by way of telephone lines, modems, Bluetooth or routers.  She hears my voice and assumes I’m talking to or summoning her! The simple answer “she thinks you are talking to her” was like the snapping up of a shade on a sunny day or as if someone threw cold water in my face.

Thought four: What an idiot! I just researched, RESEARCHED for an answer to a question I should have known!  Correction.  For an answer I already knew!  I actually reminded myself to look it up. I typed in the question. Plenty of time to come to my senses! Surely I could have stretched the limits of my own mind to answer this myself!

I turned back to Google to find out how many results there were for this question. My ego scraping around for proof that I was not alone in this cerebral wasteland I found myself in. The answer was 18,500,000. I’m sure not all applied however I clicked on the 10th page of results which luckily still referred to cat behavior and the phone. Ego bruised but not broken, I scooped up my cat with better understanding and compassion for how confusing it must be to live with a human, especially when intelligence takes a vacation.

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A Silenced Writer

Writer's block

flickr

How does one write about not writing?  I’m not referring to writer’s block. I’m talking about when a particular topic is off-limits.  I’m talking about wanting to write about something so bad it hurts.  It is right there in front of me, tempting me all the while.  It’s like when someone tells the  funniest  joke you ever heard.  You are about to burst with laughter when your boss walks in the room and you must reverse thrust to avoid being inappropriate.  It is a lot of energy to hold back, like a sneeze.  The kind of feeling that sort of implodes and you are left feeling somehow frustrated and unfulfilled. You knew it would have been such a good release but now the moment has gone and you are left alone waiting for it to kind of reabsorb.   My writing is relegated to talking about things outside of my profession. If it wasn’t, I’d have an easy book to write, let me tell you.

I am ever the observer as sentences and images form in my head constantly. Images which have flown out and crashed to the ground as of late, grudgingly censored by me.  So frustrating!  My fingers have been twitching to bang out letters on the keyboard, illustrating idiosyncracies, inconsistencies, contradictions, kindnesses, heart wrenching tales which would make grown men cry and mind-blowing stories that have brought me to my knees. But I can’t!  For this reason I have written fluff instead of substance.  Why I can not compartmentalize and move ahead with other thoughts and projects I have no idea.

I have gone through a series of experiences recently which were overwhelming, exciting, scary, frustrating, stressful, invigorating and did I mention overwhelming? I am not permitted though to bring them into the public domain.  I’ve been flying by the seat of my pants. I’ve jumped through hoops, I’ve been flexible and most of all,  I’ve listened and learned. And, I hope my listening has helped.

Other ideas have paled in comparison and so I decided not to write about them.  Writing about not writing and picking at the edges of this larger experience is helpful to a degree I suppose. Getting it out there to be able to move on is the goal.

What I can say is that doing something scary, that moves me out of my comfort zone, has in short order proven to be an invaluable experience.  I have been honored to learn more about a group of people who have humbled me, to say the least.  I so wish I could share the experience with you.

We rarely move out of our comfort zones and don’t realize that we have until we are shocked and horrified, usually with an accompanying “what was I thinking?”   I think that making major changes in life will always be a rewarding experience, no matter what the experience turns out to be and I recommend it highly.  As for this dramatic Italian though, the silence is killing me!

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A Christmas Limmerick!

merry-christmas-winking-santa-claus

There was a plump, rose-cheeked man named Claus

He was jolly and cute but had flaws

He wore women’s shoes

When the reindeer would snooze

And a glimpse gave the Mrs to pause

 

This surprise though it wasn’t enough.

All sorts came from this man in red fluff!

He wasn’t opposed

To some knickers and hose

“And my best Christmas apron” she huffed!

My mother sent out an email saying we had to come to Christmas Eve and Christmas Day celebration at her house with a story or poem that she wants us to recite. Of course the email drew groans…but, I’m finding I need find humor wherever I can find it these days so this is what sprung to mind!

Wishing all my friends, old and new, a very Merry Christmas and Holiday season and all the best for a Happy New Year!

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On Being Italian

OK. Not all Italians are easily excitable, dramatic, exaggerate and gesture enthusiastically but it is not uncommon and I’m afraid to say I got the gene! I do not speak for all Italians. I speak for me and those I know.  I can also tell you honestly that the times I’ve visited Italy it was heartening  and satisfying to see all the characteristics mentioned above, playing out in lively scenes that are deemed “too much” or too dramatic here.

Outsiders can mistakenly think Italians are upset, angry or yelling but we are just showing interest in a somewhat loud way. Every man who joined our family asked the same question, “what’s wrong?” What do you mean one of us would say quizzically. “Why are you all talking and yelling at the same time?”  Yelling!?! We aren’t yelling, we would say, looking at time as if they were crazy.  My interpretation is that we care about whatever it is that has caught our attention.  I would think people would appreciate this fact! I am always suspicious of people who don’t show any emotion…what are they hiding?  What are they not saying? Eh, must be the Sicilian in me.  I just don’t understand this I’m-too-cool-to-release-an-emotion, thing.  We all have them people, let them out!

Drama. One person’s drama is another persons way of life.  When an Italian says things like: You’re killing me here, Madonna Mia! (as in virgin mother not the stroppy singer), Va fancula (don’t use this one), A Fa Napoli (go to hell or get the hell outta here), I can’t take it!  (In Brooklyn “I caaaan’t”)….It’s language meant to express the feeling they are having. They don’t necessarily mean what they say. It is the same reason I exaggerate.  If I say it’s 100 degrees in here. I don’t really think it’s 100 degrees but that’s what it feels like.  When there were two dogs in the house I would say things like , oh God, I can’t walk with 27 dogs in my way!  Again, capturing the feeeling, nothing more nothing less.  I crack up when someone tries to explain the realities to me. “Dana it’s only 72 degrees in here.”  You’re killing me!

A typical conversation between my husband and myself:

Me: “When are you going to mow the lawn?”

Him: “Later”

Me: “But it’s 7:00pm now”

Him: “I know”

Me: “So you’re going to mow the lawn at 12 o’clock at night?

Again, simply underscoring the late hour. The come back is always an explanation of the actual time and how he didn’t say he would mow the lawn at 12 o’ clock. Sighhhh…message lost.

When I’m upset or excited about something, it will be expressed in hand gestures or my speech or both. One way or another it is coming out! It doesn’t matter what the reality is. So one will hear: I’ve had 100 calls today at work (20), I had to pay like $1,000 to get the car fixed ($350), There were 57 people ahead of me in the supermarket line….you get the picture.  And, when I hear something upsetting for myself or someone else, I’ll gasp or say WHAT?!!!  I think being Italian and apatheic is impossible!  Contrast this with my husband, a Brit, who would respond to the same information with “riiight” as he calmly took in the information.
I could write a post on the phrase Oh My God alone. It is used liberally and in many different situations. It is not reserved for a calamity.   There is “Oh my God!” meaning, I don’t believe it, I’m shocked or got bad news. Then there is oh-my-God which means, he or she is an idiot or something is ridiculous.  Let’s not forget  OhmyGod! which means I forgot something or someone or something is in danger and action needs to be taken. And lastly, Oh my Gaaaawd which is said as a cry (not a whine) which means I’m being stressed to the max . Usually because someone is doing my head in and/or annoying me. When this is used the receiver of the phrase will have a short amount of time to correct their offending behavior because the sender is about to blow up!  Each version is said with its own inflection and different words are stressed.  Of course Italians don’t own these three words and other nationalities have their own versions.

When I lived in England, exclamations were frowned upon. Though Brits do know how to curse and do so very well I might add, Brits do not appear to be comfortable with general outbursts as a rule, rather it seems to be a source of pride that one can keep it together in any situation. Keep Calm Carry On was a war slogan meant to remind people that they were not to freak out once bombs started dropping remember!  I once called (called mind you. I didn’t shout or scream) to my husband who was further down the supermarket aisle than I was and everyone turned around. His face went pale and I thought he was going to pass out. He looked at me as if I’d jumped into the refrigerated section and was throwing thing around like an ape.  I’m not uncouth and am appreciative of manners and etiquette.  I was innocently holding  a package of fresh mozzarella but when I saw that it had come from Italy, I had to share it and thought he’d be as happy as I was.

Ever see someone you hadn’t seen in a long time? Do you quietly approach them or call to them in whispering tones? Or do you act Italian and squeal “oh my God! I can’t believe it! Hiiiii!  How are youuuu??? Complete with delight and lots of hugs and kisses? Again, demonstrating care and interest!

I don’t know if it’s an Italian thing or a New York thing but when I get angry, I curse.  I don’t know many New Yorkers who have a problem with this. Cursing is not seen as coarse or crude, rather it is a creative way of expressing one’s self.  Cursing and degree of anger are positively correlated.  Spouses take heed!  Again, it was nice to hear people exclaiming, cursing, and generally expressing themselves in Italy without it being seen as a character flaw!

Italians talk. They talk with their mouths, their hands, their facial muscles, their shoulders, their whole bodies really.  You will always know what we think, how we feel and where you stand.  If we love you, you will be showered with affection and if we are angry you will know it, the offending situation will be addressed and it will be done with.  We are an expressive people and don’t usually hold things in.  What’s the point of having emotions and feelings if you can’t express them?  Viva Italiano!

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Craziness Part 1-Driving

 

Here are the 13 craziest things I’ve noticed

other drivers doing on the road lately, all whilst in motion:

1) Woman using an eyelash curler then putting on mascara.  Not lipstick. Mascara, that entails putting a very pointy wand near the eye, not to mention the need to stare closely into a mirror. Not the road. A mirror!

2) Men, speeding up, then slowing down, speeding up, slowing down….oh! they are on the phone and unable to take in information, process it and respond while maintaining the same speed.  Cut to me, accelerating, slamming on my brakes, accelerating, slamming on brakes, cursing, slamming on my brakes. Gotta love the narrow corpus collosum and inability to multi-task.

3)  You knew texting would be on this list-I see people looking down, looking up, looking down longer than looking up and getting the full effect of my horn which beeps more than bellows when they regularly cross the double yellow line and are heading right toward me.  Daily occurence this.

4)  People holding a cigarette in one hand, and phone in the other. Others hold coffee cup in one hand and ciggie in the other.  What is driving the car? And, you’re “driving” behind me!  That’s comforting.

5)  Man driving glacially slow in front of me.  Why?  Well I found out as I passed him at the earliest convenience, dirty look at the ready. He was patting down and trying to brush his very messy bedhead with his little stubby fingers. He then proceeded to whip out his electric shaver. Sigh.

6)  A maddening 30 minute drive behind a woman who put on a full face of makeup-from foundation to mascara. Her car was slowly drifting off to the shoulder and I prepared myself to have to maneuver around her when she finally went off the road. So, should I make out my will because she’s running late?

7) Woman driving slowly because she’s talking to her kids in the car- reaching behind her to get “things”, pulling “things” out of a bag, hoisting bag from the back to the front seat, passing “things to said kids in backseat. I never understand why these parents don’t have a problem putting their kids lives at risk.

8) Older gentleman driving ridiculously slow.  Why you ask? Because, he was thoroughly enjoying watching his lap dog enjoy the wind in its hair. At 8am in the morning? Are you trying to give me a stroke?

9)  I was driving behind a man who was there one minute and gone the next as his head popped down and then stayed down! Where did he go?  Uh, hello? Who is driving the car!?!  Did he check into an alternate reality?  Was he hungrily fishing around for old french fries? Sending a fax? Let me guess, he dropped the cell phone while texting and putting all of our lives at risk while he attempted to retrieve it!   I’m sorry, that gets an automatic beep from me.

10) Woman, um, teacher? Marking papers on her steering wheel while driving to work during rush hour.  What a sterling example of those setting examples for your children.  Just thought you should know.

11) As I approached a left turning lane and proceeded to steer through the intersection, I noticed that the woman to my right was holding a china dish in one hand and flatware in the other, eating what appeared to be an enjoyable meal with not a care in the world.  Again, what was driving the car?  The all-seeing knee?

12)  A couple of weeks ago,  I witnessed a  woman driving as she took a picture of herself.  She was drifting all over the road, then decided the first pic wasn’t good enough so gave it a good smile and took another, at speed. Surely you can finish off your online dating profile when you get home…if you get home, I should say.

13) I was waiting at a light to make a left hand turn. The light turned yellow (amber for my Brits) and something told me not to go. Sure enough, a man ran the light that had turned red, as his head and neck were facing the back seat. That bears repeating. The man drove through a busy intersection, through a red light facing the opposite way! Gobsmacked!

I find myself beeping at people to help them from hurting themselves. I’m more afraid for them than I am for myself in most of these scenarios. To paraphrase the captain in Hill Street Blues, for the love of all that’s holy, let’s be careful out there!

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A September Morning

The sky

Crystal blue in its brilliance

The air breezy, light and warm

A beautiful day but not perfect

We remarked that there were no clouds

And wonder now, were they frightened away by impending

Horrors to come?

The bliss of our ignorance a comfort still.

 

A glorious backdrop

For a summer day thrown into sharp contrast

A decent into darkness, confusion and doom.

From ferries, bridges, building windows and street corners…

We came to identify, were slapped hard by, the worst within us

We came to know and taste the hate

We shook from the violation

We cried from the pain, the loss, the fear.

 

We saw what we should not see

We smelled what no one should smell

We felt, though we could not feel

Our senses blurred and betrayed

Our minds unable to conceive or believe.

A sleepless city silenced and stunned.

 

From near,  explosions ripped through buildings and  hearts

Fire and noise and glass and panic

Plummeting potential lost to despair

Then, billowing clouds of smoke and death

 

From far, the stillness remained for a time. For a time.

As news traveled, streets emptied

No traffic. No people. No noise and, no planes.

No planes.

 

Unrelenting rays of sunshine attempted to warm blood run cold

An endless sea of blue sky our only shroud for man-made hell

Heaven a far away witness

As we reached out for desperate consolation.

The Sky

Crystal blue in its brilliance.

(2004)

It took me 3 years, after witnessing the explosions on September 11th, from a Staten Island ferry set to take off for Wall Street, to write this poem. What could not be conveyed on the Evening News  was the smell of death that hung over the city for weeks as the fire continued to burn from within.  That the National Guard stopped us in cars and buses to sweep for bombs before we drove over bridges and into tunnels or patrolled commuter buses, staring us down, to ensure there weren’t terrorists in our midst. That the only sound that we heard at first, and what persisted for weeks and months were sirens from police and fire department vehicles.  That no matter where you went, from supermarket to library, there were pictures of those who perished, plastered everywhere. And so many funerals that whole streets were blocked off and traffic diverted, for them to take place.  Funerals that went on for years.  That FDNY firehouses lost large numbers of men, my fire department having lost 11 (11 in Heaven). That people were panicking-in subways when hysteria set in and in underwater tunnels when traffic was stopped on the FDR highway for the huge metal beams from the WTC to be transported to barges.  That in a city with 3 major airports and constant air traffic, the resulting silence was deafening when that traffic came to a halt.  And when planes took to the skies again, people held their breath or panicked when planes went overhead or seemed to fly too close.  Not to mention that only two months after the attacks on September 11th, there was a major plane crash in Queens, NY, where another 260 people died and which sent us all over the edge again. And that if there was a possible threat, the city would shut down essential bridges and tunnels leaving people stranded or unable to return to their homes for hours. The effects of this day lasted years and for those who lost loved ones, a lifetime.

We Will Never Forget all who lost their lives and all who worked “the pile” to  reclaim the World Trade Center and our city, piece by piece.

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A “Short” Musing About Men

The Olympics has re-ignited a question that has plagued me for years. What happened to men’s shorts?  When I  cast my memory back I wonder, am I going mad?  In the 1970s and 80s,  I recall boys, men, professional tennis players and everyone really, wearing shorts that were, well, short.  This was normal. Men in the 1950s were less self-conscious and shy about showing some leg than millenium men of today as evidenced by the photo above!

Pantone Speedo-I’m sorry, there is nothing wrong with this!

Many even wore Speedos on the beach (gasp).  A man’s, shall we say, package, was just that, nothing more, nothing less.  Not unlike women’s breasts, they protruded a bit through clothing. Yes we all see them, but we move on with our lives.  The Olympics reminded me that I was not going crazy, that Speedos and similar swim suits are indeed used and considered quite normal.  I have several European men as Facebook friends and they never tire of posting photos of themselves on boats, swimming in gorgeous places or playing games on the beach, always sporting a Speedo.  And, they look good. Even guys with some weight to lose look better in shorter trunks (why are they called trunks?)  What is with the American male and the Victorian hemline that continues to grow? I remember suits getting a bit longer, to mid-thigh, then above the knee and now more men than not are wearing Bermuda length shorts and bathing suits.  When surfers wear them, they are called board shorts. When guys wear them outside of the ocean, they are Bermuda’s, sorry guys.   Why are 20-year-old wearing Bermudas?  When did men become such prudes and what are they hiding?  Surely they can contain themselves within the confines of a normal pair of shorts, no?  And, is this what’s next?

Are men so modest that they must be weighed down by another foot of fabric?  Take basketball players:

1970s

What’s wrong with these?

2000s

Look at all that fabric being dragged around on the court!
Photo Credit: Brandon Rush

They look like they are wearing skirts and they look absolutely ridiculous!  I’ve noticed the same disturbing trend in Tennis and British Football. Through the decades there seems to have been a movement going on underground that has systematically and continuously lead to longer shorts.  Have I been unaware of the mystique and taboo of the male knee which must now be hidden at all costs?  Are those with a puritanical bent paying off fashion designers to create these monstrosities?

Men's Tennis Team, 1975

Wow look at all those legs, guys today would be horrified!
Photo Credit: Duke Yearlook/flickr

Meanwhile men are defending the women’s beach volleyball “outfits” if you can call them that, to the hilt. “Oh, they can’t be encumbered, they have to wear swim suit bottoms 3 sizes too small.”  By the same token then, it would stand to reason that men in the same sport would wear Speedos right?  But no, they are wearing at the knee or below the knee mega shorts.

But seriously, lighten up, people, literally!

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London Olympics

Olympic Tower Bridge

iwillbehomesoon/flickr

Danny Boyle has done his country proud. I was very moved and impressed by his creation for the Olympics. I absolutely loved the intro as they flew over the country and along canals until they reached London and the Thames. The wink and nod they gave to Eastenders cracked me up.  Then the country anthems sung by British children. Oh! He killed me with that.  Each one a touching tribute to England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Jerusalem and The Flower of Scotland are my favorites and when I hear them I get a lump in my throat.  However, I was surprised when other Yanks didn’t share my enthusiasm.  There was great attention to detail in incorporating the best the Brits have offered the world.  I don’t think people realize how much we have all been affected by their culture and innovations.  There was a lot of symbolism and a myriad of cultural references that may have gone over the heads of those not familiar with British life.  Boyle wove a celebratory fabric made up history, humor, literature, trends and fads, music, inventions and showed the world what Brits are most proud of. Even so these triumphs and treasures were shown with hallmark understatedness and humility despite the spectacle.

20120725 Olympic opening ceremony rehearsal DSC_3438.jpg

Powder Photography/flickr

The ceremony began in a bucolic scene, the English countryside which was put in context by American commentators as an illustration of early British life however the English, Scottish and Welsh countrysides remain still and offer some of the most stunning views in the world. Countryside is as much a part of being british as tea and crumpets and has been the muse of writers for centuries: picnicking in, cycling past, walking along daffodils in and meandering through on a Sunday afternoon, pastoral scenes continue to entrance.  No matter the size of the city, in no time one can be back in the gloriously green. One can gaze at fields of lavender and rapeseed or watch lambs suckling in open fields in the spring.  It is a celebrated part of British life and no wonder that Boyle made it the beginning point of his ceremony. Of course it has also been the scene of strongholds and skirmishes between clans and countries too. The iconic hill is reminiscent of Glastonbury’s Tor, a mystical, spiritual area of England that again is engrained in the psyche of the British people and has been inhabited for many hundreds of years.

DSC_3096

Nick J Webb/flickr

Another point that seemed to confuse was the pause of the workers as they gazed at poppy flowers.  While Americans celebrate Veteran’s Day, Remembrance Day in the UK is another part of the culture. Every November, on the 11th day and at the 11th hour, everyone stops to pause for a minute of silence. Heads are bowed, lights are turned off, traffic stops. The UK comes to a halt to remember those who have died in war and to commemorate the end of the Great War, the war to end all wars as termed by H G Wells, famous English author.  No matter the size of city, town or village, there will be a monument to the fallen soldiers of the Great War (first world war), which devastated the UK due to the staggering number of men who perished. British traditions are steeped in history and there is great feeling behind what they do, for a reason.

Poppy Wreaths at The Cenotaph, London. Credit: 1 hr photo/flickr

Do people realize that the industrial revolution, which propelled us all out of fields and into cities and allowed life as we know it today, started in England?  British discoveries lead to the first cast iron bridge which lead to larger steel bridges and sky scrappers!  While most saw it as gritty, and no one does gritty like Boyle, the industrial revolution was highlighted in the Olympics for this reason. Do people also realize that the one invention that has propelled us farther still and changed life as we know it, the world-wide web, was created by a Brit named Sir Tim Berners-Lee.  A fellow blogger pointed out that he typed out “this is for everyone” which I somehow missed.  He was singled out during the ceremony, as he sat there humbly.  A man who deserves a Nobel price for bringing the whole world together and allowing us to have information at our fingertips, and, never asking for anything in return, as most would!  Everyone’s lives have been changed by these two things alone and that is why they were brought to the worlds attention.  I found the forging of and the lighting up of the Olympic rings to be very moving indeed.  What people from the UK have given to the world is a lot. Other British inventions as the Geordie in my life never tires of reminding me are: Subways, Telephone, phonograph, Electric Light (Joseph Swan, not Thomas Edison as is largely believed and yes Dave, he is a Geordie), Jet Planes, Steam Locomotive, Television, Electric Motor, Vitamins, Raincoat, Cement, Lawnmower and Vacuums! Get the picture? And this is not including discoveries in medicine, architecture, science, physics, etc.  Most of what we know as useful in our everyday life came from England. Now do you see what I mean when I say the Brits are understated in their showing off accomplishments?

Another huge contribution to the world has been literature and Boyle highlighted Shakespeare, J M Barrie and J K Rowling. Who can forget A.A. Milne, writer of Winnie the Poo, children’s poetry and Beatrix Potter? As well as Dylan Thomas, Rabbie Burns, Lord Byron, William Wordsworth, Shelley, Keats, Jane Austen, The Bronte Sisters… Again, a few mentioned, hundreds just as esteemed, not but an indication of what British literature has done for the world.

Then we had a taste of British humor with the Queen getting in the act and agreeing to be filmed for her grand entry into the Olympic stadium.  She was heard commenting today “I hope it made them laugh.”  The Brits have a wicked sense of humor which is quick and often times self-deprecating. I loved the Rowan Atkinson segments and the royal parachute jump. It really showed that Brits aren’t usually about pomp and circumstance and don’t take themselves seriously most of the time.

Then politically, Boyle highlighted the first Women’s Movement which allowed women to work and vote, rights that were forbidden not so long ago. Humanitarily, Britain created a nationalized health system recognizing long ago that health care is a basic human right and that lives should be treated and not left to private companies and insurance companies to decide if they will be greedy or benevolent. Funnily enough the rest of the world agreed with them save one country. Cheers to them for celebrating and recognizing this.  I wonder if this piece wasn’t meant as a reminder to those previous colonies who have gone astray, wink wink.

United Kingdom

United Kingdom (Photo credit: stumayhew)

Brits have every right to be proud of the opening ceremony.  They have had  mountains more accomplishments than were shown and this was just a tasting, a reminder that they have been and continue to be one of the first and still greatest societies ever!  Sure they could have beaten the drums louder, the Scots know how to do that, but that is not their way. Brits know where they have been. They know their own history as well as ours!  For a small country they have succeeded against all odds on many occasions.  I’ve no doubt this will be an Olympics to remember!

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Hot Flash? News Flash!

MENOPAUSE

(Photo credit: tejamen1947)

For the past couple of weeks I’ve been filled with a mild anxiety.  Am I perimenopausal?  Men? Come back, come on back, it’s ok. I’m not going there.  I wondered this because every evening for the past couple of weeks, I began to feel flushed  around 9pm and could not understand why. I was downright hot and had to turn on the ceiling fan in whatever room I was in.  Then the gasp. Oh my God is this a hot flash?  Do women become hot all of a sudden? Is this it? I tried to calm myself down thinking ok I’ll research menopause and see what I have to do.  There must be something I can do I thought, as I fanned myself furiously. I figured that I would need a game plan to come to terms with early aging and all that entailed.  One thing I knew for sure is that I would not take hormones.  Didn’t they say wild yam helped? Or edamame?  There was so much to look up!

Then the other day I came home and instead of walking into the kitchen with my mail as I usually did, I saw my cat in the dining room and went in to scoop her up. As I did, I passed the thermostat.  78??? How is it 78 degrees in here?  It didn’t feel like 78 degrees and was “in recovery” trying to get back down to 74 degrees.  I have a programmable thermostat and in the spring and summer leave it on 74 degrees all the time. I never even thought to check the thermostat when having these “hot flashes” because I knew I had it set to 74.  Lo and behold! I looked through the schedule and it had re-set itself to 83 degrees at 8pm. No wonder! So by 9pm the whole house was hot, it was not me! It also dawned on me that approximately 2 weeks before we had had a huge storm and the electricity had been out while I was at work as evidenced by the microwave and stove blinking the time at me.  Ah, so the power outage caused the thermostat to reset. I see. Wait for it….Oh! That means I’m not having hot flashes after all! Yippeeee!

How funny it is that one life event can have us re-evaluating it all. That’s it, I’m old!  This is the beginning of the end! I’m going to fight it every step of the way.  Oh the joy when I realized that fight would be for another day, hopefully a long time from now.   At least for now, homeostatis, hormones and my thermostat are holding steady.

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