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Archive for the month “January, 2018”

What’s Age Got to Do with It?

By the time you reach 70, you probably are aware of your various predilections. For example in California I do yoga and Pilates. My dear neighbour goes to a gym where she does a half hour of elliptical training. Which made my hips even more uneven and messes with my back. She also does a half hour of rowing. This seems to make sense to me and I imagine her in a jaunty striped sailor suit on the little rivers all over Holland where she is from. Another friend likes the jump, twist, moves of NIA where the exercisers dance away to the selection of tunes chosen by the instructor, most recently Hamilton. And often too, I observe at the community centre the hardcore circuit masters as they become part steely machine, their arms attached to pulleys , their feet pumping madly. I think of myself as the little girl in Grade 3 walking the sidewalk curbs, attempting to precariously balance like a circus performer but inevitably tripping and arriving home to my mother with knees gashed and bleeding for my efforts.

In my classes, we attempt, at least I do, to manage tree poses , standing on one leg, toes tucked into knees to form a triangle in yoga; or in Pilates, posed to keep one extended leg in opposition to one arm while precariously mounted on a box on a reformer. We’re advised in yoga to keep the four points or the tripod of the foot in contact with the floor but it’s not easy although many I can attest do perform these feats neatly and smoothly, their limbs not trembling like my jellylike parts to locate where the right and left will coalesce in peace. Makes me think of the Ralph Waldo Emerson line from eons ago of finding the middle path. But I was always more an excess person .

At a certain age after years of experimenting, we come to a point that we believe what works or is good for us. I try not to scoff at the young salespeople in Sephora who preaches the products that will make me wrinklefree in just two days. Others seriously maintain that a full month or longer is necessary to see results. There’s no use imploring them that is not the case, or wearing vitamin C in the sun will attract age spots. Usually it’s the smell, texture, familiarity of a product that keeps me coming back, or the illusion that I will return to a thirtysomething appearance. Silly me. So I’ve found ’tis better to listen to a diatribe( based on their studies???), than to vent my own experience. At worst they proselytize, at best they nod, no doubt thinking, “ whatever you say, old lady. “ So it is with how you like to present yourself to the world. In spite of its quirkiness, one fellow I knew only wore bow ties, even sending to Italy for the choosiest of silk fabrics. Did he imagine himself at a dinner party dining with royalty or the ironic clown commentator ?

And yet in my head I don’t feel like an old lady, even if I joke about my age as if it means something. In deed today I will try a “Silver Pilates for 50 Plus”, hoping it will work with my regime at home, constructed for me and my parts that have been worn away through years of living, in my particular group of misaligned body quadrants. Later I will survey the faces and bodies in this particular group, measuring myself against their agility, sags and smiles, eventually relaxing into a fabric where I, like they are the strands that curl and stretch to our instructor’s commands. But honestly 50?Does anyone today believe that 55 marks one as a senior, ready to laze on a couch and drift into the sunset?

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For my birthday celebration party,I spied a white cotton lace dress by Chloe at Holts. Showing a picture of it to daughter number two, she queried why I would want something that looked like paper doilies? But worse yet loomed my mother’s voice in my head as I imagined her responding to the frills at the sides,” Pat, act your age”: a comment thrown at me once before when I had chosen a white lacy thing and yes, with modified batwing frills. As if lace and frills belonged only to the young! And yet too I am scrupulous of clothes that will hug the tummy indicating that time has softened its folds and bulges, or patterns so bright that they seem more appropriate to the schoolyard than a romantic dining spot.

In my mother’s mind, there was a certain age requirement for presently oneself to the outside world in good taste: when one should emerge from their boudoir appropriately, elegantly, nixing the extravagances of clothing the body, no doubt using Queen Elizabeth’s knee length sensible skirts as a guide. No point in pretending the tummy wasn’t as flat as it once was or the carriage as upright. I’d heard stories from her of the appearance of Easter bonnets in the Beaches in Toronto and when white gloves might appear- and disappear. I like to recall the Grace and Frankie episodes where the stunning Grace, Jane Fonda refuses to allow her young lover see her in bed before she primps. And I now know why Blanche only received her gentleman caller at night when the light was kinder to the landscape of her face.

So each time I tried on that birthday dress, I queried the salesperson to be honest, demanding an objective opinion, “Was it too young for me?” The answers were consistent: it’s fashion, not age, I was told. And in the end when the price was sufficiently reduced and I banished my mother’s voice, I bought it, no longer hearing her wise words in my head regarding the foolishlessness of my choice. And truthfully, I enjoyed wearing it, even forgetting the dress, and focusing on the surge of joy at my dinner party.

We arrive at a certain point and we are our own art product: of ourselves in terms of how we have crafted or recreated ourselves, bow ties, ruffles aside. Back in university psychology, the debate between heredity and environment had the newbies arrogantly aligning with environment as if every choice and context could inspire a new you, not dependent on granny’s genes. The bud only needed good food fresh water, vitamins and sunlight to not just bloom but shine. Only through the realization of all the self help books, the wisest of gurus, and the attempts to realign your body parts in the most positive of climes , but ignoring your own children’s similarities to their relatives, did we finally acknowledge that heredity undermines and holds one fast in its grip, as one is part of a clan, holding sorry secrets or wonderful surprises in the body. With resignation but acceptance, we comprehend that middle ground that marries the interplay of context, and understand that luck too can turn the sourest situation of family genetics sweet. I had to laugh at my sister who recently told me that those DNA tests advertised on television are able to reveal from which Biblical matriarch you are descended. Perhaps that is why some of us continue to enjoy watering camels. I responded with, quite incredulous, “Don’t you believe in evolution?” “ Of course, “she a student of science, responded.

Just yesterday, I read of a movie , Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool , in which an aging Annette Bening assumes the role of an aging actress who wants to play Juliet -to the smirks of the producer which might consider her for Juliet’s mature( read OLD) nurse. In our heads, we are still Juliets, and maybe we should be, dismissing the mirror for the voice of the soul.

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TV Stuff

Last night I watched a show called Shameless on Netflix. My sister had suggested it, saying it was based on a British prototype. In the story, a drunken father,William R. Macy, and motherless tumble of children fare for themselves, the eldest in charge. The pilot I viewed was racy , with bare bums, oral sex performed on two brothers by a fifteen year old, the father brought home by cops, the discovery of pornographic material hidden under a pillow. It conjured for me books that I adored as a girl, those tales of family in which the mother was dead or missing and the children had to find their own way.Of course, back then, there were no episodes as vivid or glaring as what I observed yesterday, but there were the perils of surviving, finding your own way without any adult direction.

Although the sex is expected, it is made contemporary as one brother has homosexual leanings with his married Muslim boss who owns the local grocery. In spite of the caring next door black neighbour lady who happens to be a nurse, her live-in boyfriend and she enjoy kinky sexual relations, and the full frontal nude of him, privates splayed is no longer taboo. Yet these lower class barely surviving characters demonstrate cooperation, caring and deep consideration, even the family of children expressing outright love for the useless father who spends his disability paycheque endlessly drinking or sleeping in the middle of the floor. Simply put, he’s a brute and I doubt I will continue to watch this series.

The story of the destitute children is the same but pushed forward generations made modern through the addition of sexual innuendo and nudity, events made so commonplace and normalized that we hardly blink at the eldest sister -ersatz mother who dancing at nightclubs in a” borrowed dress” makes love with a boyfriend of an hour or so in the messy cluttered kitchen. She works umpteen jobs and watches over her sibs. Into this mess comes her Prince Charming who noting the broken washing machine delivers a new one.

I turned to Netflix because I was bored with the offering on the regular channels and here in San Diego there are over 5144 channels, in which you can watch in Spanish, give yourself a facelift, learn about cancer, dogs, stingray Jazz Masters,Buy a Bride, Eat a Bulaga, ( whatever that may be), catch up on Oregon ladies basketball and more useless esoteric matters that I doubt anyone truly cares about. And because we do not get Outlander here I will have to wait months to follow Clare’s travails between her loves separated by 400 years.

Here we finished The Crown, now knowledgeable about Jackie Kennedy’s apologies to Queen Elizabeth regarding her thick ankles. It was thrilling to see Elizabeth working out a way to avoid Ghana’s relationship with Russia by dancing with the president. More than a mere lover of her corgis, she is portrayed as thoughtfully grappling with political issues. She is direct and not moved by her prime ministers, Harold Macmillan and Anthony Eden.She does manipulate her sister Margaret’s life to Margaret’s unending scorn and resentment of her meddling sister. The very stylish Margaret careens from one bad choice to another. Yet we do empathize with her as artist Tony Armstrong’s mummy issues are revealed and his wild lifestyle is vividly presented.Philip as well shown is a recalcitrant philander, a good ole boy, but his treatment of sensitive hapless Charles is heartbreaking, particularly in Philip’s blackmail insistence to Elizabeth that his son endure the same rigorous horrid schooling that he did in Scotland. In spite of Philip’s own harsh and tragic family background, his demeanour was all ready coarse enough to triumph over difficult situations. Sadly, poor Charles succumbed, recalling his schooling at Gordonston as “ prison” and “ hell ”: as it is well depicted.Elizabeth stands by, unable and unwilling to change Charles’ circumstance.

The wonder of some shows is the new information the audience is now privy to. In deed when I googled the Jackie-Elizabeth dinner, I observed that the cast wore exact replicas of the original designer gowns and the conversations the tv viewers witnessed were pretty much the same although “ creatively” imagined. Certainly Elizabeth is humanized in these episodes, the problems and restraints of being a royal revealed. Claire Foy does an admirable job of presenting the tangle of a job few desire. Yet times change, and with the marriage of Harry to Meaghan Markle, one would love to be a fly on the flocked wallpaper, overhearing the discussions the dead- eyed Philip must be entertaining with his wife.

My children laugh that- give me actors in period piece costumes and I am happy. I’m only happy if the story is good and something new and interesting is revealed( OK, I do love lavish brocades and fabrics and styles, fashion ). When I saw Amistad, Borghum ,John Adams( with Paul Giammati), the Burns documentary on Vietnam Nam, Genius, stories that pierce the veneers we have been fed in the news – it’s as if I have discovered a delicious secret and that information now colours, explains, deepens or changes what I thought I knew. It’s the same in books when new information is disclosed.

Now I realize networks like Netflix do play fast and loose to attract viewers, events or details unearthed through research, diaries, memos, whatnot, previously not readily known: that intensifies the narrative. And truthfully I like that.

Another Golden Globe Rant and Ramble

These are such confusing times.Our grandchildren growing up must feel themselves on trembling ground. I cannot get the image out of my head of my own grandson going to bed the night of the U.S. presidential election, excited at the prospect of the first woman president only to awaken to his dismayed father who had to break the news: that the abusive host of the tv show, The Apprentice, the loudmouth insensitive lout, the one his brother cutely dubbed Donald Trunk had won. Incredulous, C.J. wondered why.

Similarly persons one has learned to trust, those granted authority and power are now brought to their knees for their abuse of power and people. Not just trusted doctors or CEOs, but the gods of movies who have inspired and defined what is altruistic, good and human on screen have been revealed as willing to subvert and ignore the values they have espoused in the best of drama and media. That talk of the casting couch was not a hidden secret or that factory foremen took advantage of their immigrant workers was just accepted and acknowledged as part of the work world: people seemed to know, but perhaps believed it a small part of the dirty gossip that was perpetuated to entice an audience in show biz , but even should it be likely true in other industries and institutions, it was the price of a job, the ticket to success or security. We always knew of bosses who took advantage, who spoke down and worse from their own tenuously elevated vantage points, but most of us workaday mortals in our ordinary places, even should we criticize, felt embarrassed to speak out, challenge and confront, except to one another, shaking our heads in mortification and helplessness. And do not forget, those scorned who were sufficiently brave to speak out, the Hester Prynnes ridiculed, ostracized, branded liars or paid off.

Yet truly there has always been right and wrong behaviours. We tell our children, don’t hit, don’t hurt, don’t bully, care and support your sister, your brother. Only when miscreants are called out into the public domaine, do they protest, grabbing at some excuse or absurd rationalization to excuse odious actions. As long as they could maintain their behaviour unaccosted, they persisted, even bragging at the outrages committed. And some even as lately as Jian Ghomeshi or Albert Schultz protest at the unfairness, at being misinterpreted or misunderstood, that their partners were willing, complicit, actively participating in the deeds.

But lately there has been a barrage of perpetrators whose accusers have bravely come forward. And been heard! And even taken seriously. Yet, in many’s disbelief, the head of state, Trump, has been shown with his own words to describe his own unconscionable immoral behaviour. Strange incomprehensible times for those growing up seeking role models, and learning what is acceptable or appropriate in society when such activities go unpunished.

Discussing the Metoo campaign, Howard and I wondered why now, how had the tipping point occurred so that women were no longer silenced, willing to grin and bear it. In deed at a New Year’s Eve party here in San Diego, one older man queried without any sympathy or empathy, why did they( those women) wait so long , some seventeen years to come forward; other men in the group shaking their bald heads in agreement. Brie Simpson, editor of The Jewish Journal dismissed those weak unfeeling comments in her December editorial. In fact, she wrote, every woman she knows has had a confrontation . I absolutely agree. If you were a woman, you were free game, a moving target under someone’s telescope, especially if you were cute, sexy, smiling, attractive or not, naïve…

We talked more about women in positions of power willing to speak out now, exposing more regular everyday relationships in which they were unwilling to accept disparagement or worse –and in spite of Margaret Wente’s column in which she differentiated diverse treatments by salacious men, as if a wink, a squeeze, a grope, a pinch, a hug, a kiss, could be tallied more or less against forceable sex, ignoring any unwanted touch is an invasion.

We considered our present day society where a person might be willing to walk away from a job, go hungry and just hang out, rather than tie themselves to indignities. In the old world, you worked, you worked hard, no matter what. You had responsibilities that had to be seen to, children to feed and because you believed yourself lesser than the boss, you just took it.Often you were an immigrant person, relieved to have escaped the perils of your country; congruently, if you were a woman, you had been schooled on being subservient, knowing your place, being sweetly accommodating accepting the crumbs off a man’s plate, not causing a scene. Today there is pushback, equality between men and women, races, genders, etc. so people reflect,” I have choices”( even if you do not). There is a feeling that you deserve more.As truthfully, we all are due respect. And no one should be put in that position, between a rock and a hard place in order to survive any relationship, in or out of the work place. As well, the understanding that the personal, the “I” is as worthy a voice as the omniscient “one, “or the impersonal “they.”And stories do possess truth, often conveying more than objective facts, speaking to a truer reality, one lived by an individual whose voice quakes, cries, shouts, and wants to impart authenticity.

As always I return to the postmodern death of the paternal , the concept of nation, the rise of the individual, the interest in self versus the group and/ or the country. I do not say the post modern is a bad thing, and in deed instead of blindly following, questioning the rule or reign of dictatorships and monarchies it is a very good thing to think independently. But here is the rub: we talk of co- operation, but how often are our colleagues too busy to help us out. We talk of multiple intelligences, but give standardized tests or underfund programs or access for the disabled.We do put ourselves first, thinking we are special. So the women’s night at the Golden Globes was a spectacular moment for women to stand together.

And as always, it is not an either- or split, us or them. The solution is a balance of consideration of personal needs along side the needs of our community, for we do not live in this world by ourselves. Metoo. What we propose for our family, should be the same values we espouse for our neighbours. Far from joining arms and swaying to Kumbaya, I am suggesting that tired old Golden Rule of do unto others ,choosing respect and responsibility over pride, money and the sweet surge of power should not guide our behaviour, and should have been the mantras of the men, men who definitely knew better, but wanted to take advantage of vulnerable, tentative situations, in order to satisfy a base need or desire. But as in all things, what is clearest and simplest morphs into something twisted and complicated as we listen to the cries of the accused, refusing to accept the indictments of those they have victimized.

The Golden Globes was, I hope , a line in the sand, Howard noting how radiant the women were, shining in their stunning black dresses, a true feeling of solidarity in speeches and close clasping, with even women leaders of agriculture and unions accompanying the stars. And Oprah was the star, incredibly beautiful in presence and her speech washing away all others, including Elizabeth Moss’s reading Margaret Atwood’s words by Offred, no longer willing to be in the margins of pages. Oprah was a show stopper, the focused moment befitting her work, her image, her story, her journey.

However, Oprah, readying a campaign for the presidency and all ready supported by her fellow Americans is an entertainer- unlike but as unqualified as the man in power now. Unlike Ronald Reagan, also a media personality, she has not been a governor, and her work – in Africa, with the poor, in many causes does not sanction her as a viable candidate. Does anyone recall her call out to the base instincts of “ a car for you..” or providing Jenny Mc Carthy a platform for her incredibly unscientific views on medical issues I too was awed by Oprah, her brilliant delivery and presence , but The Rock also is contemplating being on the ticket. Neither, of course ,has cut their teeth in political circles. And I say this with respect that glittering Oprah in her grass roots ways has improved the lives of thousands, but I want someone who has been educated and knows the halls of power intimately. But I am a Canadian, with our own showy prime minister, dawdling over our physical assisted dying law, doing photo ops with the rich and newly released from captivity, so although in comparison Trudeau appears to shine, he, unlike his father, has not moved the country forward .

As Gary Mason in the The Globe wrote in The Globe, along with a string of others, Where does governmental experience, actual participation in the realm, the know how of politics occur? Why do we go to college if not to prepare for our future professionals.Where is the role of experience, preparation, research, investigation , etc.? And yet in this confusing world of fake news, such a man as unqualified was elected – no question, Oprah might have been a wiser choice. In this new world, should we not at least, some of us laud the age old values: attempting to build a renewed world that melds some from column A , some from Column B. Where is the wisdom that comes from living, honouring and acknowledging the mistakes of the past: to avoid redoing them in the future?

And we cannot forget or dismiss those like Governor Tom Wolf in Pennsylvania who has stood with women to vote against ridiculous repressive abortion laws, or Governor Jerry Brown of California who openly decries the building the Mexican wall and environmental destruction and Elizabeth Warren…There are , I have to believe good people who have dedicated their lives to working in politics, fighting the good fight, upholding the values I want my grandchildren to emulate.

It is perplexing even for oldsters such as myself, but what of future generations of children, what will they say of these times? Stranger and stranger “, quipped Alice.

A Birthday Holiday

Holidays are the spaces between, yet as one ages ,retires from work, life becomes in a way, a holiday. Without the demands of bosses, assignments, prescribed hours, one is freer to chart their own course. For me, the transition between work and “ holiday” was difficult as I had anticipated that I would ease out of my work world, work part time because I enjoyed the sphere I was in: it was exciting to present internationally , write policy and impact on the lives of many. But choosing between a rock and a hard place, I finally decided to take retirement, searching for some consulting gigs, hoping that writing might take me into a new career- and it did – but only briefly.

But life offers surprises and a windfall wound up propelling me into a new phase, and so I was able to move my winters to California. California has been three years delicious. Having scouted out the environs for my Christmas birthday last year, we selected Palm Springs, anticipating warmer and hopefully drier weather than San Diego had experienced in the previous two years. Although extreme sickness almost prevented one part of our clan from gathering, our littlest rallied at the last minute, her sweet smile re- emerging sufficiently to endure a five and half hour plane ride.

We have never rented a cottage so I imagine this time together resembled a summer in Muskokoa by the water up north. In Palm Springs, by the heated pools and backed by mountains, we slept, ate and played together, three groups related by Howard and myself and marriage. It is a task to remain considerate for an extended period, but two wings of the house provided early morning quiet. Food choices varied, with vegans, picky eaters, gourmets and gourmands😜, but somehow we managed to find meals that seemed to meet most tastes from roast beef to pizza. We had incredible takeout freerange chicken( apologies to Paul who thought that all the white meat was gone), amazing burgers, the Russian lady’s premier attempt at roast beef delivered on our first night as holiday traffic took four tedious NEVER- ending, not two hours of travel to gather us all at our location; and Jordan’s most valiant attempt that night to scurry back and forth to numerous stores endlessly collecting each family’s emailed list: from cherry coke to cream cheese to lactaid milk.

Cooperation is always a key, and children were parented by those other than their own. We had a jigsaw puzzle by Florine Stettheimer of silly salesgirls tending their clientele at Bendels in the 1920’s so random people stopped and placed pieces at their leisure, satisfying a need for order and calm. On the tv, my son projected group games that incorporated group drawing and concocting huge lies, so we, attended by the oldest grandkid delighted to be up late late with the adults, giggled uncontrollably at outrageous answers.We gave ourselves outrageous aliases too.Early morning swims, occasional naps, impromptu meals, and of course, glomping around the damn IPad. So it went for five days, some family members dispersing to Joshua Tree National Park, the Annenberg estate, or dinosaur parks, tennis volleys, or Howard and myself disappearing to an art museum: interested in glass works by women. We wandered and walked, coming together and being apart, moving to our own individual beats.

It makes one wonder about the notion of a family, more than just being joined by blood lines, how caring and cooperation and respect play into a group. I suppose we maintain our ties because it is more or less expected in a family, but often we reflect that we have no choice over family ties, and would we in deed bond with the people with whom we are related. But as in any relationship, there will be aspects of people we admire or really annoy us and the challenge may be to dig deeper or merely keep one’s mouth shut to avoid confrontation. Sometimes difference of opinions does arise, but during our little respite, my family was, as they say “ chill”; several sulkily cooling their heels or tongues before flames destroyed the unity of the group’s dynamics, consideration for another’s view, thoughtful of avoiding danger of sparking a momentary destructive flame.

As a parent, I listened to the resurrection of childhood memories, of trips we took together, shared accounts, both good and bad, laughter overflowing, retrieved secrets revealed by now older adults, as a special times of foods and adventures, pinches and parfaits, Prague and Montebuono, not totally consumed in their memories in the blaze of days. As a parent, you watch, you stand aside and hope you prepared the ground for their experiences, sowing seeds so some might germinate into the people you aspired they might be, reinforcing the values you deemed the right ones. “But you never know”( as my wise mother used to harp) if what you have done made sense to a certain burgeoning personality, or if life has unwound its numerous perils and unexpected twists to allow for the implementation of lessons.

A book on Mindfulness I read awhile ago softly suggested that we did what we thought best years previous- so let it go, forgive yourself for what you now understand to have not been the wisest direction or action. This is easier written than accepted, for one thinks of situations inadvertently created or words shouted or conversely not spoken that might have made a difference. These are the barbs that in your quieter moments ping your heart, too late to remedy, reminding you of a person you don’t much like. And so, cowardly here, I do apologize for those times. One hopes that with age comes wisdom.

Yet in our home, we tried to foster the growth of critical, thinking, independent souls who would make their own way in the world. So in spite of Howard and my desires, admonishments( don’t run with scissors), our children insisted on and charted their own courses. All hardworking ,admirable professionals of whom we are extremely proud, I might add. And because they are my children, and I did not want to make a speech on my transitional birthday, I will tell them how now and here how deeply I love you all, “in my bones,”again as my mother would say. And thank you for all coming together, being together, on this special occasion, hoping that these five and more days will live in their heads as they will in mine: flowers that will continue to appear from time to time, reminding us that- when we’re back in our separate lives- that we are endlessly connected, cherished and always loved- each and everyone of us.

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