Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Getting Good and Old

Serenity might be too strong a word, but forgive me. My mind is foggy from heavy injections of sugar, butter, and tryptophan. Just two helpings of potatoes short of Thanksgiving nirvana, I count my blessings and reflect.
As a kid growing up in Rhode Island, Thanksgiving was somewhat ambiguous. My nick-name was "Chub" which might explain why endless food as a holiday theme struck a cord. But some of it was really gross. Stuffing, for example. Soggy chunks of onions and celery? No thanks. Canned green bean casserole with chow mein noodles on top? Are you kidding me? 

There was a lot of love in the air in those days, with a touch of family tension. Leading up to sitting down for dinner, the momentum in the kitchen was palpable and intense. Humming of mixers, the buzzing of an electric carving knife and endless whisking was accompanied by the oven door opening and closing, again and again, in crescendo. Foil-covered bowls and pots outnumbered guests. "Stir the gravy!" It was hot. The dishes and pans to wash were overwhelming.
Then I got married and marched to the beat of Martha Stewart. I toiled over an artichoke stuffing with free-range walnuts that nobody liked. The turkey was blessed and fed a last supper of organic grain before it was killed, wrapped and priced accordingly. Roasted root vegetables with sprigs of herbs we grew in pots on our deck were not quite the hit I anticipated. That fourth trip downtown in heavy traffic for the Gewurtztraminer we absolutely needed for dinner made me cranky. The dishes that I transferred the food to from the pots in order to look good on the table were even more overwhelming, and not dishwasher safe. 

With a headache from our too-expensive wine, everything was more challenging. The icing on the homemade carrot cake was that my kids didn't eat much at Thanksgiving dinner and were hungry for macaroni and cheese shortly afterwards. And I made it for them.
Thank God middle age has set in!  I look in the mirror and the blurry, older version of myself accepts that I was never much of a fancy cook. That's why we have older sisters. All I want is for family, friends and my dog to be around and relatively happy. A "natural" Butterball Turkey seems quite content in my refrigerator. The pretty box of Bell Stuffing is sleek enough in its simplicity, and the ingredients thankfully too small to read. Pie-making is happily surrendered to my cheerful and enthusiastic daughter. I am able to turn a blind eye to my son drinking soda, eating cookies and playing video games minutes before dinner. It's their smiles and laughter I crave.

I drink the wine that is closest to me, and open. Even dog hair blowing around in tumbleweeds in the right light can be artistic. With this age comes freedom to give in to and thoroughly enjoy the unique energy and momentum of us.  The recipe for fond memories, it turns out, is pretty simple.
Presented on Thanksgiving is an opportunity to live in the moment of the incredible abundance that surrounds me. I'm deeply grateful to have, at last, the good sense to seize it.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

The First Step to Recovery

Thursday, November 21, 2012
Portland, Maine

Riveted to my computer screen today, I jumped back and forth from C-SPAN to Twitter, completely ignoring the piles of work on my desk and the phone that was ringing. My heart was racing, my mood euphoric, my palms sweaty.

I got high on filibuster reform today, and I might be addicted to change.

There were motions and emotions, speech and debate - all leading to happy hallucinations. Sen. Harry Reid was a strong, courageous cowboy. He was a Majority Master of the Universe who did not bloviate -- did not lecture. He was not pedantic, but instead passionate and virile. Reid fought for us, using words and the rules of the Senate as a mighty sword.

Such a powerful drug was this action in the senate, even Sen. McConnell didn’t annoy me. He was eloquent and brisk. In the fencing match of procedural tricks and machinations the repartee and votes were close and fast. McConnell’s arguments were hollow, of course, but everything looks good in the right light. Waiving Obamacare like shiny rhinestoned shield, McConnell threw up the white flag, shouting to his base,  “Retreat! Fire up the fundraising machine! Prepare for the public relations war!”

After seeing and hearing what happened in the Senate today, while reading and tweeting reaction and surprise, I finally know what its like to play Halo or be an NHL fan. Maybe this is what watching Downtown Abby does to people. 

The drama, the pageantry and the visceral emotion if captured and transmitted to the grid could power a bright future.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Gasbags in Maine Explain Gender Wage Gap

The “liberal media” in conspiracy with the Census Bureau reported this week that women earn 80% of what men earn, on average.

Research explains roughly 60% of the problem: Women pull out of the fast lane to care for children or enter professions that pay less, for example. Forty percent of the gender wage gap “puzzle” however is a gaping black hole not explained by scientific study.

The issue of persistent inequality of income between men and women in the United States is open to sheer speculation, and one thing we know for sure is that gasbags abhor a vacuum.

Look no further than the Sage of Farmington to offer his keen insight as to why women don’t earn equal pay for equal work in the land of equal opportunity. His self-absorbed, back-slapping column doesn’t tackle the issue directly, but its mere presence in Maine newspapers offers some not-so-nuanced clues.

The Sage writes of his love to read and reread what a fellow curmudgeon columnist writes adoringly about him, but makes it clear he won’t stoop to read anything written by conservative-turned-liberal women, like Arianna Huffington.  While he delights in rattling off a laundry list of obscure male writers he and like-minded true “genetic conservatives” inhale, Huffington isn’t “intellectual” enough for his club. She is merely “good looking.”

With all his time spent reading hard-to-find works of underground pure conservatives, it’s no wonder the Sage has never encountered a single person who has drifted from the right to the left of the political spectrum. His worldview springs forth from an echo chamber like a breath of stale air. How privileged we are in Maine to read his opinions and ideas in the newspapers and on the Internet.

So what do the women columnists have to say about the subject of disparate pay in Maine, and the nation?  

Well, that’s left to speculation as well! You see there are plenty of conservative men who are paid to lament publicly about being treated unfairly by the “liberal media,” but no women paid less to weigh in on the gender gap, or anything else political for that matter.

A cruel irony, perhaps, is that women’s voices are welcome, for free, on the Huffington Post.

Why don’t things change and get better for working women, with regularly published lectures from men like the Sage who writes with pride that he “never experienced a transition?” What a surprise the gender wage gap continues, with daily doses of what old farts like him have to say.

The Sage is given a public voice by the biggest news outlet in Maine to write about his resentment of being constantly exposed to liberal points of view, while according to him “liberals” live their entire lives “without any direct exposure at all” to conservative brilliance.  

I dare you to speculate what will happen when the people of Maine are finally given “direct exposure” to women’s voices in the media about political issues like the chronic wage gap between men and women. I’ll go out on a limb and suggest us girls will be paid more fairly. Good looking, or not.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Double Standard for Women: Democrats and Republicans on Common Ground

As one Christian woman to another, I fully support Maine Republican House member Amy’s Volk’s legislation to erase prostitution convictions from the records of human trafficking victims. My God, what if Mary Magdalane had a rap sheet? We might not know He is risen.

But let’s put aside the merits of the legislation, and assume we are on common ground when it comes to having compassion and doing what’s right for those forced in to sex slavery.

What Maine’s political party chairmen did and said following the dismissal of Volk’s legislation by Democratic leaders is of interest to me.

"This is a Republican party and a conservative legislator who is desperate to try to realign a gender gap that their party faces at the polls, and a representative who needs to kind of soften her hard edges,” said the Democratic Chair Ben Grant, justifying the partisan smackdown of Volk’s bill.

Anyone who knows Representative Volk will attest she is hardly a woman with hard edges. “Curvaceous” is more like it. But it’s not her body Grant is talking about. For lack of a Christian term, it’s her chutzpah.

Grant’s remarks were offensive, like GOP Chairman Bennett said to his base, before dramatically demanding an apology while invoking Volk’s religion.

“For the Democrat Chairman to say that Rep. Volk is just trying to ‘soften her edges’ sounds patronizing and sexist...Rep. Volk is a Christian woman who feels strongly about helping people recover from difficult situations; she was involved in an effort at her church to raise money to fight human trafficking well before this bill came out….”

Did Bennett say something about Christianity and fundraising? That’s a familiar tune straight from the conservative hymnal. It’s not that Volk is feisty, she’s doing God’s work.

Either the weight of Catholic guilt or polling prompted an “apology” of sorts by Grant. His remorse was couched in intellectual terms, as if “patronizing and sexist” can be disproved with research or ignored like a whiny two-year old in the back seat of a Prius.

"I made several ill-conceived remarks last week about Representative Volk's proposed legislation. Since that interview, I have looked into the matter further and now understand that the issue of human trafficking does occur in all 50 states…”

Grant’s remarks questioning the need for legislation to protect human trafficking victims were ill-conceived, no doubt, and his apology noted.

But what about the remark that Volk needs to soften her hard edges? Grant blurted out what many believe but dare not say. Snarky is for guys.

The challenge for women regardless of party in the blood sport of politics is to succeed without appearing to want success. To win a fight without being scrappy. What’s admired as “bold” in men is scorned as brash in women. What’s sharp is shrill.

The Democratic Party and many “liberals” are theoretically feminist but fall short of always valuing women equal to men. There is a double standard about what’s politically correct. Likewise, theoretically the Republican Party is for “small government,” except when it comes to dictating what women do with their bodies. Prostitutes might not have a criminal record in their world, but they also have no choice.