Monday, November 24, 2008

The women in my life - part 5

The ladies in retail

Rosie serves me at the cleaners. No matter when I go there – mornings, evenings, Saturdays, Sundays she is always there. She calls me Mrs. Sharpless, but I don’t mind. I like that she provides good service and good value and always with a smile. She is a tiny woman with red hair, always worn up off her face. And, she moves like lightening – from the back cleaning area, to the counter, to the racks of cleaned and ready clothes. There is never a hesitation. She knows me when I walk in the door and knows exactly where to find the clothes I’m there to pick up. That’s what I call good service.

Vivian used to serve Bob in the men’s department at Nordstrom, but she branched out in the last year or so to also serve women as a personal buyer. I really love that she’s so ready and willing to go shopping for me because it’s one of the things I dread doing. She lets me know when a big sale is coming up, I call back with a few things I’d like her to find for me, and we’re off and running. I don’t buy much from her, but when I do go over there it’s practically painless. Vivian is vivacious and caring and very glamorous with long flowing brunette hair and a drop dead figure. She’s always concerned about how Bob and I are. Also, she still waits on him when he comes into the store. She knows exactly what he likes.

Brenda is my jeweler. Every woman needs one. Actually, Brenda started out as a friend whom I first met in the 6 am aerobics class I used to take at our local tennis club. But, when I heard from an aerobics classmate that he always bought his wife’s jewelry from Brenda, I had to check her out. And, I’ve never been sorry. She has beautiful taste and designs. Recently she produced a piece for me that receives constant compliments – mostly from perfect strangers. It’s something I’ll be proud to wear for the rest of my life. But, besides being a talented and respected jeweler in our community, Brenda is one of the finest human beings I know. After the crash of Flight 93 on September 11, 2001, Brenda took on the task of repairing, cleaning, putting together the pieces of jewelry found at the sight so they could be returned to the victims’ families. It was such a tearjerker of a job. I came into her store when she had just begun work on the third batch, and she showed me the over 20 pieces – broken and squashed beyond recognition in a baggie still holding residue of the ground where the plane crashed. But, she said with tears in her eyes, she would do anything to fix these bits and pieces so that the survivors could have some sort of memento from their lost loved ones. I’ve written a piece about this experience. One of these days I’ll post it here.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

The women in my life - part 4

The ladies who keep me fit

Rosie is my sometime personal trainer. I’m not working with her right now, but that has more to do with the status of my pocketbook than about her abilities. She is short, energetic, fairly close to my age, and always concerned that I will be in enough balance in my old age so I can get on and off the toilet. I think that’s her mission in life – keeping her women clients in balance. But that’s a good thing. Plus when I work out with her, she never lets up for the whole hour. One exercise after another until I can barely move. I love that she is upbeat and can keep talking on any subject at a fast clip while she’s working me out. Even when I’m not working with her, if she sees I’m doing something incorrectly she’ll come over and make me do it right.

Erica is my adorable personal Pilates trainer. She also is a talker, but she stands close and scrutinizes my every move during each exercise. I’ve learned that Pilates is an exact practice – one little toe out of place and the whole exercise goes wrong. Even though Erica is young enough to be my daughter (maybe even my granddaughter) we have our love of everything Italian and our desire to learn to speak Italian in common. She also bakes bread and kneads it by hand; something I did when I was first married. I love that she took the time to read the poetry in my blog even though some of it is pretty dark.

Becky teaches the always-packed Saturday morning Spinning class and never ceases to entertain. She’s been around the club forever – I’m sure most people think she must own the place. That’s how concerned she is for the people who come there, her own personal training clients, and the status of the equipment and resources in the building. Most of her jokes are about her, her house – just down the block from mine – and her 30 plus year relationship with Fred. Right now I worry a bit about her. She is much too thin. But, boy does she have definition in her upper arms! She’s pretty amazing for a woman over 60. Plus she loves country and western music – one of my faves.

Vanessa teaches the Pilates class I try to attend every other week. I don’t know what it is about these trainers. She’s a talker too. And she always is bringing out Pilates moves I’ve never even seen before let alone know how to do. Last week it was jumps, the week before it was the clap-clap. But all those moves are invigorating and really get to where my body needs it. Plus she knows the website for finding an apartment in Rome.

Kelly is the best Yoga instructor. Her system is Yoga Flow, so for however long I can stand being in class, there is no letting up. She must have us do 50 downward dogs. I haven’t been going to class much lately because I do so much Pilates, but I still do Yoga outside of class. It’s a perfect way to stretch after my morning workouts. Kelly also is a newly-graduated doctor of Chinese medicine. I love her spirituality and calmness and her bright smile. I promise to go back to her class one of these days.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

A little success story

I got word yesterday that Memoir (and) has accepted two of my poems for its February 2009 edition. I submitted at the end of July and promptly forgot about it. Could that be why I woke at 3 am and couldn’t fall back to sleep? All the excitement? Well, I’m sure feeling the results of that now. Anyhow, I spoke with the editor and she sounds fantastic and very willing to help get me exposure. She’s putting a link to my blog in my bio and links to my other poetry sites at Mamazine and The Emerging Goddess in the bio that will appear online. Who knows, maybe she’ll think of someone for my memoir. In the meantime, I’m very excited she’ll publish the two poems, "The Last Night" and "Thursday Morning" – posted on my blog September 22 and September 18. She thinks of them as a pair – I certainly had never thought of that. But, of course, it makes perfect sense.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Just over a year

It's just over a year since I started this blog. It's evolved into something quite different from my original intent, but I'm not unhappy about that. I like that I can post any subject that comes to mind. I'm not confined to my blog title, choices.

Today I'm thinking about the air quality and the gray sky left dirty and murky from the fallout from all the fires in Santa Barbara, Slymar, Diamond Bar, Palos Verdes that have been rampaging these last few days. I couldn't even do my usual long Sunday walk to the beach this morning for fear of getting congested and short-winded. It is definitely a day to stay indoors with the windows closed. So, it seems appropriate to post a poem I wrote a while back about star gazing. And, no, I don't expect to see any stars out tonight.

Star Fishing

Today I want to tell you about variable stars.
They intrigue me because they change.
They change in brightness.
Some repeat cycles with almost clocklike precision
others change irregularly.
Some require only hours or days
to return to their starting brightness.
Others require years to change.
Yet, whether they change imperceptibly or violently
all variable stars change.

The most spectacular variable is the Nova.
It can get up to 200,000 times brighter than the Sun.
But, alas, it is temporary.
It periodically blows off a tiny percent of the Sun’s mass
at speeds up to 600 miles a second
until it loses too much mass to continue.
Whereas Supernovas brighten up to 10 billion times
the Sun’s brightness for a few days
and then fade away forever.

One more thing.
Variable stars change their brightness by pulsating
ever expanding and contracting
like a balloon,
They repeat their brightness cycles
from one day to hundreds of days
and are hundreds of times more luminous
than the Sun.

Well, that’s it.
Now go out into your yard
lean back in your recliner
gaze up into that black starry sky
and see if you can find your own variable star
amidst the 8000 stars visible to the naked eye.
See if you can catch its luminosity.
Surely you can.
Surely you can.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

The women in my life - part 3

My beauty team

Every woman needs a beauty team. These women make up mine:

Ruth does my finger and toe nails and she always entertains. When I first met her she had flowing long blonde hair, now it’s short and spiky. She’s short too with a definite pear-shaped figure. She likes to talk about food – what she’s making for dinner, what I’m making for dinner, who is coming over for dinner, where she’s going out to dinner, and what she just had for lunch while standing up in the supply room between clients. She also likes to gossip a little bit, but that’s what’s supposed to go on in beauty salons. Turns out she works on a few people I know, so we have to be careful about that.

Lori, my hair stylist, is tall and gorgeous and she has the most beautiful tattoos covering her back and arms – and maybe other places I haven’t seen yet. Plus does she know how to do hair. And, she’s been through a lot with my hair – weaving in low lights, dying it totally, and now working with me as I grow out my gray. She also gleefully cut it a few months back when I suggested it on a whim. But now, probably to her dismay, I’ve decided to grow it long again. Maybe that’s what hairdressers do best – just go along with the changing minds of their women clients – to dye or not to dye, to cut or not to cut? Lori is always ready to go along with the flow. And, she’s so sweet about it too.

Ginger gives a massage to die for. In fact last night I told her, her touch was so hard she was killing me. But, there’s a pattern there. When we’re talking she goes in deeper; when we’re quiet her touch is more gentle. But, I do like a hard and deep massage, and she has the arms and hands to make that happen. And she is a marvel. She has successfully lost and kept off about 200 pounds over the few years that I’ve known her, and, she has a successful business at the young age of 34. Not to mention that she is a devoted daughter and sister. She’s been through a lot with her family.

Dinah probably gives the best facials in town. I love her style, her touch, and the concern she has for my skin. It’s never looked better -- and that's saying a lot at my age. She also is working with me as I grow out my over-plucked brows – and gotten me out of my nightly plucking habit. With her care, I haven't looked ragged throughout this process. Dinah is also quick to laugh and engage me in long conversations about her dating life. Ah, the dating life. Thank goodness, I’m no longer doing that. But, it’s definitely interesting to hear about how someone else is doing it. Kudos to Dinah. She is both friendly and professional, and another successful business woman at a very young age. She and Ginger share an office space – each with their own well-decorated small, peaceful studio. They’ve created a spa without the spa.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

My sentiments exactly

I keep thinking I'll stop with the political posts already. But, here's another one I couldn't resist. When I saw the article copied below this morning, I felt I wanted to preserve it for posterity -- as a lesson learned for future women candidates. We treated both Hillary and Sarah poorly, and now we women must gather together to find a way for a woman to succeed in the future. That women pundits were so mean spirited about Hillary was unconscionable, and that the unqualified Sarah was chosen as a vice presidential candidate in the first place did her and our country a huge disservice. Here's what one op ed writer had to say today:

Feminism, post-election
Sexism persists; witness Clinton's treatment and Palin's nomination.

By Vivian Gornick
November 9, 2008

For a second-wave feminist like myself, this election year has been a roller-coaster ride: exciting, and sick-making, and yet again exciting. We have seen an eminently qualified woman contend for a presidential nomination and fail, at least in part because she was demonized as a dragon lady; then we have seen a shamefully unqualified woman handed a vice presidential nomination, at least in part because she was a walking advertisement for Mrs. America. Taken together, such unforeseen events have been remarkable, especially insofar as they remind us of where we are, as a culture, in the centuries-long struggle to normalize equality for women.

The second wave of American feminism is now in a period of quietude, even of setback. After nearly 40 years of noisy activity on behalf of women's rights, a large part of the country thinks the revolution's been won, another large part thinks what feminists have accomplished amounts to a drop in the bucket, and yet a third part remains irredeemably opposed to feminist values. Such an extraordinary division of viewpoint indicates that whatever the gains for women have been, they are by no means indisputable, much less guaranteed a lasting life.

An incontestable piece of evidence that high-level sexism persists in the United States was the astonishing treatment meted out to Hillary Rodham Clinton throughout her tortured campaign to win the Democratic Party's nomination for president. She was trashed all over the country -- in the papers, on television and on the Internet -- solely, repeatedly, insultingly, not as a Washington insider, or as a senator who endorsed the Iraq war, or as a member of a would-be political dynasty, but as a woman.

She was routinely characterized as strident and aggressive; criticized on her hair, her clothing, her figure; called an uppity woman on television; and on the Internet one could see a notice that read, "The bitch is back '08," as well as a video of a man at a rally screaming at Clinton, "Iron my shirt."

The degree to which this trashing persisted administered a shock to the system of anyone who wanted to believe that simple woman-hating was a thing of the near past. It is painful and instructive to realize that it was unthinkable to level equivalent open racism at Barack Obama. Obviously, if you were so inclined, you could think racist thoughts, but you could not speak them; whereas, with sexism, it was no holds barred.

Another indisputable piece of evidence that sexism is still very much with us was the nomination of Sarah Palin for vice president on the Republican ticket: a piece of cynicism that was truly an insult to all of us, women and men alike. Palin was chosen, with an ugly wink at the country, because she was a sexy, cheerleading fundamentalist. It was as though the conservatives felt free to say, "You want a woman? We'll give you a woman" -- as they trotted out a parody of American politics that could have been invented by Thomas Pynchon.

At the same time, it has been thrilling to see thousands upon thousands of women (and men too) rise up in righteous anger against the sexism inherent in both Clinton's defeat and Palin's ascent. The twin event has politicized people who, until that moment, did not think they had feminist politics. The spectacular protest is a true measure of how far American feminism has actually come -- how much deeper it has penetrated the shared sensibility of the body politic than we have generally realized -- and how far it has yet to go. This aspect of a hardly credible election year has been a joy and a high for many of us, and a salutary reminder that the struggle over women's rights remains one of the longest and most resilient on human record.

The modern women's movement dates from the 1792 publication of Mary Wollstonecraft's "Vindication of the Rights of Woman." Written in the wake of the French Revolution, this remarkably radical treatise posits that women need to use their minds more than they need to be mothers and wives, in the same way that men need to use their minds more than they need to be fathers and husbands. Not instead of, just more than.

Every 50 years since that time, the movement has raised its head, opened its mouth, made yet another effort to have that sentiment heard, absorbed and acted on. Each time around, its partisans have been renamed -- new women, odd women, free women, liberated women -- but in actuality, they are always the same women. And, while they have had different issues to take up -- the right to vote, or divorce, own property, go to medical school -- their underlying message has always been the same: The conviction that men by nature take their brains seriously, and women by nature do not, is based not on an inborn reality but on a cultural belief that has served our deepest insecurities. That is the real issue, and around it there has collected over these two centuries a great amount of thought and feeling, and an even greater amount of anxiety, in women and men alike.

It is, I think, safe to say that the question of equality for women, each and every time around, has opened a Pandora's box of fear, hope and confusion that is existential in its very nature and has made its resolution even more recalcitrant than the matter of equality for people of color. In short: Behind the idea that it is natural for women to take an equal part in the world-making enterprise lies an internal self-division -- a conflict of social will -- that, at this moment, is far from clarified. Someday, perhaps, it will be, but today is not that day.

However, an election year such as we have just had in the United States should make every feminist in the country eager to press on.

Vivian Gornick is the author of many books, including "The Solitude of Self: Thinking About Elizabeth Cady Stanton" and the recent collection of essays, "The Men in My Life."

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Finally, a celebration!

Every election night we gather with three other couples to eat, drink, watch the returns, and hopefully celebrate.

In 2000 we watched the election returns with our friends at our home. And, as we said our goodbyes we were celebratory, thinking (and the networks forecasting) that Al Gore had won. The next morning we found out Florida was declared for Bush, and of course the rest is history. The bottom line, though, was we could no longer host an election night event. Our house was unlucky!

In 2004 another one of the couples hosted the event – Bob and I were in Europe so only participated by telephone. Again it turned out to be a night for Bush. So, their home was also considered unlucky.

Well, this year we found the lucky house! And we decided that this year's hosts will host all our election night events in the future. This year we truly had a night with good friends, good food and lots of clinking crystal, and indeed, a result to celebrate. FINALLY!

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

The day after

I know I said this wouldn't be a political blog. But I couldn't help myself again today.

This is the day after Election Day. This is the day to celebrate. This is the day to rejoice that the Republican right wing conservatives will no long lead our country into ruin. This is the day to move forward into a renewed future led by the first black American president of the United States.This is indeed a day that all of America and the world will remember.

But, I must admit I was for Hillary. I wanted there to be a first woman president before the first black American. Obama is young, I thought. He could have waited. This was perhaps Hillary’s last chance and because she didn’t win this time, because she got so much flack from her fellow feminists, I doubt that another woman of her caliber will give it a try for quite some time.

And, even though I was a huge Hillary fan, I went full force for Barack. I had to. There was no other choice. I even worked in the phone bank for him – once. And, I advertised my support on Facebook. Plus I gave him a few bucks – not as much as I gave Hillary, but I did give some.

Now, I hear him, I hear the crowds roar for him, and I see a world dancing in the streets because he won. And I know in my heart that they are right. This is a man who won’t have any baggage to rely on. This is a man who comes with a clean slate. Some said his lack of experience is a drawback. But, in his case I think it is a plus. He has the brains and imagination to turn our country around. And he has the humility to know when he needs help. He won’t hesitate to admit when he is wrong and to get the right people on his side to help move things along.

So, I admit I was wrong. The rest of the country and the world were right. They had faith in this guy while I looked at him as my second choice. He is my president elect now. And I’m very proud that our country made that happen.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Silly things

Some things about our 2008 presidential campaign that we could have done without (sorry, I couldn't resist getting political today):

A 72-year old running for president

A 72-year old picking an inexperienced but beautiful unknown as a running mate. With what was he thinking?

Obama not picking Hillary Clinton as his running mate

Tina Fey and Saturday Night Live lampooning Sarah Palin

A vice presidential candidate with 5 children, one a pregnant, unmarried teenager, and one with Down’s syndrome. Shouldn’t she be home with them more?

$150, 000 reportedly spent on Palin’s clothes, accessories, and styling

$350,000 reportedly spent on one outfit Cindy McCain wore during the Republican National Convention

Equating Obama with terrorists

McCain calling the economy fundamentally sound

Palin’s pointy index fingers – how annoying!

Biden running off at the mouth

Obama’s church and minister

Fear tactics

Spending money on negative ads

Women journalists discrediting both Hillary and Sarah – just because they are women?

And, I'm sure this list isn't complete. More to come -- maybe!