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Monthly Archives: January 2012

The Anniversary Waltz


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Today, January 30th, good friends of ours have celebrated their wedding anniversary.  I am not certain the number of years, but I do know it is over thirty.  That’s a lot of years for a couple to stay married in this day and age.

Their landmark event got me to thinking of how it is that some couples can stay married for an inordinate amount of time when others don’t make six months. (Kim Kardashian and basketball playing Chris, for example).

I know quite a few couples that have been married for a very long time.  In the community where I live, a large group of friends and acquaintances have been married for twenty, thirty, forty years, to the same mate.  We use to kid each other that it was something in the drinking water.  Although we never bothered to have the water tested.  It seems very unlikely that it was the cause.

It is a befuddled question with no clear cut reasons, but I think I’ve come up with some of the answers.

First I will give you all the reasons I think are not the answers for marriage longevity.  I doubt it is passionate love.  That might be the reason they got together in the first place, but surely not the reason they stay together.  You don’t need to be married to have a passionate love, but when the passion cools it is not a reason to part.  I doubt anyone can boast of eternal firey passion.  Not if they’re being honest.

Physical beauty can’t be the draw.  When you live together for a long time you see each other in all states, healthy, sickly, chubby, thin, balding, frizzy, with and without make-up.  Physical beauty fades, although fortunately aging eyes soften the inevitable lines that appear, and blurs the flaws time marks one’s spouse with.

And it’s certainly not the children.  There are times that the antics of your teenagers can drive a wedge in the best of unions.  But you hang on until the hurricane has passed.  The reward is grown-up children.  Sometimes you are lucky enough to reap benefits for having put up with their teenage years.

These are not all the reasons you might not  stay together, but I feel that I’ve made the point.  So why do some people remain together for such a long time, and others don’t? 

Perhaps its an enduring love, not the kind that sweeps you off your feet, but a love mingled with respect that keeps us anchored in place.  A kind of love that reminds us that there is no one else in the world that we would rather live with.  The sweeping off your feet came in the early days, before you were aware that life too often brings you back down to earth, hard.  You truly need someone to ease the landing for you.

It’s a love that allows each partner to experience life as they wish, realizing that your life partner will be with you for all the important moments,  as you will be there for them.  You rarely want the same things in your mature years as you wished for when you were a young bride and groom.  The couples I know have considered each other’s new desires.  Sometimes after a battle royal, but that enduring love prevailed and kept them together.

We all continue to grow.  Sometimes it happens at different rates.  Hold on, eventually you will see things in, if not the same way, then maybe in a complimentary fashion. Compromise should be included in the marriage vows, right up there near the top of the page.

Remember Oscar Madison and Felix Unger, the odd couple?  That show was a study in relationships.  Each week one needed to bolster the other to help him get through a situation.  Who the pillar of strength happened to be changed with each episode.  Likewise, we each must take a turn on being the rock in a marriage.  No one person can do it always.  Life is too difficult to maneuver, and one person would get exhausted carrying themselves and another from start to finish. 

It seems to me the marriages that endure are held together with Love, Respect, Patience, and a great Sense of Humor.  Both people pulling together in the same direction, yet allowing others in to enhance their years on this earth.

Happy Anniversary Joel and Linda ***

 

 

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Posted by on January 31, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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The Year of the Dragon 2012


Dragon

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One of my favorite places in New York City is Chinatown.  When I was living in Manhattan it was always a treat to travel from uptown to Mott Street and its surrounding areas.  For as long as we lived within the five boroughs we visited the mysterious community several times a year.

The sights, sounds and scents are unique to the area.  Banks with pagoda facades.  Stores that sold puzzle boxes, incense sticks of Jasmine, sage and all sorts of exotic scents.  Restaurants which boasted real Chinese food.  The best ones were the restaurants that didn’t encourage tourists, but rather printed their sticky menus half in Chinese.  Hunan, and the old-time favorite, Cantonese recipes all cooked up in crowded smokey kitchens.

One of the big draws for me was the live tic tac toe playing chicken who always won the game.  You would put your quarter in a slot and a curtain would rise showing the chicken.  He would play the game with you until his inevitable win.  I still don’t know how they did that, or if it was a chicken or a rooster.  Another treat was the fire-breathing dragon kept in the basement of one of the buildings.  You could also view him for a twenty-five cent piece.  From outside the building you would look through and down a glass slot and suddenly the dragon’s lair would flare up.  The beast would emit a deafening roar and strobe.  Scared the hell out of me and anyone else that saw it for the first time.

The Chinese New Year celebration brought all the streets alive with people, fireworks and festivities. Bright colors and a huge paper mache Dragon snakes through blaring celebration. Following are some notes about the event and its history, which I enjoyed reading and I hope you do too.

The dragon is a symbol of power.

Therefore in Chinese astrology the dragon person born under this Chinese Zodiac sign tends to be a “doer” – they do things and achieve power by getting things done.

A dragon can breathe out fire so the person born in the Chinese Year of the Dragon can be a hot head. Watch out if you make them angry!

However, the dragon has a soft underbelly and so in Chinese astrology the dragon person born in this Chinese Zodiac year has a “soft spot” to them. They may get angry at someone who annoys them but they also show great compassion to people in need.

A dragon has a long tongue which is often seen.

So in Chinese astrology the dragon person born in this Chinese Zodiac year has a sharp tongue – they will say things that can be quite sarcastic and biting.

The person born in the Chinese Year of the Dragon can be quite a confronting person but if you can reach their “soft heart” they are worthwhile allies.

2012 is the Chinese year of the dragon. So what does 2012 hold for a person born in the Chinese Year of the Dragon?

Such people such double their efforts in whatever they do – work, education and other projects. Their natural talent and abilities should stand out with great results.
However, watch out for that temper! Keep it in check and do not spoil your good work.

 The Ancient Chinese Calendar

The ancient Chinese calendar, on which the Chinese New Year is based, functioned as a religious, dynastic and social guide. Oracle bones inscribed with astronomical records indicate that it existed at least as early as 14th century B.C., when the Shang Dynasty was in power. The calendar’s structure wasn’t static: It was reset according to which emperor held power and varied in use according to region.

The Chinese calendar was a complex timepiece. Its parameters were set according to the lunar phases as well as the solar solstices and equinoxes. Yin and yang, the opposing but complementary principles that make up a harmonious world, also ruled the calendar, as did the Chinese zodiac, the cycle of twelve stations or “signs” along the apparent path of the sun through the cosmos. Each new year was marked by the characteristics of one of the 12 zodiacal animals: the rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, sheep, monkey, rooster, dog and pig.

The Traditional Chinese New Year

The Chinese New Year period began in the middle of the 12th month and ended around the middle of the first month with the waxing of the full moon. Observance of the New Year period was traditionally divided into New Year’s Eve and the first days of the new year.

Traditionally for the Chinese, New Year was the most important festival on the calendar. The entire attention of the household was fixed on the celebration. During this time, business life came nearly to a stop. Home and family were the principal focuses. In preparation for the holiday, homes were thoroughly cleaned to rid them of “huiqi,” or inauspicious breaths, which might have collected during the old year. Cleaning was also meant to appease the gods who would be coming down from heaven to make inspections. Ritual sacrifices of food and paper icons were offered to gods and ancestors. People posted scrolls printed with lucky messages on household gates and set off firecrackers to frighten evil spirits. Elders gave out money to children. In fact, many of the rites carried out during this period were meant to bring good luck to the household and long life to the family–particularly to the parents.

Most important was the feasting. On New Year’s Eve, the extended family would join around the table for a meal that included as the last course a fish that was symbolic of abundance and therefore not meant to be eaten. In the first five days of the New Year, people ate long noodles to symbolize long life. On the 15th and final day of the New Year, round dumplings shaped like the full moon were shared as a sign of the family unit and of perfection.

Evolution of Spring Festival

The Western-style Gregorian calendar arrived in China along with Jesuit missionaries in 1582. It began to be used by the general population by 1912, and New Year’s Day was officially recognized as occurring on January 1. Beginning in 1949, under the rule of Chinese Communist Party leader Mao Zedong (1893–1976), the government forbade celebration of the traditional Chinese New Year and followed the Gregorian calendar in its dealings with the West. But at the end of the 20th century, Chinese leaders were more willing to accept the Chinese tradition. In 1996, China instituted a weeklong vacation during the holiday–now called Spring Festival–giving people the opportunity to travel home and to celebrate the new year.

In the early 21st century, many Chinese families spent a significant amount of their discretionary income celebrating the Spring Festival with traditional symbols and food. They also spent time watching the televised Spring Festival Gala: an annual variety show featuring traditional and contemporary singers, dancers and magic demonstrations. Although the rites of the holiday no longer had religious value, people remained sensitive to the zodiacal animals to the extent that they considered what, for example, a year of the rat might mean for their personal fortunes or for a child born at that time.

A change in attitude toward the Spring Festival has occurred in China’s young people, with Chinese college students reporting that they prefer surfing the Internet, sleeping, watching TV or spending time with friends to celebrating with family. They also reported not liking traditional New Year food such as dumplings and glutinous rice pastry. With its change of name from Chinese New Year to Spring Festival, for some members of the younger generation the holiday has evolved from an opportunity to renew family ties to a chance for relaxation from work.

 
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Posted by on January 28, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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This Little Piggy or How To Be A Woman


Woman in satin dress holding mirror

Image by George Eastman House via Flickr

The noun Woman can bring to mind many images.  It can refer to someone young, middle age, elderly.  The picture it invokes can be a sweet motherly type, or some tough broad.  A Woman can be bright, strong, conniving, innocent.  She can be an independent leader, or a little bit of fluff who needs taking care of.  Usually, our experiences with women form the pictures which come to mind when we think of a Woman.

Throughout our lives, if we are fortunate, we meet women that we might wish to emulate.  Sometimes we unconsciously snatch a bit of this, or that, from several different women, molding it until it becomes our own.  These nuances, together with genes, environment, desire, and ambition make us who we eventually become.

Our biggest influences, whether we like it or not, are our Mother’s and older female relatives.  After that it is the women who touch our lives.  Sometimes they are long time friends, but often it is someone who we might know just casually.  Someone who  passes through our lives quickly.  So quickly that their gilded edges never have time to tarnish before us, therefore they remain a mysterious creature.

Davida was a lovely Puerto Rican woman who always spoke with a musical accent, and enchanting hand motions.  She was the epitome of class.  Style and fashion was what she created for herself, and not what the trend of the day happened to be, or what some designer thought appropriate any particular hour of the day or night.

Lavender with a hint of rose was her favorite color.  She always wore flattering flowing garments in her signature shade, if not the entire ensemble, then at least a scarf or necklace made her statement.  Davida was plump, but one never noticed because of the way she floated into the room on strappy, high, heels, no matter what the weather.  I never saw her without her make-up, although she never looked overly painted.

The term from the top of her head to the very tip of her toes applied to Davida if it ever applied to anyone.  She was all Woman.

We had gone to a dance one evening.  As always Davida was a brightly colored parrot in a room of pretty doves.  You would have loved to hate her but it was impossible.  She was genuine and charming.  During the course of the evening, we excused ourselves from our partners, and as woman do, we went to the ladies room together.  Besides the necessary reasons it gives as a few minutes to primp and chat about what woman sometimes discuss.  I admired her shoes, and her impeccable pedicure.  She went on to tell me, in great detail, it wasn’t just about the color of her polish.  It looked so good because of the care she takes of her toes.

Every evening, when she is in the bath, Davida meticulously takes the time to scrub and pamper each foot and then each toe.  One by one she soaps each little piggy, gives them special attention with a soft brush, and then rinsed.  When its time to dry – each toe is carefull patted and then lotion massaged onto each foot and then the individual toes.  “I never hurry.  If you want your feet to be good to you, you must be good to your feet.”  (This with a Spanish accent)

I was amazed.  Sure I wash and dry my feet, and often rub lotion on them, but this was a ritual she was describing.  I was envious.  Of what I am still not sure.  Perhaps that she took the time to treat herself so well.  Whatever the reason, it was an eye opener.  Davida really knew how to be a woman.  I looked down at her toes encased in those strappy sandals and those little piggies really looked happy.

To this day I never give my feet and toes a passing slip shod shrub with a wash cloth.  No sir, these tooties get all the attention they need.  It doesn’t matter it I’m wearing sandals or sneakers.  I am Woman hear me roar.

 
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Posted by on January 19, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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Bras, Girdles, Corsets, Oh My!


Deutsch: Die Birne. Museum des Lebuser Landes ...

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Search volumes new and old about instruments of torture and you will come up with The Rack, Judas Cradle, The Iron Maiden, Brazen Bull, Pear of Anguish, and so on.  All of these invented and intended to torture and ultimately kill the guilty, and too often, the innocent.  They were built and used in all parts of the ancient world.  Some of these cruel devices were implemented for torture even in more modern times.  Yes, modern but certainly not more civilized.

Here, I wish to submit, Bras, Girdles and Corsets should be included on this list of torture implements.  None of these items were invented by women.  No, no, in each case it was a man who believed women would be better off if they wore this type of apparel.  Let’s not forget garter belts, braselettes and waist cinchers.

Think back to the early scenes of Gone With The Wind when Hattie McDaniel (Mamie) was admonishing Vivian Leigh (Scarlet O’Hara) to go upstairs with the other young ladies and lie down.  For goodness sakes it was the middle of the day and during the height of the party.  The young men were all going outside to smoke and chat.  The reason the young ladies were going upstairs to rest was they needed their corsets loosened so they could indulge in a few needed moments of breathing.  Ever wonder why so many ladies swooned in those days?

Later in that movie, after Scarlet has had her child, Mamie is being scolded by Scarlet that she is not pulling the laces of her corset tight enough.  Miss O’Hara wanted to squeeze her waist back to its original eighteen inches.  (What did they do with all that gutsy stuff that is supposed to be inside keeping your system operating?)

In the 1950s and 60s women were still wearing girdles with bone stays.  These garments were so tight you needed to powder your body to get into them.  At the bottom of the girdles were four to six elastic bands dropping down and ending in small rubber and metal fasteners.  These fasteners were intended to be secured to the tops of your stockings in order to keep them up.  If you had very female, fleshy thighs these little fasteners dug into your legs so hard finally leaving black and blues or little cuts.

No matter your age, everyone has seen those pictures of Betty Grable and Lana Turner in their pin-up pictures.  Almost always they were wearing a bra with severe conical cups.  If you got poked in the eye with one of those breasts it would surely take your eye out.  Do you think they were comfortable?  Their boobs were worn so high, today a set could pass for an Egyptian styled Necklace.  I was thrilled to burn my bra in the 1960s.  Only sorry that nice soft natural breasts are not still in fashion.  I would never don another bra again.

Corsets, at the turn of the century, and before, were required pieces of apparel usually worn under the dresses of ladies of fashion.  You needed one so that the outer clothing fit properly.  Today people wear them for fun.  They are made of silk, satin, leather or lace.  The colors range from the deepest black to sweet pastels.  Decorated with applicades and ruffles.  Designers having something else in mind, corsets now barely cover a decent set of ta tas.  They are not intended to keep you warm.  Rather they are arranged to make others hot.  Corsets of today have little practical value.  The women who choose to wear these items do it to be sexy, seductive and alluring.  (Think Betty Page)

But never does anyone claim that these items are Comfortable.

I truly believe, Bras, Girdles and Corsets should be included on any accurate list of the Instruments of Torture.  What say you?

 
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Posted by on January 14, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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Baby its Cold Outside!


English: Looking south down Fullerton Harbor i...

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Up until now the Winter weather has been fairly tepid.  Today it was forty-seven degrees.  No where near the temperatures we are used to experiencing during a New York January. Having said that, I must admit that I was feeling cold today.  Despite that I was dressed in standard Winter attire, velvet pants, cozy sweater, socks and slippers, I had a chill.  I was even revved up for the NFL Giants’ wild card game against the Falcons.  That in itself should have kept me warm, but it didn’t.  (Giants won bigtime.  It was a slaughter.)  Time to face the facts.  I don’t care what the thermometer proclaims.  When I’m cold, I’m cold.

Fortunately, I live in a one family home and am in control of the thermostat.  Unless you have been subject to someone else controlling the heat in your house you have no idea what a luxury that is.

My mother told me stories of Winters in the sixth floor apartment on 116th Street.  We were located on the top floor, with the tar roof over our heads, and drafty windows which allowed in bitter drafts.  There were no such things as double plated glass, or even storm windows.  We did not have shutters to help seal out the wind.  It was four over four on each window.  A single sheet of glass connected to the other by severely compromised ribs of wood.

Granted it wasn’t a cold water flat, (Before I was born some people lived in cold water flats, meaning, no heat or hot water.)* , but it may as well have been.  The building was heated by steam heat radiators.  Steam was made by coal fed fires in a furnace.  Joe the Janitor would shovel this furnace all Winter night long in order to heat the twin buildings   Each building housed twenty-four apartments.  By the time the steam rose to warm the top floor radiators it had cooled.  If you lived on the fifth or sixth floor you wore gloves, and sometimes coats inside your apartment, during the dead of the Winter.

I was told, my Mother would wrap me in several blankets, turn on the oven (no jokes please) and lay me on the oven door, in the middle of the night.  Then she would sit there beside me until the rising sun would take a bit of the edge off the frigid air.  This was only during the worse conditions. 

In my youth, I never remember feeling cold.  As I recall Winters were more severe.  Snow storms were more common, and drifts so very deep.  There were a few more days that the temperature would hit zero and the wind would howl through the building alley ways.  Still I can’t remember it ever been too cold for me to go out and play.  Reddened cheeks and running nose, were no deterrents.

Now its January, and I sit to watch TV only after I dress in layers, with a blanket close at hand, hot cocoa on the stove, turn up the heat, and light the fireplace.  Afterall it has dropped down to forty degrees outside.  It can’t be that I am getting older.  It must be climate change.

 

*A cold water flat is an apartment that has no running hot water.  In most developed countries, current building codes make cold water flats illegal, but they used to be common in cities such as Detroit and Chicago, through the mid-twentieth century.

Typically, cold water flats did not have built-in showers installed; tenants who wished to bathe would heat pots of water by stove and add the heated water to a bathtub. They also typically had no central heating. Tenants would keep warm by use of kerosene, electric space heaters, hot water bottles, or electric blankets.

 
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Posted by on January 9, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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New Year Resolutions


English: New Year's Resolutions postcard

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Every year I make a few New Year Resolutions.  Three or Four are always carry overs from the prior year’s resolutions.  Since I rarely make a serious attempt at keeping them, sometimes barely start them, I had to examine why I bother to make resolutions at all.  Is this setting myself up for failure?  Am I playing some kind of sick joke on myself?  OK, dare I say it, am I a masochist?

No, no, no. I hate not living up to my own expectations.  I really mean to give it the old New York try!!!  I do want to succeed at these promises to myself.

I am going to lose some weight!  I am going to do some exercise every day!  I am going to get healthy!  These three seem to be the universal resolutions.  Nine out of ten people make these vows every New Year’s Eve.  While they are important I doubt they would change my life all that much.  Still I’m going to try to keep them for however long I remember I have these resolutions.

Just the same, it appears I needed to think about things that I should resolve to do which will make me a complete, happier, and fulfilled person.

Naturally, to write regularly on my blog, and perhaps make time each week for creating fiction (my first love), would qualify as a push forward toward the goal of personal fulfillment.  Keeping up with friends new and old, (I’ve been neglecting this) will surely make me happier.  I have missed them more than I realized.  Sometimes Life just gets in the way of a Good Life.  And last, but not least, I want to learn.  There is too much in life that I don’t know about.  I have a real interest in just about everything, and I don’t want to be taught, I want to experience.  What better way is there to learn than to get out there and experience things?  Completion through experience.

There is so much more to life than my resolutions might indicate, but those things, Love, Empathy, Compassion, Generosity for others, are a part of day-to-day life.   These things we should just do without a conscious thought.  They are what keep us centered.

Ok, now I have written down all my resolutions and this year I am going to keep them.  By January 1, 2013, I will be a skinny, healthy, tread mill walking writer.  I’ll do this while talking with my friends on the phone.  We can make a date and time to meet in person.   Perhaps while chatting I’ll read them an encyclopedia.  In this way  I can also squeeze in my learning, thereby keeping with all my resolutions.

Hope you all do as well with yours.

 
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Posted by on January 6, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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