life in the United States


Modified version of Image:Arnold Schwarznegger...

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Arnold Schwarzenegger and Maria Shriver , the former Mr. and Mrs State of California, announced their separation the other day. News of the split splashed the web with typical “omg! how can a famous couple walk away from a marriage that doesn’t have to be measured in dog years to be an impressive run?”

They have a point. 25 years of marriage and 34 total (they dated 11 years* prior) is considered laudable anymore because in a society where most never make it to the altar at all, it bestows an air of powerful voodoo relationship magic on them that seems to elude the majority.

Maria has a YouTube stream – she was a reporter once and is a writer so its existence can be attributed to more than the usual narcissism that drives people to babble on personal YT channels. A recent entry asks her viewers to share how they deal with transitions. What spurred them? How did you cope? What do you wish you’d known going in? All the angsty good stuff.

Apparently what bothers her most is the end of busyness in her life. She isn’t a reporter anymore. Her kids are grown or nearly so and presumably able to function without her hovering over them. Her husband has left office, which effectively puts her out of a job too. And though he has projects in the offing, she does not.

Some of the news reports speculated that she is resentful. After all, she didn’t want Arnold to run for governor and it derailed her professional and personally when he did. She threw herself into her role of First Lady of Cali but that’s over now too.

Like her marriage.

I’ve been thinking about transitions. Why not? It feels sometimes like I have been swirling down river, bounced through the rapids or languidly floating for a good eight or nine years now. Never really getting to close to the banks and pushing off again when I do.

My personal life has come together in a way I couldn’t have imagined and it pleases me to no end, but that “career” thing I am supposed to want desperately and apparently need in order to be personally fulfilled – according to my feminist sisters – dangles above me like the apples over Tantalus. Unlike him, I don’t reach up. I just lie on the tire tube and marvel at the shadows they cast.

One of the last comments on Maria’s stream reminded her that it’s perfectly okay to just “be”. A yogi, I suspect. Because it is okay to “be”. Be content. Be still. Be aware. Be grateful. Be with yourself. Be with those who matter most.

I wonder if it’s possible for some to just be happy with life as it is? Are we so programmed to search and conquer and begin the process again that we can’t dwell in the space we call “transition” without feeling guilty about it?

Taking a break from Care2 has reminded me that there are other options – neglected ones and those just occurring to me – to explore. Transition at its core is really about exploration. I don’t mind that. Research and planning have always been my strengths. Execution maybe not so much but when it counts, I stack up with the best.

My advice? Be. And be mindful. Don’t worry so much. Take it easy on yourself. Forget about perfection. Don’t fret if you fall short or the goal line shifts from time to time. They say that life is a race, but it isn’t. They say that what we do defines us, but it doesn’t. They say to follow your bliss and you will be successful, but that’s not true if your definition of success is grounded in the material or rooted in competition and comparison.

If you are lucky enough to even be able to ask yourself how to transition, you are in a far better place than 98% of the others on the planet.

* I am highly suspicious of marriage length daters. It speaks to issues and ambiguity.


Erica Kane

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ABC announced today that it was canceling two of its remaining three soap operas. All My Children and One Life to Live, shows that have been on the air since 1970 and 1968 respectively will wrap up in early fall of 2011 or in the new year of 2012. Perhaps the Mayans were right after all and the world as we know it is slowly winding to an end.

At one time or another, I have watched every soap opera ever filmed during the course of my life. Just ask me about one. I can probably remember something about it. And I place the blame squarely on my mother. She watched soap operas while she folded or ironed laundry in the afternoon when we were supposed to be napping. I qualify because I was a non-napping child. Something, to my chagrin, I passed on genetically to Dee, but by the time she came along, I was no longer a regular viewer of any soap opera though I doubt she would have been interested. She is only just beginning to prefer live action in equal portions to her animated fare.

The first soaps I ever watched have already been canceled. The Guiding Light and As The World Turns ceased to be last year. But they are hardly the only ghosts of soap operas past that I watched. My first brush with cancellation was Dark Shadows. It was also the first soap I watched because I wanted to as opposed to simply picking up my mom’s viewing habits. I was five and I would sneak across the street to the neighbors to see it. My parents thoroughly disapproved because it gave me nightmares. I would scream the house down regularly and woe to anyone who tried to wake me. I was a bruiser to the point that I had to warn my first college roommates not to try to touch me if I woke them with my dreaming.

Do you remember The Edge of Night? Sky and Raven? Geraldine Whitney? Just thirty minutes right after General Hospital and long since gone.

Loving? Watched it. Renewed my crush on Randolph Mantooth. Or Santa Barbara? Some of the best dialogue ever.

I peeked in on Another World here and there. That was the Frame family, I believe but I don’t remember the name of the town.

As The World Turns was Oakdale and The Guiding Light was in Springfield.

Ryan’s Hope starred Kate Mulgrew, so I watched it for her because she came from my hometown in Dubuque and I went to school with her bratty youngest sister, Jenny.

Pine Valley was a place I never cared much about though until everyone was watching it in college and I couldn’t avoid it any longer. It was the Greg and Jenny era. Tad was bedding Liza Colby‘s mother, and Opal wasn’t even a twinkle in Palmer’s eye because of his weird and creepy obsession with his daughter, Nina. Erica Kane was herself always but it was long before the skin-crawly molestation thing revealed she’d had a baby at 14 who grew up to be Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

One Life to Live was a guilty fallback. I watched it with a far amount of regularity for about 25 years. A time period that spans most of high school, all of college and a good chunk of my single adulthood. Asa is dead now. For real. They didn’t recast him when the actor who played him died a few years ago. Everyone else is old and the one thing I love about soap opera is how many of the female characters are allowed to age like real women do. Sure, a few are scary thin and obviously botoxed and tucked, but waists thicken and age drapes over them like actual skin.

I guess it’s sad that soaps are on the verge of extinction. The genre goes back to the days of radio and the continuous story evolution allowed viewers to watch characters grow up and cope with life – albeit in a melodramatic fashion – in a way that felt familiar to the way real families grew and moved through time.

ABC is replacing the shows with reality crap. One of the new shows will be a cooking/weight loss themed horror that follows women as they struggle to get thin because that’s what women need – more poor body image propaganda for entertainment purposes. The other show is one of those annoyingly condescending fashion make-overs where highly irritating people criticize normal folk’s wardrobes and dress them up for realities they don’t actually live in.

Not that it matters. We don’t have a television that accesses the world of network or cable tv anymore. But, it’s a shame when a performing art form passes away in preference of soul-killing garbage designed to sell audiences questionable values and crappy products.

R.I.P. Todd Manning. There’ll be no more resurrection days for you.


 

Photo of a 20-piece box of McDonald's Chicken ...

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An age old question. Which came first. Chicken? Egg? And really, does it matter?  Except to those who live off the grants that fund the studies to decide the issue for once and all?

The more serious query concerns chicken nuggets.

So, which came first the white meat or the batter?

Let’s find out!

The answer, of course, is neither. But the surprise that American children will eat deep-fried chicken goo is interesting. Any North American parent could have told Jamie the outcome in advance.

We train our kids to eat chicken nuggets as early as possible. Their ability to gnaw the soggy glop apart is the key to our semi-liberation. No longer are we a slave to our own dinner tables once Junior can subsist on nuggets and french fries (can’t forget the starch – it’s staple).

Once the eating of fried chicken paste is mastered. We are free to feed our kids on the run courtesy of McDonald’s, who will let us choose apples or carrots to assuage our guilt and throw in a plastic Chinese toy for added distraction time.

Chicken nuggets means we can eat out again. Not at good restaurants – because their “nuggets” are actually “fingers” which our children eye with suspicion (having no personal knowledge of what real chicken looks like). They sniff. They poke. They balk. They take a bite or two and refuse to eat more because “it tastes different”.

Different being a bad thing where small barely cognizant humans are concerned.

By the time they are the age of the kids in this “fool-proof” experiment, they are ruined.

Ruined, I tell you.

And it’s our fault.


Seated Yoga Meditation - mantra

Rebecca Traister has a book out, disseminating the 2008 Presidential election in the U.S. and its beneficial fallout for women.

Mostly it retreads the worn “old lady feminists versus younger women” wars. I am sure you remember. Women of a certain age support Clinton while the youthful and hip females supported Obama. It’s generational twaddle that misses the point on both ends. The bra-burning demo can’t understand the lack of gratitude and reluctance to carry a torch that handed women as many new issues as it alleviated – temporarily – old ones. Younger women, on the other hand, are too complacent and too eager to look at the side-effects of the women’s rights movement as “improvements” when the reality is that we are still as second class as we ever were – our cages are just roomier and furnished with IKEA.

But that’s not what I want to talk about.

Jezebel interviewed Traister and asked the following:

J: Instead, you write, what ended up galvanizing young women and others around Hillary was seeing how she was treated in the media… It’s still amazing to go back and watch that footage. It’s interesting that these were mostly older guys on MSNBC and Fox, and yet you also argue that there was also sexism among younger male Obama supporters when it came to Hillary.

And Traister rehashed the sexist old codgers at the major news outlets but added this bit about younger men that really annoyed me:

RT: At the time, I wrote about what I perceived as a complicated misogynist vibe coming from some of the young male Obama devotees in the last stages of the primary cycle. I think one of the reasons that I was so struck by it — and this is not to give some pass to all younger men — is that there is such a marked generational change among men. There’s more of an awareness of gender, they’re often raised by feminist moms and working moms. Men who are [at least] used to the idea of equally splitting domestic duties; they’re active fathers.

I had actually come to expect much more from young men. We’re very lucky to live with a new generation of men, and I think our kids will be luckier still. But this was an instance in which some old attitudes seemed to bubble up among younger men.

What?

Why are we so lucky exactly? Men are granting us the rights that were ours all along anyway, and we should be grateful? That men are finally actively raising their own children, picking up a tiny bit of the housework slack and not total douches á la Mad Men? We should be grateful when men behave as though the women in their lives are valuable, smart, and they are damn lucky that anyone so awesome would agree to share a bed with them? Gratitude for what simply should be?

Give me a break.

I’m not going to pat a guy on the head and say “good boy” for doing something he should do without thought.

Like Obama.

Man‘s done so little for women that I can’t fathom any woman voting for him in 2012 without getting in writing how he plans to show his gratitude.

I can’t speak for all women, or any women at all really, but I am done with the grateful. All the “nots” on the list of what should be “givens” for females puts “grateful” in an harsh ugly light, but isn’t that the way of reality?


At least that’s the advice the Huffington Post’s Ryan McCarthy had forreaders yesterday because while the United States is mired in the economic equivalent of the Biggest Loser, Canada put on a hefty 93,200 jobs last month.

And our housing prices do nothing but rise!

Plus we have free universal health care, gay people can legally marry and unicorns roam wild on the prairies.

Okay, maybe we don’t have unicorns.

Maybe.

But the rest? True. Except that health care is not really free when the tax rate is put under the microscope, Canadians could care less about marriage in general as the majority live in common-law relationships for the most part, housing prices are so outrageous that the average person can’t afford home ownership and all those jobs? Service sector. Think Wal-Mart greeters and working the drive thru at Timmie’s*

I emigrated to Canada just a tad over three years ago. I met a Canadian on the Internet. We fell in love. The U.S. had way more archaic immigration rules and he had the better paying job anyway, so I moved north.

Since then, I have heard nothing from my liberal left-behind friends but how lucky I am to have escaped the imploding American Dream for Canadian Utopia.

And Canada is great. Don’t misunderstand me. I love it here. But in many ways, it’s no different from the U.S.

The government is conservative and more interested in business interests than people. Money is the driving factor behind public policy. Education is being savaged when it’s not just overlooked or neglected. Health care hangs on by its teeth but only because the average Canadian would riot in the streets if the provincial governments did away with it, so they nickel and dime it to death in the hopes that people aren’t really paying attention (they aren’t). Our housing is ridiculously over-priced and long overdue for a sharp correction.

Even though some Canadians like to promote the idea that Canada is the anti-America, the reality is that Canada is much more like America than it realizes.

It’s just lucky. For now.

Luck. That’s all that separates us from being you.

People here in Alberta, where I am, live dangerously on the idea that the oil in the sands will last forever and that the damage done by the foreign companies exploiting our resources won’t leave us with polluted fields and undrinkable water.

The spice oil must flow, eh?

My husband just rolled his eyes at the thought of Americans sneaking across the thousands of miles of largely unprotected border like Mexicans in Arizona.

Canada has a points system immigration system which basically has no use for anyone over the age of 42 who can’t speak English and/or French and isn’t skilled and/or a college graduate.

I actually squeaked under the wire on the points thing but fortunately marrying a Canadian meant I was able to get into a completely different immigration line – one that was no less tedious, incomprehensible and arbitrarily humiliating – but it was faster.

But I still can’t find work in my field – education – because the government has slashed funding and there are no teaching jobs to be found just about anywhere a person would want to live and work or anywhere they would die first before considering.

So I write for a blog that pays me peanuts and is, ironically, based out of California, and I teach yoga – not exactly Fortune 500 paying gigs.

Yes, there are jobs. Canadian Tire (think Kmart) is perpetually hiring as is the local Wal-Mart. You can wait tables just about anywhere and the 7-11 in town can never keep night managers. Hotels need housekeepers and if you are really a go-getter, you can probably hobble together two or three part time jobs which will just about pay the outrageous rents with enough left over to eat, pay utilities and cloth yourself. Just yourself. Try not to marry and especially don’t breed because daycare is scarce to non-existent and quite expensive.

But … you love Canada … right?

Yep, I do. But I am not average. I wasn’t an average American either. I live in the upper edges of the middle class. I am skilled and have two university degrees. My husband is an engineer in a field where more of them are retiring than entering.

And I didn’t come here for any reason other than being in love and wanting to spend my life with a guy who happened to be Canadian.

I know some people would regard that as something akin to winning the lottery, but life can be livable anywhere as long as your expectations are aligned with your reality and you don’t make the mistake of believing that salvation lies outside yourself.

*Tim Horton’s. Think fast food but waaaaay better than anything in the States. Seriously.


I found this on a yoga blog.

What I have now, probably for the first time ever in my life, is enough.

I am not complacent about it.

I recognize that relationships are active and therefore require tending. I know that nothing about the strata of society I occupy is immune to disaster.

But in societal terms I have come to recognize as my norm, what I have is plenty. There isn’t a single thing or experience I lack. My emotional well brims and is replenished continually.

Perhaps this is what has been nagging at me of late.

My conscious mind – conditioned as it has been by years of North America consumer driven life-style and middle-class faux career ambition – feels I am not working hard enough to be … what? I don’t know. My inner-self has been quite weepy about it in a pushed around little girl sort of way.

She knows we have enough. Time to acknowledge it and let a few things go.

I have dreams. Modest and unassuming. But they are not deal-breakers for me and really never were.

I have enough. It’s almost verboten to say that out loud as many people fear it invites the active mocking of the fates. That’s flatly ridiculous. Nothing is permanent and fate has nothing to do with that anyway.

If you ever had enough, could you recognize it?

A fair question.


Our oldest daughter, Edie, is heading to New York City in a few weeks to take in a show and see the sights. Times Square is on her must see and experience list, so when I learned about the failed car bombing of the area this last weekend, I immediately went into worry mode.

A blogger friend, and longtime New Yorker who writes about the city, described Times Square in the typical early evening.

“I’ve been through that area at that hour and it is choked with beautiful, happy tourists. Those wonderful people who come to New York and help to feed, and feed off of, its greatness.”

Hundreds of people could have been caught in the explosion. People like Edie, and I know that Doug Stanhope’s theory flies in the face of my worries, but it’s when you assume that you will be one of the people who glide through life sans the Chinese curse of “interesting” that you become a freak statistic.

The car bomb was discovered around 6:30 P.M. on Saturday, May 1st by a T-shirt street vendor who spotted smoke wafting from Nissan Pathfinder parked at 45th and Broadway.  He alerted a mounted police officer who noticed the smell of gunpowder. The area was evacuated. A bomb squad discovered the SUV was loaded with propane tanks, gasoline and firecrackers.

Thirty-year-old Pakistani-U.S. citizen named Faisal Shahzad was arrested by the FBI as he attempted to flee the country for Dubai. His plane was taxiing from the gate at Kennedy airport when it was stopped and Shahzad was taken into custody.

Although officials say that Shahzad has claimed he acted alone, officials in Pakistan have detained several others in connection with Saturday’s failed attempt.

Vigilance on the part of an ordinary citizen and the swift action of the New York City police averted a tragedy. An equally on the ball FBI appears to have the perpetrator in custody. Although the latter, and the fact that Homeland Security actually made good use of the no-fly list for a change, should be a given rather than something to  marvel at in my opinion.

So why am I not breathing a bit easier about Edie heading off to the Big Apple?

And why, as Matthew Yglesias asks at Think Progress, is this terrorist bombing attempt not provoking the same over the top response that the Christmas Undie Bomber did?

Perhaps spending the last couple of evenings listening to and/or watching Zeitgeist has stirred up my inner Mulder, but I find that “terrorist” incidents like this have a distinctly non-random, distraction factor going on.

Homeland Security got its man? Sherlock Holmes is spinning in his grave with pride.

I have been an American too long to not be a tad cynical and suspicious.

Photo by UB of The Unbearable Banishment