“To look life in the face, always, to look life in the face, and to know it for what it is . . . at last, to love it for what it is.” ~Virginia Woolf

Carnations by Zengame (FCC)

                   

“The heart of a mother is a deep abyss at the bottom of which you will always find forgiveness.” ~ Honoré de Balzac

Happy Mother’s Day to all of you out there.

My youngest son Brett informed me today that he believes Mother’s Day and Father’s Day to be stupid holidays as they are all about making people spend money . . . Okay . . .

I told him that I agreed that most holidays are greeting card conspiracies for commercialization, but that I was pretty certain that Mother’s Day did not begin that way. And guess what? I was right.

After doing a bit of quick Internet research, this is what I learned about the holiday:

After the Civil War, some attempts were made by women’s peace groups who held meetings attended by mothers whose sons had fought or died in the Civil War. The practice did not extend beyond local level. In 1868, Ann Jarvis (mother of Anna Marie) “created a committee to establish a ‘Mother’s Friendship Day’  to reunite families that had been divided during the Civil War.” Mother Jarvis had plans to expand the Friendship Day into an annual celebration for mothers, but her death in 1905 prevented her from seeing her dream realized.

Others who were involved in the creation of Mother’s Day include Julia Ward Howe’s Mother’s Day proclamation in 1872, as well as Juliet Calhoun Blakely and her two traveling salesmen sons in 1877. Frank Hering called for a “national day to honor our mothers in 1904.” However, the elder Jarvis’s daughter Anna Marie took up her mother’s cause and is recognized as the creator of the holiday that became national and then international.

Jarvis came up with the idea for a day to honor mothers on the second Sunday in May 1907, which was the first anniversary of her mother’s death. Supposedly, Jarvis persuaded a Philadelphia church to hold a special service for her mother. Subsequently, every church in the country was holding special services. Jarvis even obtained a copyright on the phrase “Mother’s Day” from the Patent Office.

Finally, on On May 9, 1914 after years of letter writing and campaigning by the younger Jarvis, U.S. President Woodrow Wilson issued the official proclamation declaring the first Mother’s Day as a day for citizens to show the American flag in honor of sons who had died in war.

In an article in Time magazine in 1938, Anna Marie Jarvis is indeed recognized as the creator of the holiday; however, by the time of the article, Jarvis declared that “whenever she thinks of what the flower shops, the candy stores, the telegraph companies have done with her idea, she is disgusted.” (Brett would have probably liked Anna Jarvis.) Jarvis spent most of her remaining money in her continued efforts to fight to keep Mother’s Day from being promoted as nothing more than another occasion for people to buy expensive gifts, and as we now know, she didn’t succeed.

Border Carnation

Interestingly, Eleanor Roosevelt is pointed out in the same article as saying that flowers are “sweet and nice” but that something “ought to be done for the 14,000 mothers who die every year from childbirth.” I think that many of us have forgotten just how dangerous the entire act of becoming a mother used to be. According to Wikipedia (yes, I used Wikipedia; it’s not a thesis for god’s sake), “global maternal mortality in 2008 at 342,900 (down from 526,300 in 1980), of which less than 1 percent occurred in the developed world.”

As a side note, carnations are considered the official flower of the holiday. The younger Jarvis delivered 500 of them in 1908 as carnations had been her mother’s favorite flower. Today, of course, florists push any flower available, and it was florists in the early part of the century who pushed red carnations for women whose mother’s were still living, and white carnations for women who had lost their mothers.

Now, armed with this information, go buy a single carnation for your mother, and instead of candy or perfume, wash her car or her windows. She’ll thank you for it.

More later. Peace.

P.S. Brett, in the end, every celebration becomes a mere bastardized version of its former self. It is up to you to interpret holidays as you wish, not to follow the prescribed path of those who have trodden before you. You will find that when you attach your own meaning and your own memories to something, in the end, what is precious belongs to you. What Mother’s Day means to me is not what is means to you, and it shouldn’t be. For me, it is a bittersweet day fraught with love and sadness. That is mine. What it becomes for you only time will reveal.

Music by Ronan Keating, “This Is Your Song”

                   

Cradle Song

Her grandfather
had crafted the bed from the hardwood trees
in the dense woods behind the house.
Her mother had lain securely in its curves,
and she, too, had been comforted by its gentle sway.
Years later, spring brought her own girl child.
Each night, she would lay the baby in the cradle,
cover her with a soft blanket,
and soothe her with hushed lullabies
whispered in the summer twilight.

With her hand on the knotted wood
worn smooth by time and love,
the woman would rock the bed gently,
and guide her babe into untroubled slumber.
The tranquility of this evening ritual
became the woman’s talisman for her babe
against the dark and unknown.
Until the day arrived
when the girl-child became ill,
and was taken away
to be succored by strangers.
never to return to the enfolding arms
of the woman or the idle cradle.

After that,
the woman would stand by the cradle in the evening,
and sing quiet songs to the air made silent by her loss.
Alone in the terrible stillness,
she would gather the blanket in her arms,
and inhale deeply—searching for the essence
that might still cling to the barren cloth.
Sometimes, she would stroke the sheets,
her hands seeking warmth
from the hollow where the baby’s head had lain.
Once, she found a single, dark hair,
She wrapped it in white tissue and placed it in a box,
along with a small, cloth doll
and a faded red bow she had tied in her daughter’s hair
one fall morning.

Her husband never understood
her need to find solace from things no longer used.
He wanted to remove the cradle,
the source of her pain.
But she asked him to leave it
until the trees were heavy again with spring blooms,
until she could imprint all that the child had been,
before time began to fade the image,
and she would be left alone,
with nothing but remembrance, an empty cradle
and echoes of soft night songs of love.

Lolita Liwag

“Let the world know you as you are, not as you think you should be, because sooner or later, if you are posing, you will forget the pose, and then where are you?” ~ Fanny Brice

“Benjamin’s House,” by Andrew Wyeth (1955)

“A bit of advice given to a young Native American at the time of his initiation: ‘As you go the way of life, you will see a great chasm. Jump. It is not as wide as you think.'” ~ Joseph Campbell

I’m in the mood for sparse, hence, the Andrew Wyeth images. My favorite is the last one: “Renfield.”

"Wind from the Sea," by Andrew Wyeth (1947)

Lovely visit to the pain management group yesterday. Trigger point injections from my neck to my bum. I saw one of the new Physician’s Assistants that joined the group last November. He seemed a bit nervous about giving me the injections until he realized that I wasn’t squeamish. After that, he proceeded to inject everything in sight (slight overstatement). Anyway, I felt like a pin cushion, came home and had to lie down on the heating pad.

A bit better today, but very sore. I told Corey that I’m not certain about this new guy, and Corey reminded me that he hasn’t been giving trigger point injections for years like my other doctors. Good point. Guess I’ll have to wait and see.

Brett used my computer last night to write something about Kafka’s “Metamorphosis” for school. Personally, I have never been that big of a Kafka fan. Just not my cup of tea, so to speak. A story about a man becoming a giant cockroach gives me the willies. I know. It’s about alienation, distance, loneliness. A masterpiece reflecting the identity of self in society . . . Ya da ya da ya da. He’s still a cockroach.

“In reading, a lonely quiet concert is given to our minds; all our mental faculties will be present in this symphonic exaltation.” ~ Stéphane Mallarmé

"West Window," by Andrew Wyeth

Once the omnipresent head pressure of the last few weeks began to lessen, I was finally able to read the last three Harry Potter books in quick order. I had forgotten how much I really love the last book. Then I thought about all of the e-mails I get from my Goodreads contacts in which they list what they have read lately, and it made me pause. I haven’t really read anything new in a while. I’ve been rereading old favorites. I suppose there’s nothing really wrong with rereading, as it is something that I have always done, revisiting favorites once a year or so, but sometimes I feel as if I am not making any forward motion in my reading.

What I mean is that I feel a general lack in my background as far as world literature is concerned. I am hard-pressed when it comes to naming new authors from around the world, those who are considered to be contributing to the literary canon, as it were. And when I feel like this, I miss Mari, and teaching, and the department. Being surrounded by colleagues, attending lectures, reading journal articles, going to literary festivals—these things serve as a constant stimulus and impetus; the desire to remain current stays at the forefront at all times.

I miss that. But then, I miss many things, as you are probably weary of hearing me lament. Most probably, I miss the idea of working, the positive aspects of being amidst a job that stimulates the brain. When I get like this, though, I remind myself of the less than positive aspects: the backstabbing, the politics, the endless time-consuming meetings about nothing at all. These things I do not miss.

“When you cease to make a contribution, you begin to die.” ~ Eleanor Roosevelt

"Monday Morning," by Andrew Wyeth (1955)

Corey and I talk about the possibility of my returning to work full time. The idea of doing so appeals to me greatly, but would my body allow it? And working at home would serve no purpose other than to bring in income, which I am doing (to some extent). It would not allow me to get out of the house, be in different surroundings for several hours a day. It’s all so vexing, having no clear answers.

Anyway, Corey did speak with his contact at Vane Brothers, who told him that delivery of the new boat has been put back because of the bad weather. No surprise there. He did tell Corey that he would make a note that Corey has stayed in touch and continued to express interest in working for the company. I suppose that’s the best that can be expected. Yet another shipping company to which Corey applied has said that they are not hiring anyone new at the moment, even though their website listed open positions. Such a depressing mantra.

We are coming to the end of February, and Corey’s current unemployment extension is about to end. I know that another bill for yet another unemployment extension is before Congress, but who knows if it will be approved. God know that it should be considering that over 10 percent of the population is unemployed. We can only wait and hope and in the meantime, keep sending in applications.

“Passion is a positive obsession. Obsession is a negative passion.” ~ Paul Carvel

My Australian friend Maureen of White Orchid mentioned something in a recent post to which I can really relate: Apparently, the reality show “Little Miss Perfect” airs in Australia, and Maureen and her daughter watched an episode. For those of you who do not know to what I am referring, “Little Miss Perfect” is a show about child pageant contestants and their mothers . . . No, I’m not kidding.

"Renfield," by Andrew Wyeth (1999)

Apparently someone thought that this form of child abuse would make for good television. Child abuse? What would you call it? These little girls are made up to look like little beauty contestants, complete with fake eyelashes, make-up, costumes, the works. They have mothers who give them nothing but candy before the pageants so that they’ll be full of energy. This is good parenting?

Okay. I know that there are some people out there who love pageants, love the whole idea of the pageant circuit, participated in it, thought that it was the best thing since Barbie got longer hair. Whatever. You are entitled to your opinion. If you did it and you loved it. Great for you.

I’m looking at it from a totally different perspective: that of a sane person (relatively). These little girls are being indoctrinated into that whole concept that their entire self-worth is tied to their looks, to their ability to charm, to their willingness to please. Does no one else see anything wrong with this? We’ve raised generations of young women who regularly abuse their bodies in attempts to conform to airbrushed magazine images. We have agents who tell size 4 models that they are too fat (just read that one in the news). We have young women who are getting Botox before they are 25.

The need to fit in, to conform, to wear the right clothes, to carry the right purse, to be like everyone else—that need is as ancient as the concept of societies. But there is something very, very wrong with a society that condones taking five-year-old girls and plastering eye shadow on them and sending them out on a stage to compete with other five-year-olds for crowns and trophies rewarding them for being cute.

Let me pause here. No, I do not believe that every child should be given a trophy simply for showing up to school. No, I am not against healthy competition. Yes, I believe that innate talents should be honed and fostered. Yes, there will always be someone who is the valedictorian, and rightly so. But must we start at such a young, impressionable age at teaching our little girls that beauty is the answer to all of their problems?

Just consider the title of the show: “Little Miss Perfect.” What is perfection? The right dress? The best walk? The most winning smile? Are these young girls not being indoctrinated to grow up into young women who strive to fit into a size 2? Who will turn to plastic surgery to take out an imagined imperfection in a nose? And perhaps most importantly, are they being given the tools to face the real world? What will they do when their beauty does not open every door? How will they cope when they get their first stretch mark?

Yes, I know that I’ve said it before, but as I commented to Maureen, this concept of instilling unrealistic expectations at a very young age makes me want to throttle someone. I am reminded of the woman in Texas who put a hit out on the mother of her daughter’s cheerleading rival. True story (click here for info). I am also reminded of the mother of a girl who went to my former high school. This mother called me after cheering tryouts at which I had judged to drill me about why her daughter had not been chosen. All I could think of was how she had gotten my phone number?

Who are these people? Where does that kind of obsessive behavior originate? It has to begin somewhere. “Little Miss Perfect” my ass.

More later. Peace.

Red House Painters, “Have You Forgotten?”

“Be Content to Seem What You Really Are.” ~ Marcus Aurelius

Light of the Harem 1880 Frederic Lord Leighton

“Light of the Harem,” by Frederic Leighton (1880)

 

“And it is me who is my enemy
Me who beats me up
Me who makes the monsters
Me who strips my confidence” ~
Paula Cole, “Me” 

Well, I finished two Ann Rule books since Friday night, and I have partially sated my book craving.  In case you are unfamiliar, Rule writes true crime novels, but she eschews high-profile cases, choosing instead to focus on stories with which more people can relate. Many of her books deal with women who have been terrorized and eventually killed by their husbands/boyfriends.

too late to say goodbyeI reread Every Breath You Take, which is the story of Sheila Blackthorne Bellush and her compulsive, possessive, arrogant ex-husband Allen Blackthorne. I also reread Too Late to Say Goodbye, the story of Jenn Corbin and her dentist husband Bart Corbin, who almost got away with two murders by fashioning them to look like suicides. 

I’m not giving anything away with these very brief summaries. The reader always knows the basic characters and the barebones’ scenario when approaching an Ann Rule book. But what makes Rule’s books well-written as opposed to sensationalistic is that she delves deeply into character and background and takes the reader through years of material. One of her first books was The Stranger Beside Me, about serial killer Ted Bundy. As it turns out, Bundy worked with Rule at a crisis center long before he was disclosed as the prolific killer of young brunette women in over three states.

I have read a few other true crime novels, but they never seem to equal the quality of Rule’s work, most depending upon the more lurid aspects of a crime to draw the reader in. I’m interested in the psychology behind these people: their early lives, events that shaped them. Anyway, Corey is on a search for more Ann Rule books in the storage bins.

“It’s not the mountain we conquer but ourselves.” ~ Sir Edmund Hillary 

I don’t know about the rest of you, but I pay attention to my stats, not just the numbers, but what people are reading. It’s actually pretty interesting, to me, at least. I have two posts that almost always show up in my stats, and both of them have to do with beauty. I wonder why that is, exactly . . . I have reread these posts, and my main point in both of them is that women have unrealistic role models held up for emulation and that we are constantly bombarded to become thinner, more regular, less bloated, have whiter teeth, be more effective at cleaning our houses and to shop wisely.

the-biggest-loserIt’s a bunch of whooey. How many commercials are on prime time television telling young, impressionable women to further their educations, be self-reliant, believe in themselves just the way they are? None. Zero. Instead, we have television programs about people trying to lose weight and get in shape because their lives will continue to be less than ideal if they don’t. Witness, “The Biggest Loser,” “Celebrity Fit Club,” “Diet Tribe,” “I Can Make You Thin.” Well gee, if I had a personal chef to cook low-calorie weight loss meals, and a personal trainer, and that was the only thing that I did in my life for months and months, I’ll bet that I would lose weight too.

Don’t misunderstand: I know that obesity is one of the fastest-growing problems facing Americans, especially young Americans. Obesity, which can lead to a world of health problems, very often arises because people are not taught early how to eat correctly, or eat too much fast food, or foods that are high in saturated fats or overly processed foods in which the nutrients have been leeched out during the cooking and canning.

And then there is the whole problem of not exercising. I know all too well that not exercising, even walking, can be detrimental to individuals who have family propensities for diabetes, heart conditions, and other disorders and diseases. But as a nation, we do not exercise, not like other, more health-conscience nations.

“No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” ~ Eleanor Roosevelt 

What I have a problem with is how we as a society continue to perpetuate the theory that being slender is the end-all and be-all without acknowledging that just losing weight is not necessarily going to change a person’s life. For me, I know that I would feel better physically and mentally if I lost some weight, but I don’t have delusions that I am ever again going to weigh what I weighed in my 20’s. But what bothers me is my inability to accept myself until I lose this unspecified number of pounds, as if, somehow, I am going to be a different person when I achieve this goal. Truth is, I am still going to be me—for better or worse—me.

elemis-ultimate-pro-collagen-collection
Yet another expensive collagen beauty regimen for women

I hate that about myself. I really do, especially because it falls right into that trap that women must be optimum in order to be happy. I mean, I have had all of the courses about empowerment and the psychology and sociology behind what makes women women, yet even armed with that knowledge, I am still easy prey for ads that promise to burn stomach fat. Why???

Why do women who are otherwise secure about their intelligence, experienced in life and all of its pitfalls and nadirs, continue to allow themselves to keep a number in the back of their mind: If I can just reach X pounds, if I can just lost X pounds, then everything will be all right . . .

Obviously, I am not the person to ask because no matter how much I rail against socialization and unreal expectations, I am still smack in the middle of it. I buy this mascara because it will make my lashes longer and fuller. I use this body wash because it will keep my skin soft (well, actually, that one isn’t true. I buy based on smell). I use this moisturizer because it will replace my collagen (that one is true).
 
Why do I do these things to myself? Conditioning. My mother. My insecurities.  The weather . . . yes, it’s that variable and that illogical.  Want to know a dirty little secret? I think that if I had the money, I might already have had some work done to my neck, my arms, my belly, and the fact that I know this makes me a little ill because I swore that I would never be my mother, who began having plastic surgery in her 40’s.

“The man who trims himself to suit everybody will soon whittle himself away.” ~ Charles Schwab

Do I ever sit here and think to myself, “I’m a great woman. I’m smart. Relatively witty. Talented, somewhat”? Of course I don’t. I search the mirror each morning to see if any wrinkles have appeared. I play with my neck to see how unfirm it is because my mother has pulled at my neck since I was young, telling me that I need to be careful of my double chins, which I now lovingly (not) refer to as my sixteen chins. If I really want to torture myself, I turn sideways to see how large my belly looks at the moment. 

janicedickinson2
Janice Dickinson: Plastic Surgery Queen

I can say, with all truthfulness, though, that my desires stem not from an attempt to look younger, just thinner. I really don’t like the way that women who have had a lot of work done look, with their taut cheekbones stretched to their ears. Kind of reminds me of Klingons, as in that’s just not normal.

So my rational self says BEH to all of the societal conditioning and yearning for no double chins. My emotional self says, well, maybe just a little. How bizarre. How utterly inane and yet complex. I know but I feel. Descartes never said that. Do you know why? Because he was a man . . .

Enough of this blather. I hate it when I dwell on this.

More later. Peace.

Paula Cole singing her beautiful song “Me”