Monday, June 30, 2008

Foto Fun

Been tweeking photos again. I call this A Phoenix Bird.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Sibling Rivalry + Sweet Revenge

The former usually starts the day a sibling is born. The latter may take years, but is well worth the wait. Allow me to share just one, personal example. I was born two years and 11 months after my brother. He was the adored first son (AFS) during all that time, getting all of the attention of his PUs and GPUs. Then, along came the adorably sweet little Daddy's girl (SDG) with her goofy smile and spiky blond hair. So much for adored first son! Being so close in age, we were expected to play nicely together while Dad worked in the city and Mom tried to keep up with all the diapers. (In those days, cloth was the only way to go.) Thankfully memories don't start until a child passes the age of about three. I have no idea how often AFS pulled my hair or slapped me around before then. His first, overt act to get back at me for being born was when I was four and he was seven. The only bathroom in our house was on the second floor, up a steep, narrow staircase. AFS must have seen me start down the stairs because, midway down, marbles starting plopping down the stairs with me. Of course I landed with a thud and scream at the bottom. AFS brought a pillow to put under my head and asked me if it hurt. I'm screaming my head off because of a fractured wrist and he's asking me "does it hurt?"!!! To this day, I am unaware of any punishment doled-out having been whisked-off to the hospital to have a plaster cast put on my forearm. I just hope it was SEVERE! I got lots of TLC from adults during my four weeks -- of summer -- in the cast. AFS seemed to take pleasure in the torturous itching I could never reach inside the cast. It also started to stink! My first day of kindergarten was memorable because I was the only kid in class with a cast. Mom made all of my dresses and made slings to match, so I stood out even more! Being horribly shy, I was pretty much a basket case. Sweet revenge came later that autumn. AFS and I liked to build "forts" in the backyard. They were usually made from scraps of lumber, threadbare throw rugs and bedspreads, along with big rocks to hold the fabric in place. [I was a victim in the collapse of one such fort. Mind you, AFS was NOT inside at the time.] Mom and Dad had recently bought a new refrigerator that came in a huge box. Of course we called dibs on it and promptly started using it as a fort. Dad helped by cutting out windows and a door, then went on to help us cut boughs from an overgrown evergreen tree to make the roof. It started leaning a bit, so Dad installed some 2x4s to frame it out. I swear I had no hand in this, but AFS managed to step on a big ole rusty nail that went clear through his shoe and into his foot. I didn't believe him and went in to tell Mom about it, laughing my guts out. She didn't laugh. She ran out into the yard, swept him up and took him to the hospital. The sweet revenge was that he had to have a painful tetanus shot, the first of many because he was a pretty klutzy kid.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Coral Abstract

I object!

. . . to journalists persistently referring to persons with physical or mental challenges as disabled. This label implies that the person so described is unfit, unable or disqualified. There are so many levels and types of challenges that being labeled disabled is not only patently unfair, but inaccurate. Specifically: -- a wheelchair bound individual may not be able to lift big boxes, or operate heavy machinery, but s/he may have extraordinary mental or artistic skills; -- someone who is hearing impaired may have marvelous hand/eye coordination; -- a sight-impaired person might be an excellent psychologist, helping patients based on their words and tone of voice rather than their appearance; -- persons with cerebral palsy are no less intelligent than those who are able to control physical movement; -- "little people" are challenged because of small stature and some have genetic anomylies that further challenge physical activity. Lack of intelligence is not a factor in this physical challenge. Mentally challenged individuals come in all shapes and sizes. For example, persons with Down Syndrome are often loving and caring people. Their cheerfulness and honesty are valuable in so many situations. Some are perfectly happy doing repetitive work that might be considered boring by others. Job satisfaction is subjective. I played a very small role in the development of the Americans With Disabilities Act of 1990. Having a disability is not the same as being disabled. It means that one is not as capable of or skilled in particular activities. How else can one explain someone like Professor Stephen W. Hawking? His body barely supports his life yet his mind is beyond phenomenal!

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Got a spare gas mask?

A little more than a decade ago, when I was working at the local American Red Cross chapter, I found myself on an assignment that I'd rather never repeat. It was during the first Spring Valley operation when the Army sent in explosives experts to dig up World War I era shells and mustard gas canisters long buried there. When they were first disposed of, the area was woods and well off the beaten track. A lot has changed since 1918. Large, upscale houses were built on the long forgotten ammo dump. Construction turned up some suspicious looking metal objects. Families were forced out of their homes while the Army moved in to search and seize any more munitions. Being a disaster, the Red Cross responded. Some families checked into hotels for the duration, while others chose to stay close by, in a community club house that Red Cross and the development's builder stocked with food and drink. Residents spent the day there then returned to their homes at night. This went on for several weeks. The Red Cross is famous for feeding everyone during disasters. This, of coure, includes the disaster workers -- in this case the U.S. Army. When my day came to work the disaster, I was assigned to a canteen truck. We were sent in, past the yellow tape to where the soldiers were working. They were happy to have hot and cold drinks all day long, and OF COURSE, doughnuts. For lunch we heated up cans of beef stew and served it to the soldiers. As the young G.I.s approached the truck, I noticed they wore hazard suits and had gas masks strapped to their wastes. Hmmm -- did they think one of those mustard gas canisters might accidentally. . . ...?!! Here we were, in our Red Cross canteen truck, windows and doors open, wearing street clothes, our Red Cross aprons, and smiles.

Monday, June 23, 2008

The "Original Radical" has left the building. . .

George Carlin may have just died at the age of 71, but he remained a hippie at heart til the end. His was a huge voice for my generation. He was also a brilliant philosopher, satirist, comedian, author and actor. He knew how to push the buttons of people who so desperately needed them pushed: conservatives. He went from being jailed for obscenity to narrating kiddie videos. I cannot think of one, other person who had a more diverse career and made such an important impact on censorship laws and freedom of speech than George C. Sometimes I wonder if his creative, active mind was just too much. That might explain why he tried to tame it with alcohol and drugs. This habit never seemed to dull his wit or wisdom, thank God. His work became more mellow as he aged, moving from outrageously obscene -- and FUNNY -- to deeply philosophical and still funny. His insights into human nature were always on target. He will be missed by millions. R.I.P. George

Friday, June 20, 2008

Maybe I need a tiara or Groucho glasses . . .

When I took our laundry down to wash it, I was the only one there with virtually all of the machines empty. I felt lucky. As I was loading two machines, a young man walked in. He totally ignored me until I turned and said "good morning." He grunted a response and went to loading his machines. OK, maybe he was grumpy from lack of sleep or had a hangover. As we went about our business, a young woman entered. I turned and smiled at her and she walked right past me without a glance, staring at the young man. Neither of them spoke. She seemed interested, but he didn't take notice of her, though she was unloading a machine two away from his. After flinging her laundry into a dryer she was gone. I left before he did and decided not to try to converse again. Have parents so inculcated their children with fear of strangers that they won't acknowledge anyone they don't know? These two looked to be in their early twenties and capable of taking care of themselves. I think I have a friendly demeaner and I certainly don't carry weapons, hidden or otherwise. Could it be my gray hair that's off-putting? Aging is not contageous though we all end up old -- if we're lucky. Ah, well. I'll keep trying to make my neighbors feel welcome in our apartment community. If they don't respond, that's their loss. For all they know, I might be a millionaire wanting to share the wealth - or - I could be in a position to hire or fire them some day. . .

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Keep your dirty mind in Texas!

A rancher from Texas who also happens to be a delegate in the Texas GOP was horrified seeing nude statues all over Washington, D.C.. Visiting galleries proved to be a menacing experience for him; what with all the nudity to which the public is exposed. He even has serious issues with the statues at Memorial Bridge. He found the robust men and women depicting Valor and Sacrifice vulgar. He wrote to his elected representatives that, even though he respects free speech, the morals of a country are adversely affected by all this nudity. He said, "There are degrees of vulgarity, and it opens up the door for the other stuff." Huh? Congress has taken no action in response to his complaint, but he assures us he's "prepared for a long fight." He's planning to return to Washington to videotape the evidence of indecency in the Nation's Capital. I can't help but wonder if he's concerned about his 14 children getting ideas from viewing human bodies depicted in marble, bronze and other media. Perhaps he should leave them home on his next mission to document D.C.'s smutty art. Adam and Eve, if you accept that story, were nude. Every one of us has arrived on Earth without clothing. How can someone who espouses his belief not see the irony in it? Again, if you believe the story, God created man in His own image. How can that be vulgar? Sheesh!!

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Double vision. . .

. . . of beauty. Just caught this from our balcony.

Human Females = Subspecies

Now that I have your attention, I have to ask how we can collectively eliminate this attitude toward females - around the world. Girls and women in developing countries and in some cultures considered sophisticated, often accept that they are nothing more than chatel, controlled by the boys and men in their lives. It has always been that way and always will be. Ignorance of basic science plays a huge role in this dichotomy. There are still men who believe they plant a human seed and that a woman's uterus is simply the garden where it grows. If the resulting offspring turns out to be the wrong gender (female), somehow it seems reasonable to blame the woman! Multiple generations of women suffered female genital mutilation, so their female relatives must also. It is viewed as a pious act to maintain purity, when, in fact, it is torture and often murder. Girls and women who have undergone this ritual suffer because of it throughout their lives. Being that rape is a common method of shaming and exerting power, the victim's suffering is doubled. Then, it is tripled when she is ostracized and the perpetrator/s go unpunished. Honor killing or forced suicide often is the fate of rape victims. When and how did women become so powerless?! I take comfort in the fact that women, particularly African women are stepping into leadership roles. The current president of Liberia, The Honorable Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf is proving to be an admirable role model. That's a huge responsibility, but she seems to be up to it. Women there and in other African nations are picking up the reins of power and improving everyone's lives. Some of this has been out of sheer necessity as so many of their men have killed each other in power struggles. Fickle fate? I don't think so. Women leaders have a tough, uphill climb wherever they are. Religious leaders often chide them and sabotage their efforts. Still, with support, both moral and material, from other women, they are making progress. Patience and perseverance rather than rage and impulsiveness seem to be winning favor. Women understand the need for universal education in developing peaceful, productive societies. We also understand the value of tact and cooperation.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Gershwin with WOW

My mission was to buy a DVD of Finding Nemo for my nephew's birthday. Since the Borders Books in Falls Church was close to other errands I was running, I stopped in. Videos, DVDs, and CDs are on the second floor. I found Nemo [the DVD that is ;-)] then cast a glance at the CDs. Big mistake. I enjoy just about every kind of music and easily could have spent the rest of the week there. As long as I can remember I've been a huge fan of George Gershwin's music. I've even been a bit of a snob about it, preferring his arrangements to anyone else's. Phil plays Gershwin quite well as did my late Aunt Bev, who gave me a book of some of his compositions. Either her expectations were totally unrealistic or she was trying to torture me -- either way, I've forgiven her. Hours spent trying to actually PLAY his music were frustrating and largely fruitless -- he was beyond genius and I'm nowhere close. I'd heard some two piano versions of Gershwin's stuff and thought I'd try to find a CD. A nice clerk diddled on the computer and came up with Gershwin, "I Got Rhythm," Music for Two Pianos by Katia and Marielle Labèque. It was recorded in 1987 by this pair of French sisters and I regret not finding it before now. What they do with "Our Love is Here to Stay" is phenomenal! I think George would approve.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Samurai Warrior?

For those new to my blog, I make blots with dimensional paints that add some depth to the otherwise flat ink blots. This is a negative of a rather tame-looking pink and bronze blot. In these colors, it reminds me of a grimacing Samurai warrior. What do you see?

Thursday, June 12, 2008

"All we need is love. . ."

Today is Loving Day. It marks the date 41 years ago today that the Virginia Supreme Court struck down a law prohibiting interracial marriage. It is an apropos name for a monumental crack in racial relations. Mildred and Richard Loving were childhood sweethearts who had to leave Virginia in order to marry each other. He was White and she was African-American. Mildred passed away last month and, sadly, Richard died years ago. They suffered indignities and hatred simply because they loved each other and wanted to sanctify their feelings by marrying. Mixed couples, married or not, are a common sight these days, certainly here in D.C. My husband and I are an example of that. He is Middle-Eastern and I am Middle-American. Our differences aren't as noticeable to the casual observer, so nasty stares are fewer, but we still get them. My own family members were wary of our intentions to marry, citing our diametrically opposed backgrounds. That was 25 years ago and our bond is stronger now than it was on the day we married. Attraction between humans is chemistry. Love at first sight is possible because of it. It's one of the animal traits humans have retained throughout evolution. Smell, touch, and physical characteristics attract long before educational achievement, wealth, social status or other acquired traits kick-in. As the world continues to get smaller and smaller, we are exposed to more and more people from opposite ends of the world. Perhaps we need to remember that the first race we are born into is the Human Race.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Life in Mid-20th Century America

-- Mascara that didn't come in a tube. It came in a tiny compact with it's own brush that had to be moistened then brushed over the hard mascara and applied to the lashes. Some girls actually used spit, but that grossed me out. -- Skorts were a practical combination of bloomer shorts attached to a short, pleated or gathered skirt that allowed us to ride bikes, climb trees and more without showing our panties. [That was a big deal when I was little. Girls almost always wore dresses and boys were always trying to see our panties.] -- Pettipants were an undergarment usually made of nylon. They were essentially loose shorts that ended above the knee then were trimmed with lace. The lace might be simple but more often we went for elaborate layers of lace with colored ribbon strung through it. [It was OK if a boy saw your pettipants.] -- Metal tricycles with rubber wheels. We had none of those brightly colored, huge wheeled, plastic tricycles. They were pretty much all alike and lacked the imagination that plastics made possible for today's designers. -- White lipstick. I still wonder how that came to be so popular. Maybe it was its contrast with heavily applied black eye-liner and mascara. I wasn't allowed eye make-up but I did use white lipstick and must have looked hideous. -- Woody Station Wagons were built during WWII to conserve metal for the war effort. My parents bought a used Woody that was white on top and green below the wide, wooden side panels. [If you want to see one, watch the original "White Christmas" movie. That one had an all-wood body.] -- 29¢ a gallon gasoline and gas prices weren't listed as they are today. Who do the dealers think they're fooling posting prices at $4.14 98/100 per gallon? -- White margarine. Yes, it was gross looking but the dairy people insisted on it. We bought blocks of white margarine that included a packet of yellow dye that had to be mixed in. Dairy producers wanted to be sure no one mistook margarine for butter. -- Speaking of butter, that and flour were often the treatments of choice for burns in the kitchen. The average cook had never heard of aloe vera and immersion in cold water had not yet been recommended. Cuts of all sorts were treated with tincture of Iodine or Mercurochrome-- OUCH!!!

Monday, June 9, 2008

More Bikes Out There Now?

Is it my imagination or are there more motorcycles out there now? I'm thinking that more guys have talked their ladies into letting them buy bikes to save gas on their commutes. The guys are smirking to themselves, thinking they pulled a fast one and finally got the transporation mode they've dreamed of since high school. However. . . I'm betting that the ladies are thinking, OK, wiseguy, wait til it gets really hot (like today!) or rains on you in your high-priced leathers. Are you still gonna love riding with the wind? Will you risk road rash and worse in an effort to stay cool yet cool? How 'bout sitting in traffic, exhaust assaulting you from every angle? No windows to close or AC to crank up on a Harley. Good luck!

Sunday, June 8, 2008

City Flowers

We planted our three window boxes three weeks ago and they are really taking hold and coming into their own. Spouse checks them in the morning and evening and I water them. Janet gave us some of the petunias and several begonias. One is a gorgeous shade of deep coral.
Begonia leaves are incredibly waxy, shiny and stiff. Weird. . .
We also planted a pot each of parsley and basil. They're pretty AND smell so good. We're gonna have some delicious salads and soups this summer!

Friday, June 6, 2008

Life in a gilded cage -- Is it worth it?

What is about fame that makes it so appealing? Ok, many celebrities acquire fame and wealth together. But how can money make up for a total loss of privacy? And do they like being commodities whose value depends on what strangers think of them? A certain number of financially-dependent sycophants seem necessary to maintain the celebrity lifestyle -- agents, hairdressers, body guards, personal assistants and more. The verbal flotsam must be stifling. What a huge burden to think that the world revolves around you, something your sycophants make sure you remember. That's hard for a well-grounded person to handle, much less a fragile, young person. Insanity seems to be a close companion to celebrity. It explains the bizarre, often self-destructive behavior exhibited by some. Ever present, telescopic camera lenses must cause unimaginable paranoia. Many celebrities have no chance to experience the natural stages of maturation before they are overwhelmed by the artificial world of glitz and glam. Having to focus on one's appearance and popularity disallows time for intelligent, constructive thought and equally important, imagination. A life without these is trivialized and wasted.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

A Ballerina's Grito*

*Spanish word meaning emphatic cry. Rosana Peñaloza nearly single-handedly is exposing Mexicans to the shame of their prejudices against people with disabilities. After an age when many ballet dancers have retired because of wear and tear on their bodies, she maintains enviable a grace and strength. She is also on a personal mission. For six months last year, she experimented with being handicapped in Mexico City. In a wheelchair, she tried to navigate the city's sidewalks, most of which have no ramps or some too narrow to accommodate a wheelchair. She felt invisible to drivers who zipped around her, narrowly missing her chair. The city's cherished and historic cobblestone streets were a nightmare. Trying to make eye contact proved immeasurably painful. She went from being an acclaimed artist to a figure of pity and disdain. She cried every day not just for herself, but for the thousands of Mexicans who were suffering the same indignities and prejudices. All of this was done to prepare for a performance piece she debuted before a Mexican audience this past Spring. She danced sitting in a wheelchair. Audience members were moved by her grace and agility. They were also forced to examine their own consciences when she locked eyes with individuals asking "will you play with me?"-- will you be my friend? -- will you give me work?" Ms. Peñaloza was inspired by handicapped students to whom she taught dance in a Mexican center for children with disabilities. She was impressed with their abilities, even though some could not see or hear. Mexican tradition states that handicapped individuals are better off being segregated from the rest of society because they are not perfect. What she discovered and now tries to convey to the public is that being disabled doesn't end a life. Physically challenged is a more accurate description and Ms. Peñaloza wants to illustrate how people bearing them compensate in extraordinary ways. She is attempting to grow a pearl of wisdom when she says "my work is a grain of sand in an oyster so that all this can change." Amen.

Monday, June 2, 2008

I know I'm not alone . . .

. . . when I check the obituaries in my daily newspaper. Having lived in Washington for nearly 40 years, it's still shocking when I recognize someone who has just died. I don't look for specific names, but faces practically shout from the page, particularly when it is someone my age or younger who has died. After my Dad died last November, I was disappointed that only a simple, short, paid, death notice was published in the Washington Post. No picture, no information on his substantial contributions to the world of hospital design and construction or the fact that he was a past-president of the Washington Chapter of the Circumnavigators Club. There was so much more that could have been said than just listing his survivors. When an obituary is the last piece written about a person, shouldn't it at least mention accomplishments, both professional and personal and something about what made the person unique and special? Granted, friends and family have their memories, but what about those who didn't know the person? I LIKE reading about other's adventures and tragedies in life -- they are inspiring. Archives hold history from which future generations can research and learn. Giving credit for one's life challenges and accomplishments isn't too much to ask for as a brief, personal archive. Today would have been Dad and Mom's 63rd wedding anniversary -- quite an accomplishment IF anyone else knew their roots, goals and dreams and how they came to terms with them. I know these things and understand how fortunate I am to have been raised by them.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Gratuitous Cuteness IX

Alex got to celebrate his eighth birthday twice this year.
He had a family celebration last Tuesday, then an extended family celebration last Sunday. TWO cakes and he made sure that everyone wore hats, so it was official. Then, and only then, did he blow out his candles.
Joy X 2 -- lucky little guy