Monday, March 28, 2016

Monday Musings

My husband and I had an interesting and thoughtful conversation with my daughter and  her husband about sensitivity and empathy for working class people.  So many of  us, as we climb the economic ladder, forget how hard it is to struggle to make ends meet.  This causes one to be callous about 'poor people' and feeds into the false narrative that we can all pull ourselves up by our bootstraps.  This is a blame and shame tactic used by the wealthy against the poor.  It does no one any good.

A few years ago I read two books that really shook up my reality:  Nickled and Dimed, and Deer Hunting with Jesus.  Two books on income inequality, how we got this way, and why it is perpetuated.  I always recommend these two books as an excellent reality check.

PBS is running a series on the News Hour about wealth and poverty.  You can take a quiz here.  It brings up some interesting points.

When I was growing up, my family experienced periods of wealth and stability, and also hard times where money was tight and mom was cancelling newspaper subscriptions in an effort to save money.  As an adult,  I've always lived paycheck to paycheck, which was especially stressful when bringing up my child.  There was a particularly stressful Christmas where I had no idea where I was going to get enough money to buy her a gift of any consequence.  Then, by mail, my grandmother sent me a very generous check and I broke down and cried I was so grateful.  She literally saved Christmas for my child and me.

But through hard times and good, I had what I call "class."  Values that include empathy, dignity, friendliness, generosity, and integrity.  I've passed these along to my child and she lives these values as well.

So we were pretty incredulous that some people, as they do well economically, lose their connection with working people.  We talked about how the people that have the least give the most.  Time and time again we see it and hear about it.  It seems to be true the world over.

I did see a great story last night on Sixty Minutes about "The Giving Pledge" wherein billionaires pledge to give away at least 50 percent of their wealth during their lifetimes.  Featured were Bill and Melinda Gates, the woman who invented "Spanks" of all things, and our favorite Billionaire, Warren Buffet.  The Koch brothers were not a part of the pledge.  Big surprise.

How you spend your money reflects your deepest values.  This is true no matter your net financial worth.  Some people retain their values and use their money for good.  Others use their money to build a wall between them and the rest of humanity.  I'm an old socialist at heart, because sharing of the wealth leads to the greatest good.  This is not to say there has been a successful socialist experiment on earth.  We're still working on it. 


Friday, March 25, 2016

TGIF

What a week it was.  We spent time in the Napa Valley, playing with friends, eating great food, strolling the beautiful valley.

It's as green as I've ever seen it.  We had a lovely wine tasting at T-Vine, just outside St. Helena.  We bought a Zin that must be consumed sooner rather than later, as it is a 2012.  It is delicious.  We'll take it to dinner with us when we celebrate mom's birthday in May.  We're taking her to our favorite Osteria Fasulo.

Yesterday, on our way out of town, we stopped at Il Posto for lunch.  Completely spur of the moment, with the help of YELP! to find something suitable.  What a great lunch it was.  We both practically swooned.  If you're in the area and like Italian food, do go!  I delighted over the Asparago Caldo - warm asparagus, frisee, pancetta, sherry vinaigrette, marcona almonds, goat cheese & ricotta fritte.  Beyond yummy.

As a lover of fine food, I am especially looking forward to eating in France and Spain on our vacation.  Mmmmmmmm.
Indulge me here, don't hate me for traveling. I've not ever gone to Europe. And so many other places. This is my time, boys and girls.



Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Monday, March 21, 2016

Monday Musings

It was with great excitement, yesterday, that my husband and I watched on television as our First Family set foot on Cuban soil.  A beautiful family portrait, including the First Lady's mother, and one that gave promise to the future of US - Cuban relations.  How symbolic to be held on the first day of spring. 

A year ago this month, we were in Habana, studying with the great Peter Turnley.  The world already knew that the Obama administration was seeking to reestablish ties with Cuba, and the Cuban people were, even at that time, very enthusiastic.  They wore US flags and sang Obama's praises to us as we walked the streets.

Portrait of President Lincoln, Habana. Peter Turnley, Mar 20, 2016
Two of our Cuban guides, Nestor and Alain, were part of the official press today, and got great shots of the arrival.  A highlight of their professional careers, no doubt, and certainly their private lives.

As the President deplaned at Jose Marti, I couldn't help but think, "We were there!"  I remember landing on the airstrip, in the middle of the jungle, slowly coasting up to the small concrete buildings that are the Jose Marti Internationale Airport.  Luckily, as an important person, the President and his people were loaded into limos and driven out to take the 15 km drive into Habana.  We had to brave swarms of people and long lines to enter the country.  Imagine your local municipal airport: that is Cuba's main point of arrival and departure.  We wonder aloud, frequently, how in the world they are going to accommodate the rush of people who are arriving in this new age.

We hope that trade and commerce with the US will bring prosperity to the Cuban people.  We hope corruption can be kept to a minimum, but knowing human nature, that seems unlikely.  We are looking forward to the broadcasts over the next couple of days, and we are glad that he has taken this step, a step that will be difficult if not impossible to back-track on, whomever becomes the next President.

I feel incredibly lucky to have traveled to Cuba on the eve of such dramatic change.  We will return, but I'm a little apprehensive about what we will find there.  Will they completely tire of us and our ways?  Will they still feel the love?  I hope so.  I fervently hope that we move forward in the most civilized and generous way possible.

Todo buena suerte a la gente de Cuba y el pueblo de los Estados Unidos.

All good luck to the people of Cuba and the people of the United States. 

Friday, March 18, 2016

TGIF

What a week.  Oy.

Are you as shell shocked as I am by the state of our country's political scene?  The Drumpfster is who we are all talking about.  Remember the days when Ronald Reagan was our scariest option?  'I have left orders to be awakened at any time in case of national emergency, even if I'm in a cabinet meeting."  Now we're stuck with a Tweeting asshole who says things like "If Hillary couldn't satisfy her husband, what makes her think she can satisfy the nation?"  Really Presidential.  Really really scary.

I am disappointed that Sanders did not sweep this weeks elections.  Robert Reich thought he might.  Oh Robert, I was counting on your analysis.  But Sanders is staying in the race, and while I don't think has a good chance anymore, some do.  So I am in wait and see mode.

Back in real life, we've had gorgeous mild weather that calls to us to go outside, take small trips, and photograph to our hearts content.  Spring has sprung and the flowers are bright spots that remind me life is good.  We're watching our dogwood and wisteria that we planted last spring.  We tried to water as much as possible since they are young, but with our water restrictions, they no doubt got shortchanged.  Now we're a bit anxious, waiting to see if there are any signs of life.  Last year at this time the were both blooming.  Not now.  Hmmm.

I've been a busy little worker bee this week, "branding" myself on the Internet.  I have a new website that shows my work and there was a bit of a learning curve getting it up and running.  The kinks, I believe, have been de-kinked.  You can see it here.  Photographer friends gave me some very useful feedback while I was building it.  I'd like it to be a vehicle for selling my images and will endeavor to promote it.  I'm am well covered on the Internet now, what with my Instagram, Face book, and web pages.

All this instigated because my parents' Realtor is enamored of my Yosemite Half Dome print and was inquiring about purchasing it.  My parents can't believe I'm not a world famous photographer.  I am their brilliant child, after all.  Sigh.  How little they know about my world and the world of marketing and art.  Art marketing.  Impossible odds.  A gal can dream.  And, above all else, a gal can just enjoy making her art

Going out with the mister right now to take advantage of another beautiful day.  We'll walk the university campus and see what images reach out and speak to us.

Stay thirsty, my friends!

Monday, March 14, 2016

Monday Musings

I was born in the year of the Rooster.  My husband was born in the year of the Horse.  According to the Chinese Zodiac, Rooster and Horse are the worst possible match.  It's a good thing I don't put any stock into the Zodiac, Chinese or otherwise.  A fun parlor game, as far as I'm concerned.  I do know a few people who believe in it quite strongly (Nancy Regan comes to mind, RIP).  Then again, there are PLENTY of people who believe God is a white man with a long beard sitting up in the clouds, controlling our very lives.  Everyone who knows anything is clear that She is a strong black woman.  Pfffft.

Here we are.  The most incompatible couple ever.  Not.

I can't quite fathom just yet that next month we will be in France.  And Spain.    Hopping on and off public transit with our Paris Pass and skipping the lines to the L'ourve and Musee d'Orsay.  Pinch me.

I am reading a fascinating history of Expat Americans in Paris during the Nazi occupation.  I expect this will color my view of places in the city, knowing that Nazi flags hung there, and there, and there.  The US had not declared war on Germany at the beginning of the occupation, so all it took was a red tag from the US Embassy on your home and business to let the Nazis know they were to be hands-off.  The courage of the handful of people who stayed in Paris (both French and foreigners) is legendary.  Of course there were collaborators.  But the people who quietly, secretly resisted, who hid Jewish citizens and ensured their safe exodus from the city, takes my breath away.

I look forward to experiencing all I can in this magical and historic city.  Walking, site seeing, museums, and of course the food.  The food!  Our host at the apartment where we are staying has left detailed descriptions of his favorite neighborhood restaurants, including his favorite dishes. 

I hope the all the walking will balance out all the pain et fromage I plan on devouring.  If not, who cares?  You only live once.

Qui?





Friday, March 11, 2016

TGIF

I had a dream last night that I decided to return to the M-F 9-5 workaday world.  Probably because it's raining and we're semi-housebound.  The dream was a rehash of all the nonsensical, mundane things one does in this alternate universe.  All of the self-important industry-speak that means very little but shows how adept you are at adopting the corporate line.  The big thing was, I couldn't actually figure out what this job entailed, and what this company produced.  The saving grace was that I realized I didn't have to stay here if it were all bullshit.  

Last night we watched a remarkable movie called Free Men.  In Paris during the German occupation, an Algerian immigrant decides to join the French Resistance after befriending a Jewish man.  Damn, but those French make compelling movies.  Are we just seeing the cream of the crop, or do French filmmakers turn out as much trash as Hollywood?  Anwhooo, it did occur to us, several times, that nobody in the USA knows what tough times are.  Okay, that's a bit of an overstatement, but the point is, I'm not having gun battles in the streets with SS officers, watching my compatriots shot down, hanged and deported to death camps.  In this movie, the Algerian, Muslim, Jewish, French and German cultures smash together with explosive results.  How very little things have changed since the occupation.  The influx of Muslim immigrants to France in the 1930s was considerable.   Ring any bells?

So, I shall embrace my Spirit Animal today, thank the heavens for this bounty of water falling from the sky, and appreciate the profound simplicity and calm that is my life.  And maybe do some laundry.

Have a lovely weekend.

Monday, March 7, 2016

Monday Musings

Facebook reminded me yesterday that 5 years ago, to yesterday's date, I left my home and marriage. I drove to Santa Barbara for the night and left for my parents' house in San Diego the next day.

It was a windy and rainy drive, emblematic of my journey.  I could not have guessed at the ups and downs I would experience over the next few years.  All I knew was anything was better than what I had been doing.  Anything.

You know you've been living in crazy-land when living with your parents is a welcomed relief.  Even when things did not go smoothly in my new digs, it was still preferable to the life I was leaving behind.  Even so, the act of driving away from the scene of the crime  took its toll:  I dropped 25 lbs without meaning to.  When ever does that happen?  I got sick a lot.  I was mentally confused and easily reduced to tears.

Still, I knew I was on the right path.  The only way through is to go through.  There are no short cuts.  There is a lot of pain.  It is worth all of that.

I couldn't have imagined that 4 years later, to the date, I would be in Miami, with my freshly minted husband, waiting to catch a flight to Havana, Cuba!

Now, today, I am living the life I want to live.  The life that was only a dream 5 years ago.  And a very vague dream at that.  What in the world convinced me I could do this?  Truth be told, I wasn't convinced.  In fact, I was skeptical.

You know that saying, "the longest journey begins with a single step"?  That's what I went with.  I didn't have to be all brave and stuff.  I just had to take care of myself, one day at a time.  I had to have faith that life would improve.  Not a lot of faith, either, just some.  Change is difficult and most of us resist it with everything we have.  I did.  For a long time.  Until I couldn't any longer.

Hooray for Facebook memories.  I have been beautifully reminded of my capacity for change, and my instinct to live my best life.  Fittingly, C.S. Lewis said, "There are far better things ahead than any we leave behind."

With special thanks to my beloved friends and my family.  You know who you are.

"Live in possibility."  
~ Emily Dickinson


Friday, March 4, 2016

TGIF

Well, that was a supremely surreal week, what with Super Tuesday.  I'm torn between acknowledging the reality on this blog and tripping off to la-la land with y'all.  A friend suggested that, if Bernie Sanders is not the nominee, he should run a "Don't be a Schmuck" campaign to get Dems to vote for Hillary.  And if Trump wins, I think, Republicans should vote Democratic just this once, for the good of the country.  If France's socialists and conservatives could pull it together to defeat le Pen, then we sure as hell ought to set aside our differences for once.

I hope Christie has finally gone too far by endorsing Trump.   This could be the end of his political career as well, except that we are too forgetful and stupid to remember any history that is not force fed to us on Entertainment Weekly or People magazine. 

In a once-in-a-lifetime occurrence, my husband, parents and I actually had a reasonable political conversation over dinner on Super Tuesday.  We are all united in our disgust of Trump and the Republican Party.  The party as indeed gone "bat shit crazy."  So everyone is wondering if this will shatter the party and cause a new party to form.  After all, the GOP was born out of a fall out within the Whig party. 

Looky there.  I spent more time 'there' than I intended.

Tonight we are in San Francisco to hear a lecture by photographer and environmentalist Sebatstiao Salgado.

Brilliance, elegance and intelligence all in one lovely man.  A bright star in the darkness.

Hope you find your bright star this weekend.

Surly Bonds

My dad slipped the surly bonds of earth on January 13.  He'd had a massive stroke on the ninth and doctors were clear he was not going t...