Archive for September, 2010

Some Sisters Are No Friend to Women

Sunday, September 26th, 2010 © by Susan Swartz

Maybe you are someone who used to say that things would be different if more women were in Washington. Maybe then politicians would stop playing games over women’s bodies and be clued in to the need for safe and legal abortions.

Maybe with women in charge there would be a greater commitment to end sexual violence. Maybe women at the top would put a priority on taking care of everybody’s families. All kids would get health care. Grammy need not worry about becoming a bag lady.

At least, that was my thinking. But the more I hear from this crop of women Tea Party candidates I’m terrified. Whose side are these women on?

It reminds me of a young female colleague who was so happy to work for her first woman boss and then later sighed, “She was the worst man I ever worked for.”

There’s a part of any feminist who is cheered when women boldly and passionately declare themselves for public office. It takes guts and we need more women at the top.

In general, I want to say “Go, girl.” But in the case of some of these GOP women candidates, I’m more often sputtering, “She thinks WHAT?”

Sharron Angle, the Nevada Republican running against Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, is so fiercely against abortion that she thinks a young girl impregnated by her father should have the baby. Two wrongs don’t make a right, she said. Lemons, she said, “can be made into lemonade.”

Same with Christine O’Donnell, the Delaware Republican Senate nominee, backed by Sarah Palin – some call her a Sarah Doll. O’Donnell says no exception for abortions even if the woman was raped.

Here’s another who is no friend to women, especially older women.

Minnesota Republican Michele Bachmann, who loves the Tea Cozies, calls Social Security and Medicare a form of welfare. She’s said if her crowd were in control they could get rid of Social Security over one long weekend. And then on Monday throw how many older women out in the street? More women than men rely solely on Social Security to live. Perhaps Bachmann never expects to get old. Or poor.

These sisters are not looking out for the health and welfare of girls and women. They are the kind of sisters who put on their fancy dresses and made Cinderella stay home and clean toilets.

Anne Coulter, the uber conservative commentator and Tea Party cheerleader,once said that the United States would be a better place if women had never won the right to vote. (Meaning too many women vote for Democrats.) You might remember Coulter as the nasty one who mocked the widows of 9/11 who pushed for a government investigation into the attacks. Coulter called the widows self-obsessed and said they were taking advantage of their husbands’ deaths to gain notoriety.

These are scary women and they don’t make sense to me. They go on about what they would take away but not what they would provide.

Like most Tea Party types, they say they want government out of their lives. O’Donnell makes fun of laws restricting soda pop from school vending machines. Are there no obese pre-diabetic kids in Delaware?

So, would they get rid of regulations on car seats for babies? Mandatory school attendance? Who would fix their roads, put out their house fires were there no government? Or do they think government’s greatest role should be to order women to have babies?

But now I have another question and it’s for the Democrats. Got any more ready-to-run sisters?

One More Chance to Be Here Now

Sunday, September 19th, 2010 © by Susan Swartz

I’ve had meditation on my to-do list for a long time. Mindfulness appears to be a contented state populated by calm, sane people who move slowly, wear their serenity like a summer sheath and have private smiles indicating that they know something others don’t quite get. They are not rushing around with disheveled minds, tripping over the dog and losing their keys.

I thought I might attempt the mindful thing some day. I was too pre-occupied in the 1960s and 70s to “Be Here Now.” That was for hippies who didn’t work, I thought. Besides I wasn’t sure I had the temperament for meditation. I tend to reach more outward than inward. And who has time to just sit?

Now that I am part of the population of unstructured, part-time self-employed, I can give myself a day to listen and not talk. So, for my birthday, I booked a one-day retreat at Spirit Rock meditation center in Marin. My serene friend Neva has been going there for years and I tagged along. It was like going to camp for the first time, and I wanted a buddy.

The cluster of handsome rustic buildings with signs warning “silence please” is a favorite spot for Buddhist teaching but you don’t have to become a Buddhist to meditate. Spirituality-wise, I’m not sure what I am. I’d have to check the box that says “still looking.” But I felt ready to work on being in the moment.

Neva said meditation helps shut out the din and considering the amount of din we’re in, a time-out seemed in order. Inside, she took a chair, got a pillow for her feet and back and wrapped in a blanket. We looked like dowagers bundled on the deck of a cruise ship.

To not talk, I found, was a relief more than a challenge. It was surprisingly comfortable to be with 60 people for seven hours and not need to say anything witty or at all.

Our teacher, the famous Jewish Buddhist author Sylvia Boorstein, said we would start by sitting for 20 minutes. In yoga class the teacher often includes a short meditation during which we are to visualize a place of peace and beauty. But I seldom get there. I scramble to get to a beach or maybe the mountains and then she rings a bell and it’s over.

At Spirit Rock I wondered about what to visualize and the guy behind me coughing and when would I go to the Ladies Room. I checked my watch to see my skittery thoughts had taken up two minutes. Then I remembered Sylvia saying sometimes it works to just sit and let your body and mind find its natural peace.

Suddenly the 20 minutes were over and I grinned at my friend. So something had happened. Or nothing had happened.

We took our lunch out in the sun. I tried to chew mindfully. No one whispered or checked their messages. On the hill above sat a Buddha statue, pensive and plump as a happy cat.

Having a relaxed mind comes easier when you are in a quiet, safe spot separate from the real world. I did have a wild worry about the nutty prayerful out there who attack other people’s religions and what if some day they go after those who sit cross-legged and say Namaste.

Sylvia said that when people leave a retreat they often feel vulnerable. She thinks that’s okay. She said “If everyone in the world felt vulnerable we’d stop killing each other.”

Still Juicy After All These Years

Sunday, September 12th, 2010 © by Susan Swartz

Sam Sifton in the New York Times Sunday magazine rhapsodizes on last of summer tomatoes – “Wide and cracked, heavy with the captured humidity of passing summer, each one a Neruda poem shedding its own light, benign majesty.”

He goes on: “What you want from those tomatoes: heft….The taste should run sweet, with a bang of acidity.”

Is that not just how you want to be described?

How about this? A garden writer urges her backyard farmers to not give up on the older plants just because they seem to slow down and get a little wrinkled at the end of summer. Never mistake them for being unproductive, wrote Maureen Gilmer, in a story distributed by Scripps Howard News Service.

Making the link between late season veggies and their human counterparts, Gilmer noted that we rarely see pictures of food gardens this time of year because they’re not as pretty and shiny as they are in early summer.

But she urges, “A well tended tomato plant will age gracefully, remaining active late in life, just like we do.”

That’s my kind of metaphor. Juicy Tomatoes – ripe, a little sun damaged, but still on the vine. It gives me encouragement when I look in the mirror or have another birthday.

So when I come across like-minded images I scribble them down.

From a poem called “Tomato” by Robert Samarotto.
“Filling ourselves with sun saying – take me- take me.
Limbs bowed under the weight of us. We endured the harshness of the season and waited our turn – waited our turn.”

And this quote that someone sent me with a picture of “The Great Tomato Diva” by artist Lynn Pollock Marsh.
“Look beyond cosmetic appearance. Look to the soul, its nutrition. Ripeness is all.”

Stay juicy, my friends.