|Posted by bebowreinhard on May 11, 2013 at 11:55 AM||comments (0)|
Memories of Marshall Fields.
Who really cares about a defunct department store? Well, it turns out a lot of people do. There is a Facebook page devoted to Marshall Fields, and to hear people talk about it, you wonder why it ever disappeared—a place where truly, the customer was always right.
Marshall Fields, the man, opened his first store in 1892 and “Give the lady what she wants" became one of the enduring hallmarks of the Marshall Field’s department store. The Chicago Landmark, now a Macy’s store, is a 12-story building that spreads across an entire block on State Street. While iconic MF décor was retained, such as the first and largest Tiffany glass tile ceiling in the world, Chicago architect Daniel Burnham’s original fountain and the original name plaques and signature bronze clocks remain, so many people who can compare the two will agree that Macy’s can never be Marshall Fields. It’s hard to believe that it was only back in 2007 that Macy’s took over this franchise, because the idealism with which memories are wrought seem like they belong back in the 1800s.
I took on the task of finding out what Marshall Fields was like from the 1930s to the 1960s because of a fiction novel I’m writing that carries the name in its title. What you’ll see here are a compilation of memories, along with some research that I’ve done that will appear in the book. I welcome any and all feedback! My hope here is that more people will share what they remember based on this, or this will jog their memories, or that they will tell me if I’ve gotten something wrong before I try to get “Dinner at Marshall Field’s” published.
(it won't let me add photos to a blog)
Field’s in the 1930’s was focused on maintaining and advancing a strong sales and service culture. “Give the Lady What She Wants!” was driven by the belief that “enthusiasm, plus knowledge, plus courtesy, equals good selling.”
Pamela Day Vlies remembers the elevator, how the operator always called out what floor they were approaching, and you could hear different dinging sounds, depending on what floor it was. You could even tell the operator what you were interested in purchasing and he’d know just where to take you.
Many people in Chicago would choose the iconic clock outside Marshall Field’s to meet under. Michele Eisenberg shared an old wives’ tale about it: “It’s said to be one of several places in the world where you’ll run into people you know.” Jean C. said her parents always met under the clock when they were courting. Her mother worked there, and she knew her way around as well as she did at home. She knows about the suicides that prompted them to put wire screening around the open spaces on the upper floors.
Bob Eltzholtz remembers, “You used to be able to get from O'Hare to Fields on the Blue Line without ever going outside. And when you got to Fields, you thought you were still at O'Hare because the luggage section had a cool light installation to mirror the colored tiles at O'Hare.”
When asked about their memories, invariably people talk about Frango’s, the mint chocolates. Macy’s brought back this Field’s signature “a couple of years ago,” according to Vlies. Frangos were created in Seattle by someone at the Frederick & Nelson Department Store back in 1918 and re-formulated and introduced in Chicago in 1929. Frango mints were produced in large melting pots on the 13th floor of the State Street building until 1999, when the demand for the candy overwhelmed the in-house facility. Tinney Heath, a fellow author, likes to pretend she’s in the 60s when she buys the candies today.
The Walnut Room remains on Macy’s 7th Floor as the major restaurant event, especially at Christmastime, where its centerpiece is a three-story tall Christmas tree. That tree used to be real, but starting in the mid-1960s it was replaced by an artificial one. Vlies remembers the tree as being huge, “but I was little.” Steve A. in Omaho, too, saw a tree as tall as eight stories, probably going right up the center of the building, and it could, too, as the center of the store is open, with four sided floors going up at least seven stories, and up up into the 9th.
(got a great photo looking down into the heart of the store from above, ask me if you want a copy)
Jean C. disagrees: It started in the Walnut Room and went up to the 9th floor. Considering the size of the building, I have to agree with her! While it seems the building was built to put a tree right into the heart of it, finding one that tall would have been very difficult.
Everyone remembers the Christmas window displays, because perhaps Marshall Field’s took such care in putting them up. Michele Eisenberg thought of them right off when asked and Tinney Heath called them “truly amazing.” They often included moving parts, and demonstrated the fantasy that was Christmas in all its many myths.
For those who do not remember that Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer was an icon of Montgomery Wards, you might also be surprised to learn that Field’s too had a Christmas icon. His name was Uncle Mistletoe. He was a bright, cheery fellow with a black top hat and heavy red overcoat. Uncle Mistletoe was introduced in 1947 and was Field’s holiday ambassador through the 1970’s. He had his own TV show from 1948 to 1952 and was a fixture at the Cozy Cloud Cottage in the store alongside Santa through the early 1980’s.
A floor for toys, and a floor for books, remembered Heath, and kids treats like ice cream clowns. Jean C. used to watch the model train for hours while her mother shopped in the toy department. These memories indicate how much in awe children could be when visiting this department store. Heath still has one of the MF signature shopping bags, in dark green.
Earle Garber will never forget the Ambrosia Chocolate Shop, also on the lower level. Jean C. shared what she remembers about places to eat there when I was doing research on a counter service for the novel: “The Walnut room was always the more elegant of the dining rooms and rarely changed. They never had a counter but there were several other restaurants. The Narcissus Room was more casual but still not counter service, the English Room which may be the one with counter service; I don't recall because Mom never liked it. That eventually became a sandwich and salad restaurant. In the 70s they had The Bowl and Basket (I think that was the name) which was behind the cafeteria and was mainly soup and sandwiches. And yes, they had a cafeteria. There was also a room across from the English Room, which at one time was mostly pasta dishes, but before that I couldn't say because, again, Mom didn't care to go there. When we went to Field's it was lunch in the Narcissus Room and afternoon tea in the Walnut Room. The only counter service I remember distinctly was in the food court in the basement in the 90s, and an ice cream parlor sort of affair on 7, but again that was the 80s and 90s.” Marshall Field’s had more places that served lunch than supper because of attracting business people and people on the way home would often stop at the diner for coffee and pie before the long trek home. (Jean shared a copy of a floor plan but I couldn't insert it here.)
Yes, not all of these memories have dates, but that doesn’t matter. They’re all Marshall Field’s, and they’re all gone now. Although you could let me know if you find someone you know under the clock, because that clock (and its legend) is still there.
Janet Elaine Smith remembers the lemon meringue pie, and eating in the basement diner, the one that’s featured in my novel. It took some doing to find out more about this diner, though. One of my contacts who declined to be named said that the best bet for a diner was in the basement – just a little diner with a waitress and counter service. The Fountain Dinette was located in the Basement Store on the South State side of the building. Today this would be right below where the women’s cosmetics are sold and close to the subway entrance to the store. They had what was called bargain basement – not clearance items, but more like having a K-mart in the basement of a Macy’s.
Something that I didn’t remember at all until I was told: The store itself closed at 6 p.m. back in the 60s and was never open on Sunday.
Marshall Field’s would never discriminate, or like one fellow thought—that the basement shopping was for black people. That just wasn’t true. Anyone could shop anywhere and they liked it when people just explored and dreamed about what they could get someday. And also, you never knew when someone was going to become rich and you don’t want to shun anyone for not having the money at any time. Marshall Field’s loved the American dream.
Steve A. said that you went to Marshall Field’s because you lived in Chicago. But when I lived in Eau Claire, I went to Marshall Field’s because it was the only decent clothing store in town. Oh, they had others. But this was the only decent one. By 2005, though, that’s all it was. Just another Younkers. It’s hard to say when things began to change. Perhaps in the early 60s, when instead of a real tree, they began to put up an artificial one. Perhaps when they put Uncle Mistletoe to bed for the last time.
Jean noted: “Another thing I remember is that until the 1980s the store was pretty much stuck in the 1930s/40s. When I was little, it was sort of art deco glam, really elegant, you know? But by the 70s it was looking very down-at-the-heels and badly needed renovating.”
And it got renovation. Hinky Dink Kenna’s in the basement was opened as a brand new restaurant as part of a restoration of the entire State Street store between 1987-1992. During this restoration the lower level was transformed essentially from the bargain basement into the look and feel it has today. Gone was bargain basement. In 2003 InField sports bar replaced Hinky Dink Kenna’s.
Marshall Field’s was one of the first places you could say “charge it.” They had revolving credit even in the 1800s, but only for exclusive clients. You had to qualify and that was hard to do. People used to get Marshall Field’s to deliver just to show off to their neighbors. Jean Hibben remembers the first time she could say “charge it.” Marshall Field’s issued her credit when she was young and no one else would. She still remembers the pleasure of that day, a pleasure many of us regret now, I’m sure.
Yes, Marshall Field’s is a memory now, because times have changed. I still remember the shock and horror I felt when I heard that ALL Marshall Field’s had been taken over by Macy’s. But we can’t go back, as much as we’d like to. We can only remember.
|Posted by bebowreinhard on May 4, 2013 at 12:00 AM||comments (0)|
A low fat diet was the first suggestion when my doctor suspected my recent nausea was related to gallstones. Unfortunately, the advice came only days before I was to leave on the longest road trip I’d ever taken, and while she released me to travel, said that if I suddenly have a lot of pain I should go to the emergency room for a ‘shot’. I was determined not to have to do this, and maybe, just maybe, lose a little weight along the way.
I knew I was overweight. For my slender 5’8” (and shrinking) frame, I thought 160 pounds was just too much but it seemed no matter what I tried, I couldn’t lose more than a pound here and there, and in fact, my weight was such a yoyo that people suggested that maybe I retained water. Finally, my body decided to take matters into its gall bladder. “You eat too much fat!”
But taking this diet on the road was a real challenge, because it meant I could not stop at just any old restaurant I wanted and eat whatever, like I used to. In fact, the worst attack from stones came after eating in a restaurant in Escanaba, just any old fatty thing and eating it all because it tasted so good. But on the road, what are the options to a truck stop diner? I was on a budget and on a low-fat diet. Luckily, it meant I could afford to eat less, which is exactly what I needed to learn to do.
Wendys and Subways became my go-to restaurants for supper. Fast foods get a bad rap, and most deserve it. These two have low-fat options and charts to tell you what to pick to stay on your diet. When you go to McDonalds, you can ask for their nutritional chart—they put it on the under-side of the mat that goes on your tray where they put your food, so you don’t see it unless you ask. Unfortunately, none of their low-fats were low enough for me. But Wendy’s has a great salad, and Subway has all kinds of ways of building that low-fat sub. Once, though, at Wendys I took the chance and ordered something that was too new to be on their nutritional chart, and I suffered. I thought grilled flatbread couldn’t be too bad, but it was that cheese sauce that did it. Eventually I found I could be satisfied ordering their half salad. Mmmm, perfect.
We have to get over the idea that vegetables are not filling. It’s an odd American mindset, I think. You can make a whole meal out of vegetables and just add a dash of protein and feel satisfied. I did note, however, that if I did not have a small munchy before bed, I woke up starving in the middle of the night, or had trouble getting to sleep.
Now that I know how many grams of fat to watch for in every item (stay under 10) and how many to have at every meal (stay under 20), I can see all the foods that were staples in my life that did me in. I would make my own trail mix, and the bag of nuts contained 23 grams. And I did not pay attention to how much of it I ate every day. I would eat a whole 3-serving bag of Cheetos in one sitting! I’ve since discovered the 21-Cheetos rule is emphasized right on their bag, and I count now. I used to eat way too much for the size of my body—even after telling my husband to cut back on my portions he never did and I would always eat all of it because it tasted so darned good. Peanut Butter has always been a staple for me, but fortunately, that’s good fat. Still I’m cutting back and sometimes having turkey for lunch. I always loved Chinese buffets, but I can never look at them the same way again. I can never look at any foods again that I don’t make myself without a degree of fear that it will make me ill.
But I often ask—why me? Why did I get gallstones? I knew my eating habits weren’t the greatest, but they were certainly not the worst. I’m not a fan of sweets and stay completely away from soda. I drink my coffee black, and avoid alcohol, except for a good wine. When the doctor advised a surgeon for my troubles, I said, no, let’s try this diet first and see if that’s all I need.
So on this trip I discovered that chains were better than local restaurants, although, to be fair, I did eat at one local restaurant. She served me elk on a bun, and a salad, and I ate it, trusting that she told them no butter on the bun. But I lay awake all night just waiting to be sick. It didn’t happen. At a truck stop diner, I asked if she could get me the veggie omelet made without butter and she said, “Dunno.” I explained I was on a low-fat diet and there didn’t seem to be anything here I could eat and would have to leave and this old lady said, “Okay,” and took the menu back. Those were the only two locals, except for dining with friends in Silver City and having salads. Chains have the low-fat options in their menu to give travelers that port in the storm we picky eaters seek. We know we can find a meal that will work for us. But at the Denny’s I didn’t order one of the low-fats, but instead went with a turkey patty, no cheese, and I think the chipotle dressing was made with regular mayo. Live and learn. I just wasn’t in the mood for banana pancakes.
Grocery stores become your best friend while traveling. You know those great free breakfasts in motels? Forget it. You can’t eat that stuff. I did find out that regular cream cheese isn’t that fatty, and bagles have hardly any fat, so that gave me one option. Jams may have sugar, but no fat. And apples. Oh, apples! I hated apple juice in the past, but I’m getting over it. It turns out that apples will soften gall stones and reduce discomfort, and if you’re lucky, maybe they’ll even start to disappear. An apple a day? I hadn’t been eating them enough before this problem started.
Since most of my hotel rooms had fridges and microwaves, I took to buying things like bags of veggies and sliced turkey and making myself a little microwave meal, adding only salt and pepper to taste. With my low blood pressure, hopefully added salt won’t be a problem! I also found that beef and turkey jerky have hardly any fat, I bought my own low-fat bagels and I found low-fat crackers and chips. There are a lot of options out there but you just have to look for them.
Now that I’m home again, I’ve put myself on apple cider vinegar pills. There are other pills I’m going to check into as well. I found an herb supposedly used by native American Indians for gallstones called Pipsissewa, and supposedly bile salt pills help, which my doctor said can be had without a prescription. And then there’s the “cleanse,” which is a week long effort that involves drinking a lot of apple juice. I’m saving that one for last, though, because drink Epson Salts and Olive Oil sounds like it can make you quite nauseous. That’s got to be the reason they advise you going for a day without eating.
Why did I have to wait until I had problems before I learned to cut back on fat in my diet? For years I was trying to lose weight. I suppose you can just call me irresponsible, waiting for someone to advise this. When I got back from the low-fat trip I was down to 151.8 pounds and I look so much better. I still have some minor pain and nausea issues to remind me to keep at it. But I want to know why we have to treat eating as a pleasure instead of a necessity? There are people who just fill their time between meals and live for that pleasure of eating. People take such pleasure in the foods filled with fat and sugar that they don’t stop to think what it’s doing to them. When it tastes good, we eat more of it.
My husband took over the cooking years ago because he loves leftovers and I never made them. But he’s also an old dairy farmer whose mother loved fats. She died of pancreatic cancer. Now because of me, he has to change. But will he? Or will we gravitate to separate diets?
I will do all I can to keep from having my gall bladder removed. First, because it told me what was wrong with my diet. When I couldn’t lose weight, it forced me to. How can I remove a friend like that? Best advice I ever got. Second, because removing it is no guarantee you’ll feel better. All kinds of things can go wrong, and once it’s out, it’s out. So it’s important to try to heal naturally first.
The problem with the medical field today is that they don’t emphasis this. Their first response to my ultrasound was scheduling a surgeon. They did tell me how many grams of fat to eat, but did not give me one of those new diets on paper to follow. I’m still guessing whether I’m doing this right. To me there’s something terribly wrong with an attitude of surgery as the first resort instead of the last.
And there’s misinformation abounding in the things you read about the food you eat that you have to teach yourself how to decipher, too. I’m told granola bars are bad, but they’ve been my staple for breakfast for years. And if the bar says only 4 grams of fat, and low sugar, what’s the problem? If movie popcorn made me feel better after a weekend of illness, how can it be high in fat?
Yes, while you’re looking at low fat, you also have to look at sugar content, to make sure they haven’t used sugar to make up for the low fat. I’ve learned these are two different food attitudes. One cookbook I have for low-fat recommends Splenda—but isn’t that supposed to be bad, too?
Point of my experience is that we have to keep what’s normal for each of us in perspective. No one size fits all when it comes to the human body. If you can sense you’re not eating right, if you believe you have too much weight for your frame, then you do. Obviously my gall bladder just couldn’t keep pushing all that fat off. Time will tell if it will heal. I hope the damage is reversible. But I don’t have a doctor to tell me it is. And that’s a shame.
Maybe there are people out there who can handle the fat, but maybe they shouldn’t. Maybe my mother-in-law would be alive today if someone put her on a low-fat diet long before her body told her anything.
There are more options than you might think in a low-fat diet. And that’s a good thing, because you don’t want to starve to death. But reducing portions is the biggest benefit for me, and everything you buy will say “grams per serving,” forcing you to see just what a serving is. I can handle 21 Cheetos – and I can definitely handle any responsible food product that encourages me to do just that!
One thing for sure. I have lost weight, and that alone makes me feel good enough to stop the surgeon’s knife.
|Posted by bebowreinhard on April 1, 2013 at 10:15 AM||comments (0)|
It could be that Arabus Drake is not publishable. He’s coming out as a short story in Horrific History by Hazardous Press, but will likely largely be overlooked in the midst of much more "capable" offerings.
And even though I’ve made a lot of changes to the novel over the years some things about Arabus Drake remain constant to my vision for him. Now you might say that’s why he’s unpublishable, but it’s not like I haven’t come close. I’ve turned down bad contracts, and put up with bad agents. I’ve won bad awards from script contests. I know there’s potential here and I love listening to comments and suggestions. I’ve gotten rid of the alien storyline, reworked the past life musings, minimized the reader chat, deleted the second voice storyline—all from listening to other publishers and readers. These are not insignificant changes.
But recently Divertir asked me to remove the backstory from the beginning and weave it into the rest of the story. Now they may have meant weave it into the rest of the first story—Vrykolakas Journal is actually comprised of five romance horror tales. The first tale is about his life, death and becoming undead. It is the story featured in the movie script that I’m still circulating. In fact, this last edit brought out some good changes for the script and it will be sent to Austin Film Fest. In my mind, the story has to be the way it is because it establishes him as human, first, so readers can understand how he becomes who he becomes.
Divertir Publishing has now the “privilege” of being the first publisher I chatted with by phone. The editor gave me five changes he wanted to see, and this was one of them. I feel he was dead on with his other requests. These were things I held on to because I wanted to know how they were hitting people. But he had good points about them and I feel each of these changes has made the book stronger. You will, now that they’ve done a final rejection on it, see the first three chapters at that page here on my website.
He told me he was disappointed that I didn’t make that one change. But after we had talked on the phone last January, I sent him an email about what I felt I could change, and couldn’t. And I told him why I couldn’t change the first story that much. He did not respond to tht email. He could have said, well, then, don’t send it. He didn’t. I sent it, as I said I would, and he waited six weeks to tell me he couldn’t get past the first five chapters.
To be honest, I didn’t have a lot of faith that he would take it. In my opinion, a publisher has to be right there in a writer’s vision. And no matter how many times I told him why it’s set that way, he wouldn’t respond with any kind of recognition of that vision. Did I sit these six weeks and wait for his response, while expecting this no? Of course not. I have a full page of other publishers it’s also been sent to, and believe me, doing that wasn’t easy because it was always in the back of my mind, maybe he’ll get it now.
But now he says, because of my unwillingness to listen to him and even my belief that he wasn’t going to take it without that change, he doesn’t plan to offer comments to authors anymore. At first I felt guilty about that, but you know what? If a publisher doesn’t want to listen to an author’s reasons why such a thing is as it is, then maybe they shouldn’t offer comments but just go with things that are perfect to them right off.
Most of this is my own undoing, of course. He has rejected this two other times in the past, but always with nice comments. So whenever I made what I thought was a substantial change, I tried him again. I should have known better. But that's been one of the rules in submitting--if they make a nice comment, then you're close to having it right for them.
To publishers out there, and I’ve met a lot of you, don’t grab a piece because you think it might pay off, whether or not you understand it. And while it’s great that you can help make a book better, make sure you understand the book in the first place.
But working with Divertir was not a waste of time. I really appreciate the time he spent on this book, and I hope he changes his mind and works with others, too. But I also hope, if he does offer comments again, he also listens to the author’s voice.
I don’t ever plan to self-publish this novel. It can, and probably will, die with me. But I want every publisher to know that while making comments on a writer’s book is a wonderful thing to do, very appreciated, if you find an author who is so willing to change everything to meet your specific subjective taste, then have you really found a writer who’s worth anything at all?
Or maybe I'm just being stubborn.
|Posted by bebowreinhard on March 21, 2013 at 12:05 AM||comments (3)|
Okay, gang, first lesson in giving a paper at a conference. Don't set yourself up to be an outsider.
What does that mean? if you're a historian, do you belong with a group of archaeologists? Maybe. But only if you don't advertise that you're a historian. What do they need to know that for?
If you're in a group of Mesoamerican scholars, learn the lingo. Find someone who knows Spanish - I happen to have a Mexican stepdad I did not use - and practice those place names until the words just roll off your tongue. You will feel like a native, and no one will turn a deaf ear to your presentation.
This is just a handful of mistakes I made on the March 16 Mesoamerican Conference in Chicago. I also didn't take notes, so I couldn't walk around afterward and chat with people about the illuminating things I thought I heard them say.
I remained what I appeared--an outsider.
I don't expect most people to understand this. Most people aren't like me, poking my nose where it doesn't belong. But actually, it was very fortuitous that this opportunity came along when it did, because I wrote a piece for a website - at their request - and turned it in last January and they still haven't used it. Well, it was probably crap because I worked on it too quickly and gave myself an unrealistic timeline on a subject of which I knew little.
But this presentation allowed me to do the same material in a powerpoint, and actually, that's another thing. If I had stuck to the paper and not added all that material about connections, it might have been better, because it was a little controversial and no one knew me.
There were problems with this conference that I did not appreciate. I don't know if anyone ever heard me say if something's going to go wrong, it's going to happen to me? Well, first they didn't use nametags. I've always depended on those to help me find people I want to talk to. Without them I'd go, "Are you so-and-so? No?" And then move on to the next person. Uh-uh. And then with only 15 timed minutes apiece, there was no Q&A and particularly no time for rebuttal.
Such as in my case, where a presenter after me, one Helen Pollard, who apparently likes to criticize people, did not like two of my sources and let everyone know it. But Dorothy Hosler has done a lot more work on West Mexico copper and bronze than this woman and why should we listen to her? But we had to because she was loud and opinionated and "has been in the business for 40 years and has the right to pontificate." But to use the amount of tin per copper to declare that the Mexicans were only accidentally creating bronze? How does that not indicate they were entering a Bronze Age?
She also dislikes Dorothy Washburn's analysis of cacao residue in containers from Illinois to Florida, which I referred to as part of the trade network we know must have existed. She called that testing inadequate and likely contamination (eating a chocolate bar in the lab? Isn't there a difference?), even though the report came out in American Archaeology's last issue. This is ignorance of the idea that the further from the source, the less residue each container could have. Alice Kehoe was there because she begged a ride off me; good friends with Helen (they had lunch together without me at my request), she defended that postion, saying, "We know Dottie Washburn quite well." Well, if you do, why haven't you talked to her about this so she didn't reveal this information prematurely?
But anyway. Controversy happens in this field, right? And the Chicago Archaeology Society people were there and they said I can do my copper presentation for them in September anyway. I just promised I wouldn't use any Mesoamerican words.
And now - as I promised:
DISCLAIMER: There is a website out there that pretends to capture the essence of the Oconto Copper Burial museum, but which, I'm told (because I refuse to look) is so full of inaccuracies that one very devoted volunteer turned in her resignation because no one would fix it. For anyone who knows that I was once associated with that museum, I want you to know that anything related to that museum now is done without my input., and perhaps even exaggerated with the hopes of getting more visitors. There may yet be sites out there on which my name is still attached, and for that, I'm sorry, too. How will you know this offensive site? I'm told because it has more than the usual share of misspellings. Fair warning.
|Posted by bebowreinhard on March 6, 2013 at 10:10 AM||comments (0)|
Let’s start this debate off with a little quote from a well-researched novel about the Church’s attitude in 1215. “Her funeral, too, had to be held outside the church, for her body held an unbaptized infant, and the church must not be defiled.”
I’m going to say it out loud, because the previous attitude is so offensive. Just because Christians believe that every conception is a gift of God doesn’t give them the right to regulate someone else’s womb. This whole issue about birth control, including abortion, is about a woman’s right to choose her time to be a mother. But it’s more than that. It’s against the Christian idea that they have the right to control society. Normally I have nothing against Christians. But on this issue I do, and by the time you’re done reading this—if you read it with an open mind—you’ll understand the debate a little better.
Granted, this opening quote was from 1215 in Italy. But think about it—is it really so different an attitude than what pro-lifers promote today? I made a radical comment in a novel I wrote—about a girl out west in the 1800s who was raped by her father, gave birth, and the father strangled the child and never let her see it. There have been readers who have badmouthed the book and refused to read more because of this event, a pivotal event in a relationship that moves the story further. Why so incensed? Because it could never possibly happen? Of course it could, and did. Had this girl been allowed an abortion, a lot of grief and trauma could have been avoided. I don’t know how they did abortions in the middle 1800s, but by the late 1800s I know that abortion doctors were available. I found another novel set in the 1940s that claimed the use of a morning after drug.
Okay, sure, these were fiction books, so let’s look at some facts. A recent newspaper article indicated that 52% of Americans believe abortion should be legal under certain circumstances, 25% legal in all cases, and 20% legal in no cases. That is roughly the same breakdown they found in a poll conducted in the 1970s. The article also noted that, regardless of race, abortion is linked to hard economic times. This is the same rationale women have had about becoming mothers since the beginning of time—lack of food meant babies were often the first to die anyway.
But in today’s world, we need to factor in emotional maturity, because today’s unwed mother is so often left alone to fend for herself. And pro-lifers refuse to face that fact. They want to force that woman to bear the child but provide nothing to help her out afterward, unless she is willing to fall on the auspices of their church and plead eternity loyalty to their savior. Is it any wonder that newly born babies are often found abandoned?
If you believe that from the moment an egg is fertilized by sperm its life deserves to be protected until it is born and takes a breath, you’re a pro-lifer. Paul Ryan, former VP candidate, wants to give a fertilized egg the same legal rights as a breathing human being.
If you believe the pro-life movement wants to remove a basic freedom women have enjoyed since the beginning of time, the freedom to choose when they’re ready to be a mother, then you’re pro-choice. It doesn’t mean you’re pro-abortion. It means that what someone else does with their body is none of your business.
Here are some of the better-known statements on the right and left of the pro-life debate that we’ll look at, one by one.
1. “Who will speak for the innocent gift of God, the unborn, if we don’t?”
2. “Abortion is murder, and that gives us the right to interfere.”
3. “The newborn baby owes its entire existence to its mother.”
4. “Until it takes a breath, it is not an individual.”
5. “Did anyone ask to be born? No. But we have to make the best of it.”
6. “Children deserve to be born into loving arms.”
First: Speaking for the unborn. If you think you can speak for a fetus, imagine asking it this: Would you rather be born in a loving world, or an abusive environment? Would you like to take a chance with being dumped in a garbage can? It seems to me that pro-lifers believe we are killing a child’s only chance ever to be born. But if they’re religious, then they should know that the soul and consciousness is what makes a human being, and not just its physical matter. Also, an innocent infant that’s not baptized when it dies is still considered a child of God, unlike back in 1215. So even if what you believe is true, and it’s that child’s only chance, at least it’s not doomed. Instead it is spared a life of abuse.
But I believe that no fetus gains either consciousness or soul until those precious moments before, during or after birth. Consider the idea that taking its first breath is what draws in its soul. Isn’t that a beautiful thought? If you can comprehend this, you will understand why even the Bible considers life to be a breathing human being, an individual that can sustain life while still needing to depend on others for nourishment and feeding—any others, not just the birth mother.
So you do not speak for the unborn if you ask it to be born into a potentially unstable environment. You speak for a moral up-righteousness that you have no right to expound on others.
Second: Is it murder? It takes two people, a mother and father, to create another being. They and they alone are responsible for that life. Only the mother can speak for her offspring (and sometimes the father) until this breathing child is able to speak for itself. When that breathing human is born, it is still helpless but now it’s crying its demands and needs all the loving support that can be mustered. Being a parent of a newborn is extremely hard. It’s probably the hardest job a woman ever takes on. Carrying a child is nothing compared to caring for it after it’s born. It requires commitment and lots and lots of love.
My strongest argument in favor of birth control, including abortion, is that there is no one more helpless than a newborn infant, an eating machine that at first seems to cry incessantly because he doesn’t always know how to eat, or maybe he’s simply frustrated, too, at the birthing process and in pain from all the adjustment his body has had to make. The mother has to have extreme patience in those first months, while dealing with this squawking eating machine, especially if breast-feeding, along with a host of other problems, namely pain and maybe even a little post-partum depression.
Conception is not a gift from God, or every single fetus would be carried to term. Miscarriages happen all the time and some babies die at birth. They fail to survive breathing or die of other complications. Grieving women have a hard time coping with the loss of their lovingly anticipated offspring. Should we accuse them of murder? Did they do something wrong, causing the fetus to abort? Absolutely not. But how do we know that this mother, whose baby miscarries or dies at birth, really wanted it? Are we going to see every prenatal death as murder?
Conception is a biological process that we have in common with animals. What makes us different is our soul/consciousness. Animals have controlled patterns of mating—they don’t “do it all the time.” But humans have taken themselves out of nature, and with conscious thought patterns men can want and do feel those urges all the time. That means it’s up to the woman to control the sexual act, and also control whether or not it leads to offspring. Pro-choice is pro-responsible. A woman determines when she’s ready for children; no biological process can control that right.
How do other people, then, have the right to pass judgment, or force the process on someone who is terrified by the idea?
Let’s analyze this idea that “life begins at conception,” where at first the fertilization resembles just about any animal on the planet. Here’s a pro-life comment from the website American Life League:
While I agree with the concerns that should be expressed for any animal that appears to be abused by those caring for it, there is a line that must be drawn when it comes to personhood—a category of identity that refers to human beings. Among those who have made the point eloquently is Nancy Flanders, who wrote, “A ‘human being’ is defined as ‘any individual of the genus Homo, especially a member of the species Homo sapiens; a person, especially as distinguished from other animals or as representing the human species.’ There isn’t a definition of ‘human being’ that excludes the unborn.”
My question is how does this include the unborn? Of course it doesn’t say breathing, and even though a fetus represents many animal species when it starts out, only a human fetus can become a human individual. But conception in the womb is no guarantee of that, either.
This site also addresses their moral right to interfere in your life:
Excuse me, but I think you are confused. We are talking about an abortion, which results in the death of a person. We are not discussing a view, but rather a crime. Would you tell us that you personally oppose owning slaves, but would not mind if others did?
I think they’re confused because the last time I looked, abortion is NOT a crime. Their opinion that it is doesn’t make it one. Again, it is the mother’s responsibility and her business. The crime is one of interference. The crime is in the belief that the mother cannot choose when she’s ready for the enormous task. Here’s a list of repercussions when abortion rights are removed:
• Babies found in garbage cans and toilets. (crime)
• Environmental destruction (crime)
• Psychological damage/abuse (crime)
• Removal of wanted children from the world
• Forcing beliefs on others (should be a crime)
• Increased crime (caused by neglected children who turn into disturbed adults)
• Desperate measures taken to abort (kills otherwise healthy women).
Think hard before you consider what you’re calling murder.
Three: It is absolutely true that a child owes its entire existence to its mother. The dad is also needed to create pregnancy—the mom doesn’t do conception alone. But the dad can run off (and often does), leaving the mom to fend for the two of them, both during pregnancy, and after. Only the mom can breastfed, and more and more are breastfeeding these days because it’s cheaper, for one thing. Breast feeding ties you to that child 24 hours a day. At first, the baby is hungry every two hours. Sometimes you feel that’s all you do. If you don’t bring that child into a completely loving environment, this demand can become overwhelming.
A woman has an abortion not because she’s mean, but because she’s loving. She knows that a child deserves the right kind of environment. So what happens when you force her to bear young before she’s ready? She may have such a horrifying experience that she never does it again. So by making her bear one she doesn’t want, you are robbing her of the loving experience of having others she does want.
Conception is a completely biological mammalian process of sperm meeting egg, but animals can also choose when not to care for their young. Since about the beginning of time, animals and our human ancestors with and without consciousness have taken total command of when to nurture and when to abandon the pregnancy or the young. Once upon a time, women did not even know that men were making them pregnant. Ever hear of a “virgin birth?” That’s the concept. Women bore children as if by magic, or caused by the wind. Humans once traveled in packs and the men shared the child-rearing assistance, never knowing which were theirs. The women could share nursing duties, because wet nurses were more common.
Today, a woman goes it alone, except for those well-meaning people who give advice before turning back into their own busy lives again. She needs to be ready, because killing a breathing infant IS murder.
Fourth: Pro-lifers don’t seem to understand a basic biological necessity. No breath, no life. A woman can go those nine months only to see her baby stillborn. It happens. No breath, no life. Until it makes that separation from the woman to become its own individual it is a part of her—completely dependent on her blood and breath. Once it is born and breathing on its own, then it is life. Then it is placed in its mother’s crying joyful arms, a real gift of whoever her god or goddess may be.
But what happens if everyone is convinced that “life” begins at conception? Well, first, it is more devastating to miscarry. A mother can become more paranoid about everything she does while carrying, rather than believing the child will be fine if it’s meant to be. A reluctant mom might even seem thrilled, at first, when the child is born because the adrenalin of childbirth is running on high, or she may simply turn away and not be able to watch, eyes filled with tears, as her child is taken away to someone else. She may try her darndest to love the kid, only to begin a cycle of abuse, or she may, as she heals, regret giving it up. She may give birth in secret and abandon the child, to die or be found—which is happening yet today because some are fearful of the stigma of admitting they’re pregnant.
Caring is a remarkable feeling, and giving birth is a beautiful thing—if the child is wanted. But only a mother can truly CARE for her young. For everyone else, it’s pretense. Yes, adoptive families are most often loving ones (although I have known failures). Adoptive children fill a gap. But there will always be things about that adopted child the parent will never know, forcing that child out to seek her birth parents.
The mother/child relationship is a remarkable one—when it works. When it doesn’t, it’s horrendous. Child abuse is one result. Suicide, murder, abandonment, crime, psychosis, you name it. All kinds of bad things can come from forced motherhood. A friend, Marisa, shared with me the research done by Steve Levitt that determines that crime rates dropped 18 years after Roe vs. Wade. You can see more here: http://qje.oxfordjournals.org/content/116/2/379.abstract
Fifth: Does anyone ask to be born? According to some, it’s God’s will, and we are just to make the best of it. No, no one asks. It just happens. These bodies that our souls inhabit are just a matter of luck. If I hadn’t gotten this body, I would have gotten another one. In fact, I used to have tantrums when I was two, and I think that this could have been frustration of learning what body I was in. I don’t know too many tantrum-throwers, but I have a hunch they’re people of high sensitivity, like me.
The problem is in believing that every conceptive moment is sparked by God, and that aborting means undoing God’s will. It’s not God’s will. If it was God’s will, then Romney would have won. Heck, that praying quarterback would have won. God only observes. We act. We do. We create. And what we create, we better be ready to take responsibility for. Would God create a baby only to be abandoned in a garbage can? What kind of God are we talking about here?
Abortion has a very long history, indicating that women have always believed they had the right to choose motherhood. But then Christianity stepped in and made it a forbidden act, by converting those “pagans.” Aside from the crime rate caused by unwanted and abused children, do you know what women had to go through before Roe vs. Wade? Doctors were sought who would perform abortions in closets (figuratively speaking), coat hangers were used by those desperate for do-it-yourself … I would bet some very dangerous substances were ingested as well. Women died in desperation because of the fear of bringing a child into an undesirable circumstance. And we’ve mentioned the occasional dead baby found in the garbage, or flushed down the toilet because of the terror of women unable or unready for the responsibility, and fearful of the stigma of pregnancy.
Sixth: Birth abandonment continues today, even with abortion rights. Why? Because people condemn women for accidentally creating potential life they weren’t ready to carry. Help them get birth control, instead. Have you heard that abortions are down? Another report in the newspaper on 11/22/12 noted the biggest decline due to increased use of contraceptives.
But pro-lifers are against birth control, too, and are likely outraged by doctors who agree that birth control pills should be sold over the counter. “Control yourself, woman! If you don’t want a child, don’t have sex!” But aren’t you against prostitution and gay coupling, too? For heaven’s sake, are you condoning rape? In today’s world, we cannot afford to be against birth control. We need to protect the sanctity of motherhood so that those babies born are welcomed into loving hands. Since Roe vs. Wade we’ve seen women given the ability to make the right choice—for them. They get counseling on all aspects of their decision.
Here is from the Planned Parenthood website:
Our primary goal is prevention — reducing the number of unintended pregnancies, especially the alarmingly high number of teenage pregnancies, in the United States. At the same time, to protect their health and the health of their families, women facing an unintended pregnancy must have access to safe, legal abortion services without interference from the government. Decisions about childbearing should be made by a woman in consultation with her family and doctor — not by politicians.
Insistence that they must have access to planning their parenthood is NOT the same as insisting they have the abortion.
I know a Catholic woman whose husband left her after their 6th child was born. He couldn’t handle the financial burden anymore. She fell onto the mercy of her church for help, and on her father. The only way to stop that Catholic woman from having babies was by removing the man in her life.
I saw a mother the other day at a grocery store with five children five and under. And all I could do was shudder. My dad felt the strain of having five—shortly before he died he found a job that he felt could support us. He died when I was 14 and my youngest sister was 3. My Catholic mother may well have had more, even though we couldn’t afford it.
As a babyboomer in a generation just coming to terms with free sexuality, I had friends in high school who aborted and other friends who responded to their pregnancy by getting married shortly after graduation. The two who aborted went on to have three children each and are to this day still with their spouses. They were fortunate that abortion was available to them, at a time when birth control was not. Their children are happy and productive members of society. The two who had to get married are both divorced; one’s husband became abusive; the other went through excruciating mental anguish during and after the separation when she learned he was cheating on her.
I also know people who had happy forced-birth stories. But the point is that it’s the individual’s right to choose the story that’s right for her. Had the two who didn’t abort been forced to abort, they would have lived with guilt all their lives. Had the two who aborted been forced to give birth, the world would have lost those later children who were wanted.
And then there was that poor Indian woman in Ireland who died in late 2012 because a Catholic hospital there refused to terminate her pregnancy when it was obvious she was miscarrying. For three days the fetus’s heart kept beating so they said no, abortion was illegal. There was no chance of saving the child because she was miscarrying and they knew that. Finally the baby died and the pregnancy was terminated—and Savita Halappanavar died of septicemia, blood poisoning, four days later.
She was not Catholic and the baby could not be saved. She was already at a hospital, so why didn’t they know the potential dangers of delay? Perhaps they accused her of deliberately miscarrying and this was a form of punishment. Think about it—Ireland’s law states no abortion unless the mother’s life was threatened. Why didn’t they realize she was threatened here?
The point of pro-choice, then, is not to STOP people from having babies. It’s to understand the seriousness of the mother/child relationship and allow the mother to say when it’s her time.
Pro-lifers think everyone has to give birth because they and their God will be offended otherwise. But their God does not belong to everyone. This is the heart of the matter. They want everyone to believe as they do so they can get over this feeling that they just might be wrong. People who are comfortable with their spirituality have no need to push their beliefs on others, which is what pro-lifers are trying to do.
Does any child want to be born unwanted? How can anyone presume to know what a fetus wants? They believe their God is speaking through them to stop abortion. They’re wrong. God’s gift to us is the healthy child born into a loving relationship. Perhaps the biological process is God-given, but we are given free choice to do what we want with our bodies.
My friend Claire in the UK says pro-lifers there are not necessarily religious. They believe in the two-cell-is-life theory from a more scientific standpoint. I do not know how to respond to them. You call it life just so you can interfere in other people’s lives? Maybe you’re just a busybody, then. So a scientist who would think nothing of spaying or neutering a dog or cat feels that every match-up of sperm to egg must be preserved? I don’t see the logic. You say too many cats or dogs are ruining the environment? What about too many people? Do you know how many are starving right now, at this moment? Where’s the real crime?
Realize that if you force women to have babies they don’t want, you have to take responsibility for those babies. You have to make sure that child is loved and cherished and doesn’t develop any psychoses for the next 18 years or more. Are you up to that? And not just for one baby—for all the babies you save that are misplaced, misused, abused, and end up asking without answer, “Did I ask to be born?”
No one is going to be forced to have an abortion. That might be the biggest fallacy out there. But to say we want to be free to have guns and defend ourselves and in the same breath take away a woman’s control of her own body is an arrogance that only an insensitive man can devise—and when women listen to these kinds of men, they are engaged in mental abuse, whether they know it or not.
I’m not a fan of abortion after the first trimester, at which time the woman should be given adoption counseling. I also would not allow any woman to keep a child if she has sought a way to abort it after it has started kicking, because then you are putting that child’s life at risk—for real. In the first three months there is the greatest risk of spontaneous abortion, what we call miscarriage because obviously we don’t like the term abortion for anything.
I long for the day when there is no need for abortion, because of easy access to birth control, lots of sexual activity training by the time the girl is menstruating and same age for boys, an open conversation and dialog about this most important of duties, and free birth control and morning after drugs readily available.
But personally, I would rather see Christianity disappear than hear one more of its radicals say that they have the right to stick their hand over another woman’s vagina.
|Posted by bebowreinhard on February 20, 2013 at 9:55 AM||comments (0)|
QUIET ON THE SET! This is a take! Movie directors really DO say things like that. Feed the Fish, with Tony Shahloub, filmed in Door County in Wisconsin in early 2009, is a movie about writer’s block being cured by a chilly New Year’s Day plunge into Lake Michigan—a tradition in this ‘thumb’ part of Wisconsin. I signed up to be an extra, not knowing about this plunge part, and of course the plot turned out to be a little more complex than that. But I knew, as a local community actress, being an extra in a movie filmed locally was too good an opportunity to pass up.
After I signed on and got my dates, neighbors warned me that I’d be asked to plunge. My first thought was no way! Actually, that was my second and third thought, too. But I was too committed to the idea to back out. I spent a long frigid drive with my windows down, trying to adjust to the idea.
When I got there I learned we were doing diner scenes. I walked into the restaurant and looked around, wondering who would notice how well I could enter a restaurant. Wrong restaurant. This was Work Central, where the extras hung out and the techies watched things on laptops. Where the food was set up for the people who got paid to be there. Great. No pay AND no food. But what the heck, this was my big break, right?
Finally, after three hours of trying to make small talk, my turn came to shoot a scene. Instead of magically transforming Work Central into Dining Central, they took us across the street to a picture perfect diner for the ‘reel’ shoot. Nope, no sign of Tony Shahloub yet.
They took about 15 of us and then broke us into parties of diners. Twos and threes only, please. I walked in using my film-perfect stroll, only to discover they weren’t rolling yet. The two guys I was paired with—which one should I pretend I was married to?—took our seats at the table reserved for us, in front of plates of real food. And we were hungry.
“I wouldn’t eat that if I was you,” one set crew lady whispered. “It’s been sitting around all day.”
I wasn’t going to touch it after second glance. Someone had nibbled on mine. They couldn’t trust me to nibble?
Since we weren’t sure when they were going to start rolling film we held some reasonable breakfast chatter—although I feared they were also going to want us to pretend to eat that stuff. Now that would be acting. For which we weren’t being paid.
All of a sudden we heard “strike that table!” and as we looked around, realized they were talking about us. That included me. Our table was in the way.
So off the set we walked. We were told that was it, we were done for the day. The two fellows with me said they couldn’t come back tomorrow, but I had booked a room back in Sturgeon Bay after being told I’d be needed both days. I killed time at a winery.
The next day we started at 8:30 but I got there at 7:00 a.m. because I missed the call saying filming would be delayed. As I sat at Work Central no longer trying to chat, groups were taken out to the diner. Not me. Finally I was left with three other guys. Everyone else was in the diner. The time kept ticking away and I wondered how they’d explain overlooking me for both days. I realized they wouldn’t, because that’s “show biz.”
Finally the casting director walked over to me. “Come with me.”
I stood and looked around. “No one else?”
“Just you, come on.”
As we walked across the street I felt like I was on my way to an execution. I want to be with other people! She took me in a different door this time and sat me down alone at the counter. The director came over and explained the scene.
“You’re just sitting here enjoying your coffee.”
“I can do that, I thought. It’s cold, I just came in…,” but he didn’t care to hear about my acting and directing experience.
“Take off your gloves. And your coat.”
“Okay, I’ve been here awhile, I’m no longer cold.” I sat back and made myself comfortable.
“You’ve got coffee, drink it.”
“I’m still cold?” I started to lose my method.
“Quiet on the set, action!”
I looked at the door as it opened—well, what diner wouldn’t? There stood Tony Shahloub in his sheriff garb. I nodded at him and went back to my coffee, retaining the expression of a non-star-struck resident of this make-believe little village. I overheard the conversation he had with an actress—an explosion? I looked over at them, as any good diner would, thinking, what’s going on? Did someone die?
The director waved frantically at me. Me? Why would he care about me? I’m just an extra.
After the scene was over he came to me. “You don’t look at them. It looks like you’re looking right at the camera.”
After a few minutes (seconds really, I’m sure) explaining that I thought I was a local who would be interested in any unusual conversation, especially one that includes the word ‘boom,’ he yelled, “get her a piece of pie!”
“Oh, that’s not necessary, if you don’t want me to look, I won’t look.”
“We want you eating pie in this scene.”
While Tony paced around behind me, getting into character, my place was set—plate, fork, napkin, gloves, water, coffee. I added the gloves. Then they took a photo of it. “Continuity.”
After every take, someone looked at the photo and put everything back in its place. Except—the pie slice was getting smaller. I adapted and started eating smaller pieces. Not hard. I wasn’t hungry anymore.
Tony went out on the fifth take and BAM! Nailed his character. Compared to the first four takes, the differences was amazing.
Then we had to make diner noise for 30 seconds—I could clink my fork to my plate and actually tell the waitress to bring me more coffee, which she had done in every previous take. In her diner noise, though, she told me to get screwed. They then had us do 30 seconds of complete silence. Amazing how their camera microphones can record silence.
I never did get to do the plunge, but maybe that was a good thing. By that time, I would have sunk like a rock.
When you go see the movie, and I’m sure you’ll want to, I’ll be the crazy lady eating pie while everyone else reacts to Tony’s story.
At least now I know the meaning of the expression “shut your piehole.”
(FIrst posted 10/8/2010)
|Posted by bebowreinhard on January 31, 2013 at 12:15 AM||comments (0)|
Is there a connection between the lack of media attention to author’s press releases and self-publishing? Somehow, I think so.
It was about a decade ago, I think, when a friend of my husband’s self-published her own novel. She’s not a writer, and never had any intention of trying to find a traditional publisher, but wrote it, had a friend edit it and put it out there, so she could say she was an author.
Since that time, the number of self-published authors have sky-rocketed, and some are gaining notoriety. I can’t give figures and frankly, it doesn’t matter how many, or how some people break that self-publishing stigma—I suspect they did a lot of traditional marketing first. But this self-publishing trend is now one that cannot be stopped. There’s the logic: Why give your novel to a traditional publisher who’s going to get half, or more, of your profits, when you can pay a measly (?) amount and keep all the profit? And now there’s Amazon KDP, which means you don’t have to pay anything up front, and Amazon will let you keep as much as 70% of the profits.
A self-publisher’s dream, no? More like a nightmare, from my experience.
A writer is the absolute worst judge of her own material. I cannot tell you how many people I’ve heard who say they had to pull their work to do another edit, or fix something. I had to do that myself with a short story I published at KDP. It wasn’t ready, but I thought it was, and I had two people from my writer’s group go through it first. Didn’t help. Wasn’t ready.
But the real problem isn’t that people self-publish. Hey, more power to ‘em. The real problem is that they try to legitimize their work in a press release where they hide the fact.
Yes, I said HIDE the fact that they published it themselves in their attempt to get the free publicity by sending it out to as many newspapers and magazines and websites that they can. Do they say “I’ve just self-published my novel, please publish my press release.” Why not? Because the stigma of being self-published is still there, and it will always be there, as long as there are ways to publish yourself without any kind of critical comment on whether you’re ready to be published.
Let’s face it – whether we are traditionally published or self-published, we have to do a lot of the publicity and marketing ourselves. Unless it’s a major contract with a big house, most traditionally published authors are not going to appear on Jay Leno or even the Daily Show. For this reason, and more, writers turn to self-publishing, figuring either they need an agent or they have to self-publish (which of course isn't true, which I've already covered).
But self-published authors have a bigger challenge because there’s no one else who stands to make money if they do well - - no one who validates their efforts by taking a chance on them. And that leads to the need to hide that fact to get the publicity. They are self-validated, and if a newspaper publishes even one press release on a self-validated book that turns out to be crap, they might well hesitate to take another from any author.
If authors are happy enough to do it all themselves, why not just claim that pride in their press release?
(Of course, the other problem with local papers, like mine, is that they don’t want to use the room for local things anymore, especially not something where that someone should be paying for an ad. Space is so limited, and so is their staff. I can’t get ours to even post news about our writing group anymore, as they used to. )
So now, when those of us with a traditionally published novel send out a press release, do we have to say we are traditionally published so that we can get the attention traditionally published authors used to get? Well, I’m gonna give it a try.
Or ask my publisher to do it. Maybe someone will listen to them.
|Posted by bebowreinhard on January 19, 2013 at 5:20 PM||comments (0)|
I lost interest in Christmas. Really, Christmas had been in my life since forever, and even after my father died on Christmas Eve, it was still something we celebrated every year. Even when I lost my faith, I still felt it was something I had to do because everyone else was doing it and I didn’t want to look weird, or have my kids look weird. It was already hard enough on them that they were recognized as not attending any churches in this very Republican and Christianized neck of the north woods.
So Santa Claus, and yes, The Jesus Story, were a part of our tradition, along with my trying to tell them things about the Grandpa they’d never know and who I know would have loved them.
But something happens when all your kids grow up and move away—something that maybe a lot of people can relate to—holidays lose their meaning. And when those kids decide not to exchange presents or even come home for a day or two, then the holiday really basically dissolves into nothing. In fact, no one in our circle wanted to exchange presents anymore, except a couple of sisters who live in Phoenix.
So I thought it was time to celebrate the true meaning of the holiday. It was time to find Saturnalia. But where to look? I admit, I’m not the slightest bit Roman, but I don’t really know any other pagan festivities this time of year, although I’m sure there are others. When I did a little research I discovered some of the fun stuff, and then decided to make up the rest of what turned into a five day ritual.
Amazing things happened in those five days, too. Well, maybe not amazing, but considering that we were creating our own ritual for the first time, the little things became big things that we could enjoy immensely. See if you can make some magic happen for you next year by celebrating Saturnalia. The rituals do not interfere with Christmas, but if you’re like me, can give you an alternative if Christmas magic has disappeared for you.
It all started five days before the Winter Solstice. Now remember, this is an adaptation of rituals I found online, so I did some of the things I found, and added more. Actually, we started even before that, because by the time of the 5th day before Solstice, I made sure that all my loved ones had a candle, which is necessary because the darkest day of the year is coming and I didn’t want them to be in total darkness.
So on the 17th, about an hour before dusk, we got outside and put out all the decorations. We don’t trim a tree in the house, but we trim them outside. It’s a way of getting nature to celebrate with us, without us causing any damage to Her. So we’re out there, hanging up all the weather resistant stuff we had, some garland and beads and silver balls—there’s no snow on the ground—and we were also supposed to dance in the street. I did that a little more enthusiastically than my husband, I must say. Most of this he went along with, like a trooper, not being Pagan like me. But he was happy enough to try to start our own rituals.
Anyway, at one point I got out of the street because of a car, and I waved very enthusiastically at him. And then we went back to decorating. A little bit later, still before dusk, this same fellow comes back and asked if everything was all right. He thought with the way I was waving, we must have needed help. I don’t know him—but thank you! That was really sweet.
We ran back inside in time to light the candles to chase away the dusk. We turned all the lights off in the house to see how long we could last by candlelight alone. Not long—it’s devilishly hard to cook by candlelight.
One ritual I got from searching on Saturnalia was my husband’s least favorite—we had to switch roles. That meant that I had to cook and he had to do dishes. I set up the week of meals with groceries making things I felt I could handle. That first night we had steak and champagne. Then came the next tradition—exchange of gifts of appreciation. Each night we were to exchange one, and believe me, my husband had to get creative because he’s not big on buying gifts.
Then we had to spend some time together. No just going to watch TV, and in fact, I pretty much gave up working on my computer every night during Saturnalia, except while he was doing dishes. That first night we played two-handed Oh Hell. We were also supposed to have orgies every night, but at our age, after the second night we got a little tired.
Anyway, every night at dusk we light candles. The second night we had brats and beer. Yes, me! I had beer for the first time since I turned 19 and hard liquor became legal. I got through a bottle and a half before I gave up. We played Cribbage.
I was using my Iphone Siri to ask the time of sunset but began to get suspicious when she gave the same time every night. I hate to say I was close enough, so next year I’ll find a way to be exact. I thought it would be fun to see the days getting shorter, and then after the 21st getting longer again, and it would have been, had that worked right.
On Wednesday, the third day, we treated ourselves and took a break. We went out for dinner, and ate at a place we’ve never been before—Chef Chu. We had a great time, beating the storm we knew was coming, and chatting with the waiter about why we were there. And when we got home we watched a movie together. I don’t remember what. I don’t remember the gifts, either, because it’s the being together and sharing and breaking routine that mattered—all things that we hoped we make the days start getting longer again and not keep the Earth plummeting toward eternal darkness.
In other words, all in good fun.
On Thursday, I had pizza planned, but I threw a lot of extra toppings on it and I swear it was the best pizza I ever had. Drinks were pink lemonade and vodka, but to be honest, too much pink lemonade is NOT a good idea. I think that night we played Trivial Pursuit.
Also that day the first December blizzard hit, effectively eating our ornaments outside. It was like Mother Nature was showing us who really had control of the celebration. We have since managed to gather everything back inside for next year.
By the time Friday the 21st rolled around, we were getting pretty tired. But I went out to once again dance in the street, and I brought my camera to take a photo of another gift, a beautiful sunset on a snow-covered road. I had planned Indian Tacos and Margaritas, but never thought ahead to what kind of glasses to use and didn’t buy lemons because I don’t want a four-pack. We got unexpected gifts that day—glasses I had ordered came that were perfect for margaritas (rock glasses) and my sister sent lemons and oranges. What a perfect way to celebrate our last day.
But I have to say that I felt this tremendous feeling of uplifting satisfaction when the week was over, like we really accomplished something. It wasn’t just that we were celebrating Saturnalia. It was that we were doing ritual that meant something to us. And I even got a gift from Mother Nature—I came up with an eclipse idea for one of my stories, did the research and found there actually was an eclipse in the time period that I needed.
Best of all was the symbolism of the fortune cookie I got at the end of the week. “You look happy and proud.” How’d it know? Gone was the letdown I always felt after Christmas. I think that if I were to do Christmas again, I would want to do it like this. But I can see the need to really believe in the ritual, too, rather than just going through the motions.
Part of the ritual was in asking Mother Earth to forgive us our trespassing on Her, and I think part of my joy was the feeling of being forgiven, just a little.
|Posted by bebowreinhard on January 9, 2013 at 11:05 AM||comments (0)|
I admit it—I thought chocolate was one of the downfalls of dieting, but last night I was depressed about my Marshall Field’s research. Since I was still hungry after supper, naturally since I’m cutting back on intake, I opened the box of Frango assorted chocolates and proceeded to try every one of the five varieties.
Dark chocolate is really good with wine, I found out.
But I suffered the rest of the night feeling out of sorts for over-indulging and had a selzer water before bed which I thought would help.
The next morning, January 9, 2013, I feared getting on the scale, and to my extreme surprise, I learned that I had obtained my lowest weight of the entire winter! The last time I got down to 156 was on November 16!
Wait a minute, I can hear you asking. How do you know that?
It’s another dieting trick and I just had it validated in the current issue of Health. Keeping track of your weight every day, and correlating gain or loss to what kind of eating day you had, will clearly show you what works and what doesn’t and you can try and nip weight gain in the bud as it happens. How else will you know what works and what doesn’t if you don’t keep a weight journal?
I know now chocolate works for me. I’ve been avoiding it for years.
I have a kind of up and down weight pattern, actually, but back in 2005 I was at 162 lbs and climbing. Then I got a job working at Carlsbad Caverns and went down to 139. I know I can do it, but I know I can’t work that kind of job again. So I have to find something else that works.
I never thought it would be chocolate.
So now, with my weights, and my cardio workouts and my Striiv pedometer and my weekly gym visits (I live out of town or would do that more often), I will make sure I don’t skip breakfast, and for today, at least, I will add a Frango chocolate—just one—after every light meal.
I got rid of sourdough bread, one of my favorites, and peanut tastes fine on whole grain with flaxseed and even in pita bread. I will avoid chips like the flu that’s been going around.
And in my daily weight book I will note how I did that day in eating and see what works—and what doesn’t. If not for keeping track, I would never have known that chocolate is indeed my friend.
But that doesn’t mean I’ll try soda next.
|Posted by bebowreinhard on December 24, 2012 at 10:30 AM||comments (2)|
I don’t like getting presents from other people because only I know what I really want or need. What does that say about me?
Is that a special kind of selfishness -- that I don’t like getting from others so that they can experience the joy of giving?
Christmas used to be fun, back when I was a kid. Back then, because our family never had much money, we liked everything we got, and our parents never wasted money on unnecessary stuff. After my dad died on Christmas Eve (or it could have been Christmas Day, I’ve never asked the exact time) it began to lose its fun and its meaning.
But then I had kids and of course in this society if one doesn’t buy into the Santa thing -- the Jesus thing is easier to ignore, which says a lot about our society -- our kids, especially in school, are made to feel like outsiders.
So we were able to deck our house with Santa and sing, even the religious Christmas carols, with abandon.
My children are grown and gone now and all have decided it’s not worth coming home for Christmas. And that could be because I always added that touch of melancholy at Christmastime that they couldn’t begin to share. I don’t blame them. I blame me. I blame the unreal expectations that this time of year brings me.
I went to bed Christmas Eve in 1967 begging Jesus to give my dad back -- that was the only present I wanted under my tree. But Mom woke us up, I don’t know what time but I sensed after midnight, to tell us he had died. I loved my dad with the kind of reckless abandon of a girl who would never come to know that kind of love again, and found myself dragging through life, for a while after that.
So Christmas ever after brought that intense excitement followed by extreme letdown – all that preparation for one or two days of exchanging gifts. Because that’s all Christmas became to me. If you don’t find some family traditions to fill those days both before and after Christmas, then what’s it really for? We couldn’t find anything beyond shopping, singing (which I had to force out of my family) and wrapping and unwrapping. Christmas should not be forced. But because my kids weren’t raised with religion as I was, Santa was all it was, not those silly Jesus songs.
Gradually family began to leave, or to reject the exchange gift idea. I never could. I wanted to keep giving long after anyone else, and then they would get mad because they didn’t get me anything. They don’t get that I don’t want anything, because what I really want cannot ever be fulfilled.
I want them to be there for me, year round. I want to be able to talk to them, to lean on them, when I’m feeling low. I want them to understand. And if they can do that, then I want to show my appreciation to them in the only way I know how, by giving them something at a very special, giving, time of year.
That’s what Christmas, to me, is supposed to be. But instead I get yelled at for giving.
This year, the first year without any of my children to celebrate with, I decided instead to be who I’m meant to be, and celebrate Saturnalia—a kind of pagan ritual that is a personal celebration to those who feel their spirituality is personal. It wasn’t easy to find any traditional celebration ritual, but I did read that Romans celebrated started the 17th and partied for a week. The parties included the idea of role reversal, which appealed to me. So I set up a week-long celebration with my husband, who was game, and at the end, I felt that rush of happiness that Christmas never brought, not even when my kids were little.
Gone was the let-down of my father’s death, and maybe, finally, I can bury him.
So this year Christmas to me is to give where I feel giving is appropriate and not where it isn’t, and to enjoy family that I do have around me, in whatever way they choose, and in my quiet times, remember those who are gone. No presents under the tree. There are none. And that’s okay.
“Memories are wonderful things. They’re always there when you need them.”
So I don’t feel selfish in not wanting to receive presents. It’s just because there is nothing I can be given that would help diminish all my feelings of loss. Just be there for me. That’s all I ever want. As I want to be there for you, too.
Happy Holidays and a Blessed 2013 to everyone.