Mickey D & the Olympics

Maybe it is just me, but at the last Olympic, winter, games there were ads declaring that McDonalds was an official restaurant, or food, of the Olympics?  I pondered this at the time but never got around to writing about it and then the moment had passed.  And now there are ads proclaiming that McDonalds is a proud sponsor of the United States Olympic team.  As I say, maybe it’s just me but does this strike anyone else as oxymoronic?

Here are some of the fittest folks in the world, being sponsored by the purveyor of some of the least healthy food on the planet; the food of all evil.  We are in an America increasingly caught up in health crazes, diet crazes, food fads in some spectrum of society and increasingly and unrelentingly morbidly obese across many groups. Just take a walk through most Walmart stores and your self esteem will increase by 100%.

So while restaurants and brands are madly advertising that things are “natural” “organic” “gluten free” and “gmo free”  (a blog for another day) these elite athletes are, dare we say it, eating McDonalds? Is this a great leap to some kind of food legitimacy for the fast food chain?  First they start offering apples in their kid’s meals, then salads, now the olympics. While I don’t begrudge the Olympic athletes any support wherever it can be found, and I think apples are a great idea, we should not be fooled into thinking this is good food.  Even if you are a committed carnivore this is not good food.  It is processed, frozen, pre-prepared. As brands like Panera strive to convince us we are going back to clean and fresh, we seem to be farther than ever from just cooking fresh real food for ourselves.

Dont be fooled, fast food is fast for a reason. And most of us don’t burn 5000 calories a day or more working out.

Things Your Father Wants You To Know #5 ~ Be A Man

That is a loaded concept in our culture. In the time of our fathers it meant things like always walking on the street side of a date so her dress doesn’t get splashed, and going down in a fight when someone slighted you, your wife, your girl, your family in any way. In many ethnic groups it meant revenge and in America generally it meant that men didn’t whine about feelings or express emotion in any significant way.

The world has changed a lot in some ways and not so much in others. You should still walk on the street side of a date and do old fashioned things like opening doors and at least offering to pay on a date. The other stuff is not so simple to figure out.

Fighting is not the first best way to defend yourself. If you or someone you love is wounded by words, then it takes a big man to ignore those words, reject those words and walk away from the speaker. If the wounds are caused by “hate words”, towards you or anyone, it takes a courageous man to speak up against those words, to refuse to allow hate speech to go unanswered. If someone violates what you believe in, it takes conviction to stand up for your principles. This last will be tested many times over in your lifetime. How you live your principles is one definition of what it takes to be a real man.

If you are attacked physically, use your mind first and then, if you must, fight back. If you can walk away from a fight, do it. But always defend those weaker and more helpless than you are. You have always stood up for friends or others you thought were being mistreated, never stop doing this; it makes a difference in the world, in people’s lives.

We have already talked about loving with all your heart. Be a generous lover (see your Grandmother’s advice!). Marry someone you would die protecting, that’s how you know its real; you will understand this when you have children because they are the only people you would choose over your partner if you had to make the choice. Protect those children fiercely and without reservation no matter what the personal cost; they will always remember that you did.

Make up your own mind about everything. Read, research, discuss whatever it is you want to know about and then make a decision. There are almost no irrevocable decisions in this life and you will make ones that turn out to be wrong. It takes a real man to admit a mistake, learn from it and move on. Nobody escapes mistakes but many people make the same ones over and over. Don’t just take the advice of your friends who probably have not done the research; or of anyone else unless you respect the depth of their knowledge. Have your own opinions and be gracious about listening to those of others, you might learn something.

Don’t be afraid to feel and don’t be afraid to show it. There is a time for emotions and feelings and a time not. Keep your feelings to yourself at work, most jobs value your intellect and your opinions about the job, not so much your feelings. In your personal relationships, let those feelings out, they matter and will make you a much more attractive man.

Real men love with open hearts and show it; real men use their brains and not their fists whenever possible; real men fight for what they believe in; real men are all different, not cut from some cultural mold that told them what to be. Real men are fully their own selves ~ so be a man.

Things I Want My Son To Know #20- What Is Polite

The standards of polite vary, depending on many things. Who are you with? Where are you? What are the expectations in that time and place?

Most importantly remember that no matter what the standards seem to be, no matter how they seem to be changing, some things are always rude. Some ways of acting are always polite. Holding the door for the person behind you is always polite. Looking someone in the eye while they are talking to you is always polite. Texting at the table is always rude. Texting while someone is talking to you is always rude; despite the fact that people seem to think its fine. When you are talking to someone, look them in the eye, give them your full attention. Dropping a call to take another is always rude; the second person can wait. Return your calls and answer your e-mails. And though they may be old fashioned, thank you notes make people feel really good.

A little trickier is the whole man/woman dating thing. Different kinds of women, raised in different kinds of home, expect different kinds of politeness. But trust me, offering to pay for a meal on a date is always okay. Opening a car door is so old fashioned that most women will love it. Walk on the street side so you get splashed, run over, whatever, and not your date. Pull out her chair in a nice restaurant and let her precede you through a door. Most young women will never have been treated with that much respect. But remember it is rude to treat women as different or less than equal. If she wants to pay, let her.

Remember the Queen of England expects a curtsy from the girls and a bow from the boys. Everyone rises when the President of the united States comes into a room, and they remain standing until he sits; its a matter of respect. Old folks go ahead of you and you always offer to help the helpless when you see them. Simple rules for the big things. Not so simple for all the things in between. Be respectful and pay attention to where you are and what is expected of you and by whom. Life’s an interesting dance, always make your partners feel special. Please and thank you are still the magic words.

Things I Want My Son To Know #19 ~ Love Books

Learn to love reading. There is a world of knowledge and imagination out there. You are absorbed in the virtual and technological worlds. But you are missing the life of imagination you had as a child.

In every area of our lives technology has stripped us of imagination. There are fantasy worlds and fantasy games and fantasy movies; but those fantasies are spelled out for us. In those fantasies the people all look like movie stars or the anime creations of someone else’s imaginations.

On the internet you can look up anything you want to know about, you can find information but you can’t necessarily confirm its accuracy, currency or relevance. Anyone can publish on the internet, make themselves an expert and how would you know if they really are. You can track down credentials but do they publish a bibliography?

You cannot learn anything without reading, whether on line or off. In every area of your life there will always be things to learn. You can learn much by experience, but experts in everything put down in words what they have mastered about the thing you are learning about and how you can do the same. The experience of others is only transmitted by words, generally written (like this blog!). In order to excel at anything, you have to learn about it.

People always ask if I have seen movies made from books. I always want to read the book first and I am almost always disappointed by the movie. When I read fiction (which is not for everyone I realize), I am able to populate the world of the book with my own vision of the scenery, my own imagination creates how the people look; the author creates how they act. And so the book is the stage setting for my own fantasy, not that of anyone else.

Don’t lose the life of the imagination; read and create your own worlds. Don’t neglect the life of learning; the experiences of generations, experts and whole cultures documented for you. Books may be becoming obsolete but you should hold on to them as long as you can. And don’t believe everything you read.

Democracy Is Not For Whiners

Ok, I am so tired of everyone’s facebook entries, tweets, etc., today. I can’t say how many people said, in essence, my vote doesn’t count.

What part of your vote always counts do people not understand? As a woman, all I have to do is think about how recent it is that women were allowed to vote. All I have to do is think of the suffering, the beatings and jailings, that brave women endured to give me the right. How dare I squander the privilege. But… There is a difference between winning and having your vote count.

I am a constitution defending geek. And in that tradition I say, and believe, that your vote is the most precious gift your democracy gives you. It is your voice, your chance to say “I disagree”. If one side won by 100% of the vote because the other half stayed home there would be no mandate for elected officials to think about all the electorate once they take office. When you win office by 1% of the vote you darn well know that there is power in the other 49%; that your political life may be short lived.

You vote to be heard, you vote to participate, you don’t always win. That’s the thing about majority rule… the majority rules. You speak your piece and then move on with the business of life, or governing as the case may be. The whole issue of gridlock and elected officials who don’t seem to get this currently is a discussion for another day. But this is the nature of the democratic process.

It is hard to say your piece and lose. It is demanding to accept the will of the majority, particularly when you deeply disagree with the apparent will of the majority. But there is no alternative. There is however, good news ~ there will be another election, another chance to speak, to vote, to win. But you have to wait and work for that day. Those of you who are like minded have to work together to convince another 3 or 4% (in the 51% scenario) that you are right. When that happens, you will win and the other will be the 49%, waiting for you to forget that they are almost half of those represented.

Nobody likes to lose but all of us must, from time to time, in a democratic society. Clearly, democracy is not for whiners.

No Wonder We Are So Fat

Every two weeks, when I get paid, I wake up on Saturday morning and face the ordeal that is Wal-Mart. I detest Wal-Mart but at present I buy all my staple goods there because I feed a lot of people and its what I can afford to do. Andn its great for that. I don’t like the fact that they are known for mistreating their employees, particularly women. I don’t like the fact that they made their original reputation as being the “American made” store but more than half of what they sell is made in China. But you can buy stuff you use all the time for less money than anywhere else; that I like and need. So I make a massive list, check my coupons and head for the store. As I am trolling around the parking lot I am amazed at how crowded it is. It is always like that unless it is the middle of the night when all the meth addicts can’t sleep and need sugar. And around and around you go. Then you can’t go by because people are waiting to get a spot closest to the door; even thought the spot they are waiting for involves people who still have 400 bags to unload into the SUV and two kids to strap in. On the day that inspired this blog I completed my shopping. I came out to the parking lot, unloaded my groceries into my car noting as I did so that there was a very large SUV standing in the middle of the way, entirely blocking me from backing out. So I put my cart away, got in my car, putting on my seat belt, turning on the car, putting it in reverse. And there I sat, for a solid five minutes whiile big SUV waited to save themselves 20 steps. The “obesity problem” has been back on the news a lot because it is summer, the season of the swim suit crash diet hysteria; as if you could lose fifty pounds between May and July. Now refocus and imagine you are in Wal-Mart. Think of the people you are seeing there; imagine the foods in their carts. How many of them are huge? Downright obese? How many of them are wearing clothes at least a size too small? How many of them are wearing spandex, making you want to turn away because you didn’t want to know that much about them? How many of their children are frighteningly fat? Now… how many of them have fresh food in their carts… not many, huh? How many have fresh vegetables or fruit? You get an idea of the state of American health by seeing how much frozen, boxed, bagged and canned food you see on the conveyor at the checkout. If we only eat frozen, processed, fried food, and we can’t walk a few extra steps from the car to the door, no wonder we are so fat.

The Middle of the Road

Listening to a story on public radio, as by now you all know I do often, I heard an amazing story. There is an “encampment”, for lack of a better word, of earthquake refugees who have set up their tents on the median of a six lane road. Some of the shelters are wood, some nothing but a tarp. Some sell small necessary items from open holes, some have windows that close. A whole village has evolved on that spot.

Across the road are port-a-potties. They are often full and unusable. l leave the result of that problem to your imagination. Aside from that, you have to cross three lanes of traffic to get to them at all. There are children living in this median village. The visual is a difficult one; how worried those mothers must be. But people will always cluster together. One mother said she wanted to move to one of the planned camps but has heard that all the spots are already taken.

Median means the center, the average. Thus the phrase middle of the road, it is the center, the average, the place that doesn’t rock the boat, the balance place. So how is living in the median of a highway the middle of the road? How is it balance? Although I believe where there is breath there is always hope, this seems to me the bottom of the barrel, the most hopeless of situations. It is heartbreaking. But Haitians seem to have a boundless reserve of faith and optimism. They have an amazing resilience that is both heartbreaking and inspiring.

For these Haitians, it seems, the middle of the road is the end of the road.