It’s impossible, but true; my “baby boy” turned 18 this month!
Here’s a poem I wrote on our fridge in his honor:
Over the past 2 years I have been watching a huge compound of office space, apartments and retail stores being built less than a mile from my house. It’s called Lenexa City Center, although it lies nowhere near the center of my town. I guess they mean “center” in some metaphorical sense that I don’t quite understand. Here is what the official web site has to say about the City Center development:
“Lenexa City Center is an exciting mixed-use urban development that is being built on all four corners of 87th Street Parkway and Renner Boulevard, in the center of Lenexa.
Born out of the community-driven Vision 2020 planning process, Lenexa City Center will be a key destination area that will combine a mix of shopping, restaurants, entertainment, office, residential, hotels, and public gathering areas such as parks, plazas, and a civic center all in a pedestrian-friendly, high density, new urbanism development.
At build-out, Lenexa City Center is expected to offer about 4.5 million square feet of mixed-use development on 200 acres in the I-435 corridor.”
A slow economy and the overwhelming volume of commercial real estate that currently sits empty all over Kansas City with no tenants in sight has not deterred Lenexa from building a new City Center. And each edition of my city newsletter relays the latest news of this important development. Apparently this is “PROGRESS” for our city and we should all be thrilled.
But I for one have sadly watched their “progress” over many months; first the area was bulldozed and stripped of all trees, bushes, grass – anything remotely resembling life. Then the land was reshaped and reformed until it no longer even looked like its former contours. That phase was rough for me because the old land had been a mix of pasture and trees that I enjoyed checking out every time I passed. And am I the only bleeding heart who wonders what happens to all the squirrels, bluebirds, deer, turkeys, hawks, fireflies, worms, spiders, raccoons, coyotes and other creatures that lived where a new strip mall now rises? Do we humans REALLY want to shove all other life out of the way for ourselves?
My family took a vacation road trip to Wyoming earlier this month. Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks on the western edge of Wyoming hold some amazing scenery and wildlife. It is one of the most beautiful areas in the world. This gorgeous spot was partitioned off into two National Parks over a hundred years ago so we wouldn’t be tempted to try and improve it and civilize it right out of existence (Thank you Teddy Roosevelt!). “Progress” tends to be deadly for wildlife and gorgeous scenery in every part of the country.
To get to Wyoming from KC is quite a haul by car, but I kept imagining what it would have been like to travel the 1,100+ mile distance by wagon a hundred and fifty years ago. Two days in the car is nothing compared to 6 months bumping across roadless prairie. We’ve made “progress” when it comes to fast, safe travel, haven’t we?
We drove through the Black Hills of South Dakota on our way to Wyoming. Back in 1868, the U.S. government “gave” the people that lived in the Black Hills long before white guys showed up (mainly the Lakota tribe) a small piece of the hills and grassland that the tribe held as sacred ground. Our government signed a treaty with the tribes and promised that the land would belong to them in perpetuity. But then gold was discovered in the Black Hills about 5 years later and in perpetuity didn’t mean much. Jeez – talk about indian givers! I felt like personally apologizing to every single Native American on earth after I read what my ancestors did to the Black Hills.
White guys (and I include myself in that label) have a long history of shoving others out of our way in the name of “progress”. If our kids shove others out of their way on the playground or take some other kid’s stuff, we “civilized” adults cry foul and lecture them on the error of their ways. But if our culture does it to another culture (or to another species), or if one corporation does it to a competing corporation, we label it survival of the fittest and claim that it’s “progress” towards a better, brighter future.
I think “progress” may actually just be a polite way of saying we get to do what we want and take what we want because we’re bigger and more powerful and we’re in charge.
Back home at Lenexa City Center, a complex of buildings that looks like offices and retail store space appears to be complete. But the huge parking lot outside the complex sits empty month after month. I ask that you insert Joni Mitchell singing ‘Big Yellow Taxi’ at this point in your reading for the desired effect. Meanwhile the latest city newsletter holds yet another update on the exciting developments at our new City Center.
And what does City Center “progress” look like from here? Well, “progress” is a group of empty buildings, a hideous manmade pond with prefab concrete sides and some spindly trees planted in little islands of dirt in the empty parking lot. But hey, I read yesterday that the developers plan to add a “large green space and walking trails” in the future. This must be to simulate the natural green space they bulldozed to build City Center in the first place…Hmmm. I guess it all doesn’t have to make sense to me. Just as long as I keep paying my taxes…
prog-ress n 1. Movement toward a goal. 2. Development; unfolding. 3. Steady improvement of a society or civilization.
Definition from the American Heritage Dictionary.
A typical evening at my house; I am trying to write while my daughter plays music at high volume in the next room. Every few minutes, she runs into my office to show me something she’s found on YouTube (any excuse to get mom’s attention). The phone rings – my husband is on his way home. Uh oh, that means he is 15 minutes away and dinner is not quite done! I leap up from my desk to go into the kitchen and finish it. But my mind is still on my writing and I soon find myself frozen in mid-kitchen, trying to remember exactly why the refrigerator is open and what I am doing to dinner.
I have spent a HUGE portion of my adult life jumping from task to task like this, trying to get one task done while I am thinking about the next task… and the next… and the next.
Constantly doing, constantly in motion – isn’t it the American way?
My brain tends to jump from task to task naturally – is that the price of being a mom? Or maybe it’s just “monkey mind”. That’s the term meditation instructors use to describe a mind that constantly in motion, constantly grasping at one thought and then the next. I have a bad case of monkey mind. I learned to meditate 20+ years ago in self defense. Meditation is the only way I can get my mind to calm down and shut up!
All that jumping from thought to thought and task to task is really just chasing my tail. Back eons ago when I was a computer geek, we called it “thrashing”. Thrashing is what a computer does when it gets overloaded with work, The computer uses up all of its energy and time just pulling programs into working memory and then pushing them back out before anything can be accomplished. In severe cases of thrashing, no work gets done at all; but the poor computer keeps plugging away, working tirelessly to get it all done and actually accomplishing nothing.
Sounds like my ping ponging mind on a bad day.
But when I remember to slow down and focus on the one thing I am doing RIGHT NOW, to stop pushing to move on to the next task, then my life is so much calmer – and more enjoyable. AND I actually get more done.
After years of practicing meditation, I have come to believe that what I focus on in every moment is my choice. Life is coming at us faster and faster all the time. Technology makes it possible to attempt to do 3-4 things at once! I was thrilled to hear that Kansas has outlawed texting while driving. Now maybe I won’t kill myself trying to drive, text and adjust the radio simultaneously!
I can get sucked into racing around like an Indy 500 car, and end up thrashing around, feeling like a victim of my hectic schedule and all the people that want something from me. But am I really a victim or am I making myself miserable?? I love what Eckhart Tolle says; “True freedom is living as if you had completely chosen whatever you feel or experience in this moment. This inner alignment with the Now is the end of suffering.”
Hmmm, maybe I actually get to decide for myself whether I suffer or I am joyful in every single moment of every single day. That is DEFINITELY NOT a modern American idea. If something goes wrong in this country, normally our first urge is to figure out who is to blame and string them up in the press! That seems to be more important than fixing the problem. An oil rig spews oil in the Gulf of Mexico and the CEO of BP is to blame. No, maybe the environmentalists are to blame – it’s all those drilling regulations! No wait – President Obama is to blame! SOMEBODY MUST PAY!
I am afraid that we’re turning into a nation of finger pointing victims. Not Good.
In the book, Present Moment Wonderful Moment, Vietnamese monk Thich Nhat Hanh has this to say “Our mind is like a television with thousands of channels, and the channel we switch on is the channel we are at that moment. When we turn on anger, we are anger. When we turn on peace and joy, we are peace and joy. We have the ability to select the channel. We are what we choose to be.”
I don’t know about you, but I want to ‘change my channel’ and stop racing through life so fast that I don’t even notice where I am at or what I am doing. I want to choose to slow down and enjoy my life right now. And I want to pause, take a deep breath and stop blaming others. This is MY life and MY thoughts and MY feelings. I can “change my channel” and take responsibility for myself and my life. And I can have a wonderful, joyful calm day no matter what kind of craziness comes at me.
I was feeling quite smug earlier today; I am now allowing myself one chai to drink per day and I’ve actually stuck to it for 3 days so far. Woo Hoo!
But then I made the mistake of grabbing a handful of cashews to eat with my chai, thinking that half my snack should be nutritious and good for me. Kind of like choosing juice to drink with a greasy double cheeseburger and hoping that the good joo joo in the juice cancels out the yuck in the burger.
Anyway, I was feeling quite proud of myself for choosing cashews… until I made the mistake of reading the label on the cashew bag. Some food processor in their INFINITE wisdom added partially hydrogenated soybean oil to my nuts!
I ask you, does it make any sense at all to soak nuts in oil? As if nuts don’t contain enough oil on their own? Were the nuts not SLIPPERY enough, or what??! Of course it doesn’t make sense to dye pickles a neon shade of yellow-green either, but food processors do it all the time. Try finding an au natural pickle at your local grocery store – it’s not easy.
Why, pray tell, would an intelligent human RUIN their nuts by dipping them in partially hydrogenated oil? Is there anyone left in America who has not heard that partially hydrogenated oils are artery clogging, cancer inducing nastiness?! Apparently whomever prepared my cashews for market still has not heard.
I keep expecting the FDA to ban partially hydrogenated oils from all foods, that’s how nasty this stuff is. But here I sit with this partially hydrogenated yuck ON MY NUTS!,
OK, OK – I should probably relax – I’m practically hyperventilating about some ruined nuts. Getting this worked up is probably more detrimental than eating nuts dipped in partially hydrogenated oil… I need to relax and breathe…
Actually, I may have to down a second chai just to calm myself. <vbgrin> Any flimsy excuse to drink more chai.
I want to defend men today. An odd statement coming from me, but there it is. Men have it rough these days. Being male in this country is no picnic.
Now before I get accused of being a subservient little woman who has obviously been brainwashed, let me just say that most people would consider me to be a rabid feminist. I actually joined NOW as a teenager – and I was a charter member of Ms Magazine – that’s how rabid I am! If I am brainwashed by anything, it is probably all the feminist rhetoric that I absorbed from MS Magazine during my formative teen years.
So, why would a feminist like me say that men have it rough today? Well, I look around and I see women with all kinds of choices that we didn’t have 30 or 40 years ago; young girls now play soccer and volleyball and softball – thanks to Title IX, jocks are not just boys anymore. And now there are huge numbers of female doctors and lawyers and even female CEO’s. More and more women are running for political office and winning. The U.S. Speaker of the House is a woman, the Secretary of State is a woman – 30 years ago, I thought that might never happen in this country, but it has.
Gone are the days when a woman virtually disappeared from view behind her man after marriage. Remember that old line about a woman only gets her name in the newspaper when she is born, she gets married or she dies? Well, we’ve obviously come a long way baby. Today we women have so many choices about what we can do with our lives. We can go after the top corporate job if we want to, or we can stay home with our kids. Or we can choose to juggle some combination of the two. We get to choose.
The women’s movement was good for women in my opinion – very good. We now have lots of choices.
But look around at the men in your life. Have men’s choices changed for the better in the last 40 years? Did men’s choices expand along with women’s? Actually from where I sit, men’s choices haven’t changed much since the cave man days!
We still expect men to protect and provide for us – that’s still supposed to be their top priority. We expect a man to go after the best paying job he can find and make a bunch of money to put a nice roof over our heads and food on our table. Isn’t that how we still define male success? We still send our man out into the world hoping he will provide for us. Only now instead of hunting down the biggest antelope he can find and dragging it home to us, we expect him to slay corporate beasts and drag home a pile of money.
Look at the “perfect man” in all those romantic movies that women love watching. The alpha male that every woman wants to marry is still the best provider. Oh yes, we want him to be good looking and emotionally sensitive, but he better be able to take care of us financially too! Male nurses still rate far below male doctors on the marriage material scale – no matter how sensitive they are. And forget about HIS personal fulfillment – he’d better bring home a big paycheck week after week or he’s somehow lacking.
But isn’t that thinking just as Neanderthal as what feminists accuse men of wanting from women??
In addition to providing for us, we still expect men to protect us no matter what – even if it means they end up dead. We seem to be locked into thinking that physically protecting us is an essential part of being male. All men are aggressive, right? All men are supposed to want to fight for us – whether it’s a big macho strong man or a skinny sensitive guy with an artistic soul. It’s their DUTY to fight for us.
Every year our young men do their duty and go off to Iraq or Afghanistan or some other battlefield. They go off to “protect our honor and our country” and end up dead or maimed. We treat young men like they are disposable. Men are still cannon fodder just like they were in medieval times. Can you imagine expecting and encouraging young women to do that for us? No way. But for men it’s another matter – we assume they will defend and protect us and we proclaim them heroes when they die in the process.
One of the highest honors a man can earn is to die defending us. I find that very sad.
So, I look around and I don’t see men’s choices opening up like women’s have. I still see men locked into provide and protect, provide and protect – even if it kills them. And I don’t think that old male model works very well in today’s world. This isn’t the year 1114 and the enemy isn’t storming our castle walls threatening to kill us. It’s the 21st century and issues like global warming and pollution threaten us in a totally different way. Traditional business as usual just doesn’t cut it anymore.
I want to help the men I love find a new way of being in the world.
What does that look like? I really don’t know. But I think we all ought to start talking about it with the men we love. I AM certain that we can figure out a new way that works better for men – just like we did for women; a new way of being male that expands and shifts their role and opens up their choices in life.
We’ve had 40 years of women demanding things from men; women demanding to be heard. Isn’t it about time to listen to our men?
Let’s get our knight in shining armor down off his horse. Let’s invite him to come in out of the cold. Let’s encourage him to take off his armor and get comfortable. And then let’s sit down with him and really listen to what he has to say about what it’s like to be a man today. Let’s listen to the men we love and go from there.
I picked up Michael Pollan’s book, Food Rules, in an airport about a month ago when I was desperate for something to read on the plane.
What a wonderful little gem of a book!
Pollan lists 64 short and sweet “rules” about what to eat if you want to be healthy. My favorite Pollan food rules are:
1. Don’t eat anything your great-grandmother wouldn’t recognize as food.
2. Avoid food products containing ingredients that a third-grader cannot pronounce.
1. It’s not food if it’s called by the same name in every language. (think Big Mac, Cheetos, Pringles.)
2. Eat all the junk food you want as long as you cook it yourself.
All of his rules make sense to me. Now, if only I would follow them!
The ingredients in my morning chai break a bunch of the rules. This chai is a powder that I mix into hot water. Unfortunately it contains non-dairy creamer. Can non-dairy creamer even be considered a food?
nondairy creamer (coconut oil, corn syrup solids, sodium caseinate, sodium citrate, mono- and diglycerides (a soy derivative), salt, sodium aluminosilicate),
black tea powder,
honey granules (sucrose, honey),
natural and artificial flavors,
silicon dioxide (as an anti-caking agent),
vegetable gums (carrageenan, guar gum).
Yuck! That’s totally gross.
But my inner infant throws a fit whenever I consider weaning myself off of this junk. In my baby book (the pink covered version of Our Baby’s First Seven Years), my mom was organized enough to list in detail what she fed baby Nancy; Carnation instant milk mixed with water and sugar. That’s Chai for babies!
I think there might be a connection here. I was destined from birth to drink Chai. Why fight it??
Well at least I’m consistently following Pollan’s last rule:
64. Break the rules once in a while