From The Hair On Your Head To The Hair On Your Toes

So i’ve been reading a lot of articles on natural beauty. Part and parcel with the whole “Give up meat, use less plastic, be less fake” philosophy that has been growing on me. And it has me thinking… We women put a whole lot of money and effort into being “beautiful”, and even more so when we are trying to be “natural”, if for no other reason than “natural” products and services take more money and effort and to find.

I mean, i know there is a growing movement of women out there who don’t shave, wax, or pluck. I know plenty of women who don’t wear makeup. I know women who don’t care about their pores or their split ends or their scratchy heels. We are born with that hair on our legs, and our eyelids weren’t meant to be gold gilded. But most of us, when we talk about “natural beauty” are talking about doing the same beauty rituals we have always done, only with more earth-friendly products. Definitely better than mass-market beauty, and certainly better than the days of lead-based face powder and carcinogen-laden hair products. But still not really “natural”.

That being said, i can’t see myself going wholly “natural” regardless.

I DO care about the wrinkles over my lip and the lack of color in my cheeks as i get older. I DON’T like when my leg hair grows out and wiry spikes sprout halfway between my eyebrow and temple, like spearmint springing from the ground 3 feet from the rest of the herb garden. I DO like some opalescent sparkle on my face. And for the life of me, i can’t truthfully tell you why.

There is the age-old argument that we do it for men. But i will be honest here, even furless, accentuating my best body features, and spending time on makeup every morning, i still have no need for a social calendar. Dates come as rarely for me as oases spring up in the desert. So either the man theory isn’t true, or it just ain’t working.

Then there is the argument that we are brainwashed by the media. I grew up loving fashion magazines. I still do, tho i get a bit depressed at the lack of older women in them. And i take the photos with a grain of salt. We all know that these images are unrealistic; the models genetically gifted, and photo-shopped within an inch of their lives. I know that i can’t wear a dress to work that contains an actual, living fish. And no one wants to see my ass hanging out of my 3-inch rise dress slacks. But even still, i love the photography, the artistry, and the illusion of grandeur… Even if i will never master the Manolo-esque stiletto.

So maybe i do it because it is ingrained in me. Growing up, all the women in my life de-fuzzed, dyed their hair, and worked hard to look comely. Very few went without makeup, and even fewer let their grey hair or pit hair run wild. So it isn’t like i had a bunch of earthy-crunchy women setting the standard. I have to say, tho, that no one in my family ever barked at me for whatever macquillage i was sporting at any stage. When i took to wearing men’s clothes, or all black, or my combat boots with everything, my family accepted it. When my hair was short, blue, and combed into a perfect DA, my family made no more notice of it than they did when it was long and the black of my youth. Truth be told, my family has been supportive of nearly all of my appearance conventions – The lone exception being my decision, after 40, to let my white hair grow out. That caused all kinds of controversy.

Nothing having to do with me, i think; and everything to do with it making others feel old.

So why, then? Why do i do what i do to alter my appearance? Is it any of those things i mentioned? Is it all of those things i mentioned? I think it is at least partially the latter; and not just for me, but for all women. After all, it’s not like we see the bulk of men worrying about the sparseness of their eyelashes. Or giving themselves bunions and broken sesamoid bones so they can rock a slut shoe. Or paying money to have someone rub acid on their face, in hopes it will make them look 10 years younger. Hell, men score extra points just for wearing the right amount of cologne. So, obviously, there is a gender bias.

But even knowing that, i can’t imagine myself not going to at least some length of primping.  I can’t imagine being comfortable in public with a completely unadorned face unless forced. I can’t imagine going to the beach unshaved and not worrying i looked like i was smuggling rabbis under my arms. I can’t imagine going out on a (painfully) rare date and not putting in some effort…


Maybe that’s it. Maybe it’s the act of putting in effort. Not necessarily what i do to make myself look “my best”, but the fact that i am willing to go to lengths. For my (phantom) date. For my coworkers. For myself. Proof that i care enough to do something. I do less now than i did when i was young: I no longer spend an hour on my makeup, and if a shoe isn’t comfortable, i won’t wear it. (Unless it’s for Liam Neeson. I’d wear them for Liam Neeson.) So i guess you can say that the amount of effort is relative. If you are male or female, young or old, city born or country raised, meeting a mere mortal or meeting Liam Neeson; the bar for acceptable effort moves.

I know that we as women should be content with the lot God/Goddess/Universe gave us. He didn’t make me to look like a model for a reason. Maybe because GGU knew that, as depressing as it is thinking no one is looking at you, it is far worse to think everyone is looking at you. Even if i get caught at the market with jacked up hair, the number of people who will find out is only marginally larger than the single digit number of people who will give a damn. If i had the level of objective beauty i pine after, my bad hair day would become the conversation piece for more blogs and websites than my ego could handle.

Thank you, Universe, for not making me a starlet.

So back to my original thoughts… Tho buying cosmetics that are made of beet juice and and free-range, wild-harvested sea grass is better for the environment than the chemical compounds marketed by the taste makers, i’m not sure it’s any better for our psyche. The implied message is still that we need this stuff to be “pretty enough”. And while it may be true that there are very few “natural beauties” in this world, each of us possesses our own “natural beauty”. Yes, we are all beautiful in our own way. Even unshaven and un-powdered and unadulterated. The Universe and the ones who love us see that beauty, and any adornment is unnecessary. Heaven only knows if we will all learn to see ourselves that same way, to love ourselves as we are and do the primping just for fun. (Tho i can’t imagine anyone waxing just for fun. That shit hurts!) And would it still be fun if it wasn’t considered more beautiful? I don’t know.

As for me, i know better than to think i’ll ever get to that point. I get more comfortable with myself with each passing year, but i doubt i will ever be satisfied. I will likely always strive to be more. Because, you know, there’s always that slim chance i could score a date.

I’m still holding out hope for Liam Neeson.



A Spirit By Any Other Name

Elohim, Adonai

Jehovah and Allah

Akal Purakh, Father, Peace

Krishna and Zeus

God, Goddess, Universe, Science

The Force, The Love and The Light…

See It in others.

Find It in ourselves.

This is the day your Lord has made.

Named or nameless.

Formed or Formless.

All together or all One.

Let us rejoice and be glad.

Rafiki and Einstein

One of my besties has a good friend who is in the midst of dying. At our age, though not a common thing yet, we will see it more and more. But like so much of getting older, there is no book that tells us how to deal with it.

Family is gathered close around her friend, as well they should be, keeping outsiders, germs, and stresses away from their cherished member as she makes the transition. But my bestie is one of those who absorbs people into her soul more than most. She wants – needs – to touch. It’s visceral for her, a primal need since watching her own mother take the journey when we were in our adolescence. She doesn’t want to intrude. Doesn’t even have to actually see her. Just wants her to know that there are hands and hearts along the bridge who will give her strength when she needs it. On one level, it is a gesture of love and friendship. On another, it is a grasp at a connection with the ones who are already on the other side.

We aren’t kids anymore. We understand that life as we know it comes to an end. We realize death is part of life. We’ve seen The Lion King. But it is hard to remember that life is a circle when your friend is on the exact opposite side of it.

Even if you were standing next to them, you know you can’t pull them back. It’s their time. God/Goddess/Universe’s choice, not ours, and we are in no position to disagree. We aren’t reaching out to pull them back into the circle permanently… We just want one more minute. One more chance to feel what we felt with them. Love. Friendship. Humanity. And to remind us that we are not permanent. A jumpstart, if you will, to our resolution for living each day to the fullest.

Perhaps that last is the most important.

My Ma died a long time ago. I think of her often, of course, and for many reasons. But more often than not, i am thinking of her because i want to tell her about something. Something i am planning, or doing, or have done, that is benchmark.

Benchmark = Proof that i am really living. 

With the holidays approaching, memories of lost loved ones are, for many of us, closer than any other time of the year. It’s easy for us to get caught up in sadness, loneliness and longing for times and people since passed. To get out of it, i sometimes talk to those memories. Like, “He Ma, do you see your namesake in there cooking up a storm? Is she amazing, or what?” Or, “Gram, someone just brought in homemade raisin bread to work. Lets toast some and spread it with cream cheese just like you always liked…”

Yes, i talk to dead people. What of it? If Einstein was right (And i dare you to say he wasn’t..) nothing new is ever created. All the energy that ever was is still here – Just in a different form. Who is to say that the energy, the soul plasma, that was our loved ones isn’t all around us all the time? Or that i won’t still be around my loved ones after this pasty, wrinkled, old broad of a body is long since gone? I choose to believe that the best part of us lingers, like a faint whiff of Shalimar after the theater closes, for anyone who chooses to breathe it in and remember.

Yes, i talk to dead people and i am a hopeless, romantic dork. So sue me.

Regardless, as the insanity of the holidays approaches, and the memories come flooding in… Or if you are someone who must face a loved one becoming a memory amidst all the merriment… Breathe them in. Talk with them. Talk about them to others. Bring them into moments where you are truly living. Keep it all alive so that they may continue being relevent. In a way, become legend. Don’t let the laws of biology stop it. Our physical time on this Earth is fleeting, but our soul can go on forever. Just ask my friend, Albert. He is an expert on energy. And really, isn’t that all we humans are?


First World Health Care

Looking at bills from my recent surgery, i have to wonder how so many do it. Manage to take care of themselves without going into bankruptcy.

I work for a hospital. Tho not in any danger of living a life of luxury, i am well compensated enough that i am able to pay my bills without juggling them. (Something i never had til recently.) I have commercial insurance that my employer subsidizes, and truly, my cost per month isn’t terrible. I had a short-term disability benefit to cover my salary while i was recovering. And yet, i am having to engage a payment plan to pay for surgery that was a necessity.

At just under $5,000, my out-of-pocket is manageable over time for me. And i am grateful. But what if it had been my daughter who needed it?

She is an hourly worker. A florist. Works her tail off managing a flower shop at a modest rate of pay that is likely a bit above average in her industry (A testament to her talent and diligence.) But her employer offers no benefits. She makes too much to qualify for a government plan, but not enough to afford a commercial one. She isn’t a slacker – She works hard, tries to live within her budget, pays her taxes – Everything we expect of an upstanding citizen. And yet, if she were injured, she would lose everything. The $25,000 of overall medical costs would break her for more than half a decade, especially considering the amount of work time she would lose during recovery.

I can’t imagine what it would be like if she had a child.

Everyone has an issue with those who are capable, but choose not to work and remain on the dole. But there are millions of people in this country who ARE working. Working their asses off. Doing what they are supposed to do. Not spending money on a bunch of frillies or drugs. Just getting by with the essentials.  And health care is off-limits to them financially. Yes, there are funds available. There are private benefactors who contribute to funding as well. And that is wonderful. But it isn’t enough to cover the gap. We have some government representatives who are fighting for people like my daughter. But not enough of them. We have health care providers who make exceptions and volunteer services on a regular basis. But they can’t cover it all.

We are trying hard, but still failing.

I have heard arguments for and against government healthcare, single-payor plans, pocket-pay and free market systems. None of them is a cure-all.

Yet another instance where we know what doesn’t work, but don’t really know what will. Or at least i don’t.

All i know is, having grown up without the money to have the kind of healthcare i enjoy now… Hell, the kind of life i enjoy now… to know how blessed i am, even as i realize that i am still far closer to the bottom of the food chain than the top… I want to be part of a society that provides help for those who are struggling in spite of their strong efforts. I want to be part of a country that says, “If you are working hard, i’ll help you any way that i can.” A country where children and the elderly receive what they need.

And a country where those of us who are able to manage without help remember that not everyone is as lucky. And we have to help look out for them.


My Teacher, Hank

“Books must be read as deliberately and reservedly as they were written.”  ~  Henry David Thoreau

I think Thoreau would be pleased that my copy of Walden; Or, Life In The Woods is marked with highlighted passages and margin notes. The book is my go-to when things get difficult or complicated. As reference for myself, i have adorned my copy like a college textbook, marking each sentence that has an important lesson for me…

To remind me to take a step back and see the truth: “The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation… But it is a characteristic of wisdom not to do desperate things.”

To remember to keep it simple: “(To be a philosopher is) so to love wisdom as to live according to its dictates; a life of simplicity, independence, magnanimity, and trust.”

To not live in the past: “Renew thyself completely each day; do it again, and again, and forever again.”

To be kind: ” The finest qualities of our nature, like the bloom on fruits, can be preserved only by the most delicate handling. Yet we do not treat ourselves nor one another thus tenderly.”

To resist the urge to rush and waste life: “Time is but the sandy stream I go  a-fishing in. I drink at it; but while I drink, I see the sandy bottom and detect how shallow it is. Its thin current slides away, but eternity remains. I would drink deeper; fish in the sky, whose bottom is pebbly with stars.”

To enjoy the expanse of nature and life: “There are none happy in the world but beings who enjoy freely a vast horizon.”

And to fight my urge to accumulate “stuff”:  “In accumulating property for ourselves or our posterity, in founding a family or a state, or acquiring fame even, we are mortal; but in dealing with the truth, we are immortal, and need fear no change nor accident.”

Those are not all of the best passages, of course… Just the ones that jumped out at me today. On a different day, with different needs, some of the other passages will jump out. And i admit, i have similar markings and notes in Jonathan Livingston Seagull, the writings of Mother Teresa, Albert Einstein, and Robert Heinlein (among others, mostly fellow pantheists), and numerous holy books from a variety of religions. There is wisdom everywhere, if you look for it.

I love finding new sources of wisdom as well. I am forever asking people what books molded and shaped them. (Feel free to leave your favorite source of life-knowledge in the comments.) How else am i to find other springs from which to drink?

But more often than not, i am looking back to my pal, Hank. Philosophically and spiritually, we are in sync. I love his therapeutic writing style. And not for nothing, the man is a fellow Masshole. It makes sense that i am drawn to him. He has filled my head and heart and spirit with ideas that became the backbone of my soul.

I can only hope, that at the end of my life, if someone asks me if i have made my peace with God, i can respond as HDT did…

“I did not know we had ever quarreled.”




There is a solar eclipse tomorrow. It’s kind of a freaky thing. I mean, the trigonometry of it (Technically, syzygy), as complex as it is, is fairly simple when compared to the myths associated with it. And if you understand the trigonometry of it – well, first off, congrats to your teachers, but also, doesn’t it make you feel small? The things we complain and worry about on the day to day seem insignificant when thinking about the paths of planets within our solar system… Our selves not even large enough to be mites in the sight of the Powers of the Universe.

But back to the myths…

Wolves, dragons, dogs, bears, and – in old Vietnamese folklore – even frogs have been blamed as the cause, as they devour the sun for various reasons. Biting some or all of it, depending on the degree of eclipse. There are many cultures who believed that an eclipse was the result of angry gods, and that it could mean apocalypse. Some felt that it was the sun and moon arguing – and the blackness was a reminder for us all to stop quarreling here on Earth. There are scholars that believe the darkness that fell over Jesus’ crucifixion was an eclipse. And many people still continue to see it as a portent for danger. For death. For destruction. For endings. And new beginnings.

And i won’t even go into everything the astrologers have to say about the eclipse.

This event brings with it some serious logistic problems as well. For one, the traffic congestion in the areas that will see totality are expected to be legendary. The roads between here in Chattanooga and Nashville, for example, are expected to be insane as we are in the path. Schools have been closed so that whole families can view this event together. And i’m sure eye doctors are preparing for the worst.

Another logistic nightmare: This will be a real test of our solar power industry. Tho currently, as a country, only about one percent of our commercial power comes from solar energy, there are states who use more. North Carolina, for example, is the third largest solar state, at about three percent, and part of it will fall within the path of the eclipse. The power companies are used to having to accommodate fluctuations in the grid during storms and clouds, but even under cloud cover, we still get solar rays. Monday, for a short period, there will be none. Zip. Zilch. This is going to test their skills.

The first instinct is to think that it’s only two minutes… How bad can it be? But if you were on a respirator and without a backup generator, it would be catastrophic. (To note, hospitals all have backup generators… I was just pointing out that it’s all relative.)

I don’t work in the power industry, but every article i have read says they have been preparing for this, as they realize the outcome will greatly influence the growth or decline of solar power in the commercial marketplace. Can they keep the flow steady, minimal waxing and waning, by pulling from other sources and exporting to extra grids as the sheer number of solar rays drops to zero and then peaks? Bless the men and women who will try. Granted, a lot of it may be moot – like all the prep we did for the turn of the millennium. But maybe not. I guess we will see.

And finally, what does this eclipse mean for us as individuals? For you? For me? Will it be a source of wonder? Awesome, in the truest sense of the word? Will it make you sit later, with your friends and a beer, and discuss our minuteness in the vastness of space? Or will you make merry with it, invoke the old myths, and bang pots and pans to scare off the mythical creatures that are eating our sun? Will you read the astrological predictions, even if just out of curiosity? Will you view those two minutes of darkness as a metaphysical moment of silence? Or are you hoping they will have an effect like a slap for hysteria on this crazy country of ours?

For most of us, the eclipse tomorrow will be a once-in-a-lifetime event. I urge you, my friends, to be safe. And i also hope we all will take a moment to think about all that is going on around us, oblivious of us and yet made of us, and consider what kind of energy we are taking from and giving back to the Infinite Source. From a scientific, religious, or social perspective – I hope we all make the most of it.


*** To ensure safety when viewing the eclipse, please investigate on websites like NASA  or AAC for different ideas on how to do so properly.



Should I Stay or Should I Go

I used to really enjoy my time on social media. I loved seeing everyone’s vacation pictures, funny memes, and dinner recipes. Sure, there was the occasional rant about how much something sucked, or the Facebook equivalent of a chain letter (For those of you too young to remember, these were actual pen-and-ink letters that you had to copy by hand and send to ten of your friends, or Hitler was going to show up at your next birthday party with near-beer and a rabid wombat and ruin everything, and you’d be left to rot in hell forever after)… But on the whole, it was my happy place. After a rough shift at work, i looked forward to seeing a video of a friend’s new grandson, or a screaming goat singing the chorus to the latest Taylor Swift song. It made me forget the stress of the day and laugh a little. It made it much easier not to kick the dog and go to bed angry….

Until last year.

While, before that, there were people who clogged up my newsfeed with conspiracy theories and mean tweets (Excluding, of course, the videos of celebrities reading mean tweets… That stuff’s hysterical!), if i wanted to stay in contact regardless, i could always hide their posts so i didn’t have to see them. But the last election turned far too many of us into partisan, uncompromising, political commentators. I had hoped it would end after the election, but it has, in many instances, gotten worse. From both the left and the right.

Now, i’m not saying people don’t have the right to be angry. And i’m not saying that people don’t have the right to post it. There is no law that says you can’t argue via the internet. And i admit, sometimes people say things, either true or false, that make me look it up and learn more about it. I consider that a good thing. I like to learn.

It’s the meanness that makes me log off.

Which brings me to tell you about my grandmothers. (I know that doesn’t make sense… Stick with me here…)

One of my grandmothers was a petite, quiet, but strong woman, born within the first decade of the 20th century. A good Irish Catholic girl (Yes, they DO exist), she strived to live like a good Christian. Like most of her generation, she had prejudices about color and lack of religion. I doubt she knew anyone who was (admittedly) gay, but she probably would have felt uncomfortable with it. She did not, however, believe in the mistreatment of anyone, regardless. No meanness. No evil thoughts. As a child, whenever i would get frustrated and shout that i HATED (Clams, tie shoes, the miscreant kid down the street…), she would gently, but sternly, say, “You must not hate. You can dislike, but you must NEVER hate. God doesn’t like hate.” And tho i certainly wasn’t a good Irish Catholic girl, i knew she spoke the truth. I knew it was wrong to hate and hurt. I knew that Love was the answer. Even if we don’t care for someone, we were to treat them as we want to be treated. And then pray for them. Never hate them. Hate was what caused people to do mean things. Hate is what caused us to mistreat others. Hate is what hurt people.

Now, my other grandmother was not like that at all. Well, that’s not entirely true. She was strong. But the other stuff? Nope. Not even close. For one thing, she was the center on her high school’s girls’ basketball team… This was right about 1940, so that should tell you a lot about the woman. She wasn’t petite, she wasn’t quiet, and her idea of religion was more about the holiness of a good lobster roll. (And if you fail to see the holiness, you’ve never had a really good lobster roll.) When my other grandmother was heading to mass on Sunday, this one was preparing to settle in and watch the Dolphins play. She could swear like a sailor, and she loved a good bet. But it never mattered who she was betting, or watching the game with, or sitting next to at the bar. Your validity as a Dolphins fan was not questioned if you happened to be from another human category. That never mattered to her. Case in point, i had the pleasure one day of sitting with my grandmother and the remaining women from her basketball team at their regular get-together for coffee. They told me about how difficult it was to find other female teams to play… They would have to travel hours to games… And how angry they would get when they would arrive, and someone would question the fact that their power forward was a black woman. To them, they were a team. Period. That was all that mattered.  And they wouldn’t tolerate mistreatment of their friend, classmate, and teammate, even if that meant refusing to play a game if she wasn’t included.

As i said, these women weren’t perfect. They each had their own social circles, and like others of their generation, didn’t cross the tracks to other neighborhoods very often. (Many generations later, this is still a widespread issue.) But neither of them ever knowingly mistreated someone because of a skin color, religion, political affiliation, whathaveyou. Maybe it was because they were both forced into single motherhood at a time when there were no allowances for that. They knew what it was like to be refused a job simply because you were female and a mother. They knew looks of disapproval for something that was outside their control and had no bearing on their worthiness.  Maybe because of that, they chose to override their socially-nurtured prejudices and try to treat all people with fairness and equity. Your worthiness for trust, to them, was based on your behavior to others and your willingness to work hard. Your worthiness as a human was determined by the fact that you were human. Clear. Simple.

Two women, over a decade apart in age, different social brackets, different religions and interests… Both coming to the conclusion that heart and tenacity are better discriminators than color and creed. This is how i was raised.

Yes, there are times i find myself jumping to conclusions about people based on an accent,  bumper sticker, or hygiene habits. At those times, i forcibly remind myself that i could be them in another circumstance, or vice versa. And i remind myself that a lot of what i am might horrify them, too. And that puts us on an even playing field. I still might make the wrong judgement in the end, but at least it’s an honest mistake and not a thoughtless one.

So as i cruise my social media tonight, as i weed thru the Trumpsters hating on the immigrants, and the Dems hating on the Right, and everyone hating on the Muslims… I will try to remember that they probably have some valid points. That they have a right to express their anger, even if others don’t agree or sympathize. That they may not know or care that all i want to find on my home page tonight is a story about bikers helping kids or a video of guinea pigs talking about pumpkin spice. That they don’t realize how bitter they sound. I will try to remember because i don’t want to get caught up in the hatred. It’s so easy to get caught up in the hatred. And God/Goddess/Universe doesn’t like it when i hate.

I know, because my grandmothers told me so.

They also taught me that, in the face of hate, sometimes all you can do is refuse to play the game.