Friday, 30 September 2011

The state of America

I have concerns about that large piece of land across the Atlantic known as America. I know it’s hailed as the most powerful country in the world but….jeez...what a state its citizens are in!
America’s problems are by no means uncommon but how can a society be considered powerful when it has : the death penalty, an out of control gun culture, meagre state funded health care,  super-size portions and morbid obesity!
America is known as the land of the free so who put it in chains?
You've made your bed now lie in it!
Why does America keep its felons on Death Row for up to twenty years or more before they carry out  execution by lethal injection?
Vengeance is a dirty word  and executions are paraded as judicial revenge where sanctimonious satisfaction is afforded to the victim’s family. They get to witness the person - who took the life of their loved one (whilst in a state of derangement)- have their life taken away within the cold confines of the state penitentiary – a great way to spend family time!!

Added to which some of the crimes of inmates on Death Row are: stealing a pizza, getting stoned on drugs or to have been framed by circumstantial evidence. Where I live these are misdemeanours and gross errors of judgement – not criminal behavior to warrant being locked up on Death Row.
Hey lady...clean up your act
The gun culture is America’s bug bear. Everyone’s gotta carry one to protect themselves – from the unseen enemy. If you can’t see the enemy how can you shoot at it??
Guns harm people. They are detrimental to life and the people who mistakenly feel safer carrying them are living in a fool's paradise!When the police are armed that’s when you have something to worry about…the number of innocent civilians who wind up getting shot whilst the criminals go on the run.

Thankfully I live in a place where most police officers, on ordinary duty, are not armed. They are generally polite and call you “Sir” or “Madam”. In my humble opinion, America needs to bite its own bullets, give up the guns and then everyone will feel really safe.
Healthcare – let’s not even go there! Michael Moore (all American hero) said it all in his docu-film “Sicko”. Why can’t there be free health care in the most powerful country in the world? Why, oh why? Other smaller countries, like the one I live in, have managed it and, though it’s not a perfect system, we are confident of receiving good medical care.
Kindness - priceless medicine
Let me present the logical argument on health care. If you’re not going to provide free health care for all your citizens and expect everyone to have private health cover then don’t serve super size meals!?? This only gives rise to obesity and obese people…get…sick.
Ok, so that’s the big, gloomy picture but here’s the smaller, not-so-bright-picture:
In America, if you can’t pay your utility bills you get a red tag slapped on to your door so that the entire neighborhood knows your plight. Overdue bills come in yellow and pink envelopes – another public announcement to the postman and anyone who might see that you are in financial difficulties.  Your car can get towed away in the night and bill collectors are downright nasty people.

Debt with dignity? Yes we can!

Where I live that none of these practices for overdue/unpaid bills are in force and I speak from personal experience. I’ve been in an impoverished situation following a lengthy divorce. I was knee deep in debts – the largest being $60,000 – and yet, at no time during my negotiations with creditors, was I made to feel ashamed. In fact, I was treated with compassion and dignity.
I remain ever thankful to the companies who have given me fair repayment terms. I will be in debt for a long time but I walk with my head held high.
I feel incredibly lucky…. so where in the world do I live?
London, England is where I’m proud to call home. The British are a civilized and decent bunch.
There’s no such thing as financial certainity…our lives flow in peaks and troughs and so does our money. There’s no guarantee of life-long employment or good health. Hard times can befall anyone of us since life is a fragile thing. The State has to be aware of its obligations to safeguard human welfare. Dignity is a human right that must not be allowed to fall into a state of disrepair.
Being hard up is not a crime
America, I urge you to promote, protect and progress the charter of universal human rights -  now that's a healthy state to be in!


Sunday, 25 September 2011

Friends without benefits

Updating your status is all the rage and for anyone under 30 it’s a must! How would we cope if we didn’t twitter, facebook , instant message , Skype or spend facetime with our friends? I mean you’re just not part of the in- crowd if you’re not connected.
I’m not a techno-phobe. I enjoy the occasional electronic contact but am firmly in the “out crowd” when it comes to electronic friendships. To me, they are an unknown entity. It’s hard enough to find 5 other people with tastes that match your own and whom you’d like to share your precious time with. How on earth do you sift through 267 friends who are unabashed extroverts clamouring for gossip and tidbits to pass around?
Facebook is a malady of puberty that you may eventually outgrow; sadly there’s many a forty-fifty something who can’t get enough. This community was fashioned in the devil’s own workshop – “Idle Mind Inc.” Such minds are set loose in that cyber theme park known as Facebook. Sharing pictures, tagging them, writing on your wall, updating your profile, exchanging messages is social networking at its best (and worst!).
Bitch and Stitch-up club
The concept of a private life has gone totally out of the window. This is a tool that “pokes” you and you’re expected to respond. If you don’t, it’s seen as a rebuff. Facebook  is another form of self-aggrandisment  and keeping up with the Kardashians. It’s trite trivia that fills up minds that run on half empty.
Wittering, whining, whingeinging and wallowing – electronic friendships indulge in a ton of it. Men of 60 purport to be virile studs of 30, people in unhappy relationships or no relationships will tell all manner of untruths to make themselves more interesting; predators lurk on such sites waiting for the vulnerable to log in and chat.
Sharing the highs
Defenders of Facebook will say that its a social utility with a purpose. Purposeful negativity more like, when it becomes a re forum for backbiters!  In fact, so called “friends” have entered into suicide pacts and departed from this world. These “friends” are the shallow kind and, if you were in a state of crisis, they’d be the last to offer any kind of meaningful solace.
True friendships are rare so keep good company. The good ones are to be treasured. Don’t offload everything on to your friends – friendship is a fragile and many splendoured  thing – choose well and let them bear rich fruit. Facebook is a vehicle for the unhealthy ego. Though your own may be in good shape you’ll find a lot of maladjusted friends out there who'll be of no benefit to you!

Man's best friend will never let you down!


Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Swarovski or toilet paper?

All that glitters is a Swarovski!

Life presents us with a plethora of tough decision making….from the kind of bread we eat, the deodorant we wear, the people we hang out with or the careers we choose.
Decisions are never easy. Most decisions are ones that have been made for us by people we deem to have power over us: our parents, teachers, bosses. These are the authority figures in our lives. The reason behind this power play is that we’re indecisive -  we don’t trust ourselves and often we pretend we don't know what we want. That's a big fat lie - we know we want it but the bank manager says we can't!

Listening to the voice inside is a constant and yet we still don’t pay attention.
“Attention must be paid” and I hope the title of this post really made you sit up and take notice!
A Swarovski kind of girl

Here’s your starter question: What would you choose - Swarovski or toilet paper?

These two are world’s apart but there’s a spontaneous response from your gut. I felt it and so did you. People who act on their instincts (not bank balance)  are dripping in Swarovski's and more than just a little debt!!

Swarovski is a world-renowned brand. It conjures up a million, dewy images of romance. It’s your birthday and he’s bought you Swarovski – divine! 
This business manufactures exquisite crystalesque pieces to grace your neck, wrist and fingers. They’re soft trinkets that will add that “je ne sais quoi” allure and a certain something to your charisma.

These little glass beads can make us into shiny, happy people or so the advertisers believe. They certainly feed our need to own something that is unique and nouveau-riche –
“I had a custom-made Swarovski studded gown, dahling.”

Toilet paper, on the other hand, is not an exclusive brand and it’s no luxury by any means (though Andrex might disagree!) Naturally it depends on your need and your location. I know many a banged up inmate who would kill for a piece of the soft roll that reminds them of home.
Toilet paper is something ordinary; commonplace – sitting on its holder in all innocence.
We don’t value it until it isn’t there. Who has not used a public toilet only to find that there’s nothing to wipe with – ugh?!!
Matched to your skin colour

The Swarovski / toilet paper conundrum is a representation of the daily dilemmas we face. Luxury necessity or necessary luxury….aah….if only there was a simple answer. 

If we just focused on the bare necessities, life would not be so rich.
We work hard so surely we can afford to spoil ourselves a little?
Is it wrong to add a little glamour to the dreary days?
 Our rational brain admonishes us with a firm “no” but our emotional brain screams an ecstatic “yes, yes,  oh yes!”
The puppy looks good in it

All the frugalities out there will be aghast at the thought of Swarovski being included in their household expenditure. 

At Swarovski's expense, you could end up as a bejewelled bag lady and, at best, you could be considered trading up….becoming socially mobile…..and a few rolls of toilet paper would never do that for you.
Toilet fashion?

Swarovskis may break the budget but it beats wearing toilet paper any day!


Saturday, 17 September 2011

Window on my world

Watching...the grass grow
I've had a new window fitted and what a difference it makes! The room has more light and, through it, the world looks brighter. Never thought that some plastic, wood and glass could be so uplifting.
 My world was not so bright when I had the old window. The frames were so rotted that they couldn't even hold in the glass! They were original 1930's quality and although they made it into the 21st century they were in need of retirement (and I hope they're enjoying a long happy one at the recycling plant!).
 Windows are important - not just to let in the light or to protect us from the wind and rain - but because we can see through them. There aren’t many things that show us a clear picture. Windows show us reality and, from the vista over my backyard, it's all too real but nothing I can't live with.
Over the rainbow
 It is what it is. My neighbour's garden is messy; mine’s average, another’s is pristine. They’re metaphors for love and conflict. It’s the end of summer and flowers are still abundant – splashes of yellow, orange, pink and white all this I see in glorious technicolor.  The view shows me a patchwork of roofs but what truly fascinates me is above…the blue yonder.
When I lie on the bed all I see is sky. It fills the room and I feel as if wrapped in marshmallow clouds.

In the morning, dawn comes gently as punctures of light appear. By day, buttermilk sunshine floods in and sometimes the rain  - that I love to watch rolling down the panes.  In the evening, the dusky pink and rage of orange herald a breath-taking sunset in my urban setting.  Swallows and magpies return to their nest, squirrels scramble into trees and our pet rabbit sits quietly, like me, watching – the stars, pinpricks of light on a dark velvet canvas.
I’m loathe to put up curtains or blinds. The window will then just seem functional, now it brings the feeling of magic.
Through my window, nature never fails to amaze and delight. The window is not special but what I see through it is – my backyard….a piece of earth and sky.


Tuesday, 13 September 2011

The Black Sheep

Born this way
Most families have one in their fold. There’s at least one member that refuses to conform and perhaps even lacks a resemblance to their siblings or parents. They’re born rebels (with a cause and without) and non-conformity is their middle name.

They set their own standards and live by their own lights. They are argumentative and a challenge to their parents – original thinkers and  entrepreneurs of the future. They are as much a source of irritation and inspiration. They spend their lives ignored, undervalued and laughed at. Some are introverts and some extreme exhibitionists. No two black sheep- are the same. Each has a unique destiny which can verge on the sublime to the overtly awkward. Even when they fail; they fail in a spectacular fashion. And when they succeed, the sky’s the limit!

They are not comfortable in the family pen; no matter how luxurious it may be. They often reject wealth to pursue a life of austerity. Many a nobleman’s son has become a great saint, think St Francis of Assisi and Siddhartha (who later became the Buddha). These and whole host of difficult characters have risen to heights  never forseen. There’s many a dropout that has made good in their chosen sectors – think Mark Zuckerberg, ex-Harvard student and founder of Facebook and Bill Gates, the richest man in the world!
Designer drop out

These “black sheep” have alter egos of genius, prodigy, dysfunctional, loser and bum. Any pioneer or prisoner( on death row) has been a black sheep? Are black sheep born or made?  It’s a tricky one but my money’s on genetic inheritance.

I am what I am!
They present a whole range of problems to their families and the wider community. They are either loved or hated – opinions are very divided. Parents grit their teeth whenever they get into a debate with their adorable offspring who know how to push their buttons.  It’s hard to keep your temper around them let alone your sanity. Siblings wonder if these misfits were switched at birth and that an imposter is living in their midst.

Having a black sheep can be both positive and negative – high achievers or renegades?  They are a force to be reckoned with.
Hopefully they are not in decline or increasing in alarming numbers to pose any threat to the sociological landscape.

I secretly hope there’s one amidst my flock and that I can survive them long enough to be proud of them.


Wednesday, 7 September 2011

An appointment with disappointment!

A disappointment is just a date with destiny. I’ve had my share and so have you.
When you are disappointed it feels like a disaster, complete emotional devastation. When you are on the receiving end of all manner of things that don’t go right you feel a failure. From not getting the grades you expected in your exams, a flat tyre when you have to be somewhere important, snagging your best tights, to not getting that important promotion. Life is full of them – big or small – each of them hurts.
With each disappointment comes a regret - a whole heap of “if only’s” and “buts”. You know you should have been working much harder during those revision weeks instead of wasting time trawling through the internet looking for your prom dress, you should have learnt how to change a tyre while there was still a man in your life to teach you, you should have trimmed your toe nails before putting on the tights and you should have quit your job and moved on a long time ago.
Disappointing decay
Disappointments are a prickly subject. Some people keep endless lists of their tally and regularly throw a pity party to air their grievances. These kind of people are better at nursing their bruised egos than they are of taking care of their souls. Others are more stoic and pretend that they don’t care but deep, down the pain never goes away.
Its raining opportunities!

A disappointment is a sharp learning curve. You learn something from it….in time….once the pain has subsided. Disappointments can turn out to be blessings. That’s a tough thing to get your head around when everything looks bleak.

Failure in an exams can force you to travel a new path and seek your true destiny instead of chasing after someone else’s dream; the flat tyre on your wedding day was an omen and post divorce you are wiser, snagging your tights that day meant you were late for the cocktail party but bumped into an old school friend on the way and not getting the promotion meant that you were free to quit.
Disappointments are not the end. They mark a new phase in your life, a fork in the road and which bend will you take? Disappointments make you scrutinize yourself and the world around you. Once you get over your disappointment you get bold with “what the heck? moments and declarations of “who cares?”. Whatever you do with disappointment don’t play the blame game; there are no winners in that.
Don't let a mishap become a disappointment
Disappointments force you to  re-evaluate and change tactics. Disappointments are a reality check – “what the hell were you thinking?!!” – sort of therapy.
What you find disappointing your destiny knows is perfect. Karma is in the driving seat and a disappointment is an emergency stop.  And for God’s sake – stop! Stop doing whatever it was that led to disappointment. Yes, a disappointment can put you down but down is never out!
D.... for delicious!
Despite my indulgence here you should never dwell on disapointments….it’s the quickest route to getting disappointed all over again.  You can only ever have what you believe you deserve so refine your thoughts and make an appointment for a mental makeover… that’s exactly what you deserve.
And when life gives you spilt milk….. go make custard!


Sunday, 4 September 2011

Divorce is the new marriage

Divorce is another kind of marriage…in my view…it can be ideal. Naturally this depends on your personal circumstances – the person you are and the person you strive to be.
Marriage is complicated because it involves two people. That means dealing with two sets of feelings, fears and, of course, it can be double the fun or double the trouble!

Some people believe that love conquers all but…. when you find a trail of dirty underwear on the floor, the bath not rinsed out, the trash not put out (despite more than a few reminders) and a heap of unwashed breakfast dishes in the sink at 6pm – you’ll soon find that love goes out of the window!  Not to mention all the other irritations that you encounter on the emotional scale - angry words and deadly looks!
Married people (particularly those in the long term state) are not the happiest of souls.
They moan, complain, gripe and grumble about their spouses and don’t see that this dissatisfaction spills over to their careers, their social life and relationships with other family members. The lucky few are those that enjoy a deep sense of fulfillment in living with their life partner. Marriage is a journey from which you can take many a detour!

Bye...Bye...misery...hello happiness

Marriage is terrifying trial and endless error. If its our first, then we have nothing to compare it with except maybe our parents' (and you never wanted to end up like them!). 

We can't count on marriage since a decision taken in your 20’s will not necessarily mean the same thing in your 40’s.  Our values, our minds and our personal style mature and if your partner is unable to accommodate that then its better to part. 
Marriage is not a romantic bubble - since love is a chemical that's has changeable properties - but it can be a try-out for our dreams of eternal togetherness.
 I have no problem with try outs but be prepared for success and failure - they are your finest teachers and you'll soon learn whether you're victim or victor.
Solitude is sexy
In my opinion, two do not become one and two do not make one strong.
Those who believe in coupledom will find it that he's often working late; playing sports, bringing work home, jet-washing the patio, having drinking sessions or surfing (with not a drop of water in sight)!

Wherever you stand on the M issue, remember that your heart must be in it.
Divorce can be devastation but so can living with someone who does not share your values or interests. I know people who were long term singletons and once they entered into matrimony discovered that they were even lonelier!
Freedom fighter!
Divorce can be the best kind of relationship if you know how to handle it.  It will bear the hallmarks of an embittered coupling….you'll disagree on the same issues that you did during marriage BUT from a distance…sometimes the exchanges are vitriolic - sometimes not!

Since you married "for better or for worse" then this is the "worse" so bite the bullet! What did you want - a bed of roses??

From a new, separate, vantage point, you can both laugh and cry. You know you were both right and wrong but could not co-exist amicably in the same space.
To divorce is to embrace an attitude of freedom and freedom is the best kind of love.
Divorce can spark creativity and be a launchpad for self-discovery.
What’s on the inside shows on the outside and happiness is infectious (so make sure you have a de-tox).
Getting to know yourself is a worthwhile challenge - shed your baggage and travel light.

It's not the end….it's just a piece of paper. Your former partner will still hang onto the dregs of what was and your children are a reminder of what you meant to each other.

Divorce is a spiritual lifestyle’s the beginning of something new and definitely a healthy option.