Monday, February 27, 2012

Where the Dead Rest

When we die, we become the grass and the antelope eat us
-Mufasa in The Lion King

This weekend was my great aunt Anita's (aka Auntie Nini) funeral.  Her death was a sad occasion, especially since she was the last surviving member of my grandmother's generation.  On the happier side she was much beloved and lived a very long and productive life.  Her funeral was lovely and well-attended.  I utterly loved the eulogy my cousin Karen gave her, not just because she paid a lovely tribute, but because she stood there in a Catholic church and referred to her partner Jackie without apology.  Way to stick it to the stupid old men!

When we drove to the grave site my mother informed me Anita would be buried in the communal mausoleum rather than in a burial plot.  She explained that this was because Anita's husband, my grandmother's brother Frank, did not want to be buried in the ground when he died. (I missed Frank's funeral as I was away at school when he died and no one thought to inform me about it for a week.) On the other hand, I remembered my grandmother telling me years ago that my great-grandmother had not wanted to be in a mausoleum because she wanted to be out in the sunshine and open air.

I'm not fond of communal mausoleums because they seem very impersonal to me.  The body is filed away like a document and there is little customization in the grave.  You want to visit a grave, so you go and stand in front of the wall, but the relative of of the person above or below also wants the same floor space.  To me a burial plot is a bit more personal and gives a little more space for the loved ones to hang out.  You can choose a gravestone and people can actually plant flowers in the ground.  I think private mausoleums are cool too.  Those too can be customized inside and out, and when I peek inside them, appear to almost be little chapels.  You build a mansion for bodies. 

My preferences for the burial of the dead are from the perspective of the living, but how much do the dead care?  Why do we care so much where our bodies are buried if we believe we won't be using them anymore?  It's funny how attached we are to the idea of comfort for our bodies when our bodies will not be capable of sensation.

The common belief among Americans is that when we die, our consciousness separates itself from the body and that is what is sent to the next life.  This is actually inconsistent with Christian theology, which preaches the resurrection of the body at Judgment Day.  At a funeral, the body is blessed and prayed over, with the assumption that it is being sent to Heaven (or at least to judgment which we hope will result in Heaven). If you believe the New Testament, it could be a while before the body makes it there.

I take a much more practical view of life after death.  I believe our bodies rot and become fertilizer for the grass and trees and flowers and so we all live on in the great circle of life, such as it is.  For those who take a more fanciful view, I'm both fascinated and confused by how we look at what happens to us when we die.

Turn on the Syfy Channel these days and you'll understand just how much Americans like to believe in ghosts.  When our bodies die, do our consciousnesses just linger?  Energy can not be created or destroyed and your consciousness is a form of energy after all.  A house becomes haunted because of the thoughts we leave behind.  Maybe a choice of burial has to do with the idea that if our consciousness will linger while our bodies await resurrection, there might be a reason for ghosts to exist.  Where would your consciousness most want to be?  Would you want it in the home your body inhabited, or would you want it to be in your only true home, your body?  If we believed that houses are haunted or that souls go to Heaven, why do cemetaries seem so scary at night?  Who do we believe is there? 

In Neil Gaiman's* The Graveyard Book there is a lively community of ghosts in the graveyard.  They all live their lives as if they were still living, but just making adaptions for being ghosts.  If this was to be your life after death, I suppose where you are buried might make a difference.  Then again, if you can leave your corporeal body and wander the graveyard, does it matter if the body is in a wall or under the ground or on a shelf in a little house?

What about the practice of placing photos and beloved objects in the casket? This seems almost akin toe Egyptian pyramids   Will your ghost enjoy them (even if your ghost can leave the casket), or will you carry them with you when you are resurrected?

If you spend a lifetime inhabiting a body, I suppose it's only natural to still have concern for it once it's dead.  We are all as attached to our bodies as we are to the "souls" that we hope are destined for other realms one day. 

I think Iris DeMent sums it up better than anyone though. 

*Neil Gaiman: a truly great author who understands how to write orginal and engaging fantasy.  Do you hear that J.K. Rowling?

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Style 101 - Trying a new type of post in S&C

I've always been a great admirer of personal style blogs. I love seeing how people put together their outfits and make a statement.

I want to be one of those people. I really do. I do enjoy clothes and dressing up and putting outfits together. I would love to show off the my favorite outfits.

I do have a few problems though. There is a good reason why I will never be able to make a blog just about personal style.

I'll start by saying I'm a terrible shopper. I do enjoy shopping. I enjoy finding that one perfect piece of clothing. I sometimes find that the impulse buys, the ones others think I spend too much money on, the ones I find I can't resist, are the clothes and shoes I end up loving the most. I rarely ever regret a special purchase.

That being said, when it comes to going out on a shopping mission with the intention of trying to achieve certain looks, I always seem to fail. I will go out to the stores knowing exactly what looks I have in mind, but I never seem to find them in the stores I visit. I don't do enough research. I don't know my brands and designers. I will often end up browsing an entire mall or outlet complex and just not find what I think I want. I often end up buying something close to what I want, but really isn't the look I'm going for and the resulting outfits kind of flop. I don't have the patience to know where to shop, or to keep looking.

The other problem I have is fit.  I have a very hard body shape to fit. I like to say they don't make many clothes in size troll. I'm very short and lumpy in all sorts of places. Even petite sized clothes hang too long on me sometimes. That means tops sag in back and necklines hang provocatively too low. Sleeves can be too long. My stomach, my worst feature, bulges through fabrics, as does my back fat. My heavy thighs strain against pant legs. I will often buy something too big or too small trying to make a garment fit one body part at the expense of others. I will often buy clothes that are way too big because I find myself in the mindset that if it's not too tight, it "fits". Then I'm wearing clothes that look sloppy and unflattering.

The next problem is I'm sometimes cheap. If I were willing to take my clothes to a good tailor to have them fitted to me better, I would have fewer problems with fit. I also know that better quality of fabrics and better construction can make for a much better fit (although higher price doesn't always equal better quality). I'm not always willing to spend time and money on either buying top quality gear or having something altered to fit me properly.

I'm trying hard to lose some weight and if I make it down 20 pounds, I do want to reward myself with new clothes and start trying to develop that personal style a bit more. I'm hoping doing some occasional blog posts on style will help me develop some looks.

There is another element of personal style though. Style isn't all about clothes. It's also about hair and makeup. I'm not makeup artist, but I do love playing with makeup and finding new looks. I thought I might start using this blog to show off some of my favorite makeup looks as well. I was inspired by a friend who has been blogging about her odyssey of developing snazzy new manicures for herself. I thought about how I could do the same for makeup looks.

Anyway, I'm really at the age where I can't go without makeup anymore the way I'm in the habit of doing. A blog with some makeup posts might also remind me not to walk outside with a naked face.

So here is my first entry in the style department.

This is my Basic Day Face. This is my daily minimalist look. This is what I wear when I don't want to linger over makeup.

I start with concealer. My current fave is Lancome Effacernes.

I then use Bare Minerals foundation. Beige is my color.

For face color I use one of the Bare Minerals All Over Face Colors. I switch between Glee and Warmth (Glee pictured here) depending on what I'm wearing.

I may or may not use eyeliner when I go minimal. Today I did. For this look it's always just a smudge of dark taupe. I finish it off with Mineral Veil (which now comes in pressed form so it's not as messy as old style Mineral Veil).  Lip color is a sheer raspberry.

It takes about 2-3 minutes to put this look together.  It's great if you need to rush out the door, but want to look a bit more than undone.

If you like these types of posts, please feel free to give your feedback. I'll definitely continue them if I see interest.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Attention Stupid Old (and not so old) Men

Do the world a favor and please keep your Jesus out of my health matters.

I understand there is a passage in the Bible about being fruitful and multiplying, but that passage also came from a time when infant mortatlity was high and multiple children were necessary to help do the work needed for a family to survive.  Authors weren't taking into account that the population of this planet would one day be 7 billion.  Let's face it, the very sexist authors of the Bible also enjoyed the idea that childbirth is something that should make women suffer.

The stupid old men who control the Catholic Church (and the stupid young men who follow them) will never know what it's like to have children.   Despite this, they seem to think they know best when it comes to a woman's health.  Organizations run by Catholic Church seem to think it's fine to allow their insurance companies to deny women access to birth control, even though the employees may not practice a religion that believes a radical Jewish man who was executed for treason by the Romans in ancient Palestine is somehow responsible for the state of their soul after death due to some bizarre system of cosmic justice. 

They feel this way even though it costs them nothing. They believe this even though the majority of Americans, in fact the majority of Catholics, use birth control and support the coverage of it.  I'd like to know who is forcing their beliefs on whom right now. 

The problem with this minority of religious nutjobs, including the Cathlic clergy and right-wing Quiverfull types, is that they really have no clue about pregnancy and childbirth.  They deny that this is a health issue. 

To them, pregnancy is what they see in the movies.  A woman finds out she is pregnant. She joyously looks at the positive test with her husband.   Maybe she has a complaint or two about morning sickness, but otherwise nothing really changes.  She gets this adorable "bump" in her belly.  After a soft-focus montage, lasting only minutes, where we see her panting and sweating and holding her supportive husband's hand, she is presented with a healthy baby.   Soon everything is back to normal, except now she has a child, a special blessing that will bring constant and lasting happiness.

Prior to the last century, childbirth was the leading cause of death in women.  Pregnancy is not something any woman should take lightly healthwise.  It's true that thanks to the advances in modern medicine both mother and infant mortality rates have dropped, but I think availability of reliable birth control is also a factor (fewer babies being born means fewer mothers dying from childbirth).  Even today women can still suffer all kinds of life-threatening complications such as gestational diabetes or preeclampsia, which often mean ending a pregnancy in order to save a mother's life. 

What really happens to a woman when she is pregnant?  You think that "bump" is beautiful?  Imagine carrying around an extra 30 pounds and seeing your body all stretched out.  Morning sickness isn't always just in the morning and can last all 9 months for some women.  There is the pressure on the bladder that makes her have to go to the bathroom constantly.  She may suffer from swollen feet and ankles. She may also develop hemorrhoids.  Pregnancy can be painful and uncomfortable and forces a women into many unpleasant physical changes. 

Once it's time to deliver the child, a woman may endure hours, even more than a day's worth of painful labor.  Yes, we all know childbirth hurts, but I don't think anyone who hasn't done it will never know how much.  Again, it's not what you see on TV.

Once the baby is delivered her body may now be permanently altered.  Her feet could be bigger (and will now need a whole new shoe wardrobe).  Her breasts will have changed shape.  She has stretch marks on her belly.  Maybe she now has varicose veins.  Her bladder may be weaker and she has to be careful of stress incontinence.  If she's not a rich celebrity who has the time and money to pay a trainer and a nutritionist, she may not lose all of the baby weight.  All of that might cause her husband to feel less attracted to her because she doesn't look like she did before the baby, and that can cause problems in the marriage.  Life does not just automatically go back to normal once the baby pops out.

What about other health issues related to birth control?  Many women take the Pill because it helps prevent ovarian tumors and PCOS.  It can also help ease extreme menstrual discomforts such as severe cramping and irregularity. 

Maybe it's because religious nutjobs believe in the curse of Eve and crap like that and probably think women deserve it.  If a woman doesn't want all of the physical pain and discomfort, she shouldn't have sex, right? How about men?  Are men not supposed to have sex?   The same insurance plans that can't cover birth control can cover Viagra.  Should a priest's conscience tell a single Jewish male doctor at a Catholic hospital that he can't have Viagra coverage?  I would hope so if  they say a married female Jewish female doctor at the same hospital can't have birth control pills.

Access to birth control is not just a health issue, but it's also a money issue.  It's far less expensive to prevent a baby than it is to raise one.  Children are a luxury that many families simply can not afford.  Children can't be responsible for the sins of their parents, so therefore the child must somehow be clothed, fed and housed if the parents are unable to provide these things for the child themselves.  That puts the burden on the taxpayer.  Oddly enough many of birth control's most vocal adversaries seem to have issues with the idea of public assistance for needy children.  The Catholic Church officially supports such programs, but just as the majority of Catholics use birth control, many of the hard-line crispy Catholic types outside of the clergy do not share this belief (e.g. Rick Santorum).  Women with children may be less able to contribute to the economy in other ways and can be less productive.  They miss work days due to sick children.  They have less money to spend because of health care costs.  Why deny them a chance to dictate their own destinies and financial futures?

So why should these stupid sluts who are evil enough to not want to risk their health or their finances to have babies be covered?    Birth control is cheap, right?  If you want birth control, just go to the doctor and get it and pay for it.  The problem is that it's not cheap at all.  Even insured women have to struggle to cover the costs (I speak from experience on this).  Women have been pushing for better insurance coverage on this for years because of this.  Most of us hear about the president's mandate and say, "It's about time!"

It's universal.  It's necessary for both physical and financial health.  It's expensive.  Those are three very good reasons why we need comprehensive birth control coverage.  Stop this ridiculous smokescreen of religious freedom.  If birth control is against your religion, don't use it.  As for you stupid old men, until you can have babies yourselves, until you're actually having sex (in this case, diddling altar servers doesn't count), you have no say in this matter.  You can't force your religious beliefs on my health care just because you find it morally wrong.