Category Archives: Observations

A Little Holiday Humor

(Sent from a friend.)

THERE WERE 3 GOOD ARGUMENTS THAT

Jesus was Black:

  1. He called everyone “brother”.
  2. He liked Gospel.
  3. He didn’t get a fair trial.

But then there were 3 equally good arguments that Jesus was Jewish:

  1. He went into his Father’s business.
  2. He lived at home until he was 33.
  3. He was sure his mother was a virgin, and his mother was sure He was God.

But then there were 3 equally good arguments that Jesus was Italian:

  1. He talked with his hands.
  2. He had wine with his meals.
  3. He used olive oil.

But then there were 3 equally good arguments that Jesus was a Californian:

  1. He never cut his hair.
  2. He walked around barefoot all the time.
  3. He started a new religion.

But then there were 3 equally good arguments that Jesus was a Native American:

  1. He was at peace with nature.
  2. He ate a lot of fish.
  3. He talked about the Great Spirit.

But then there were 3 equally good arguments that Jesus was Irish:

  1. He never got married.
  2. He was always telling stories.
  3. He loved green pastures.

But the most compelling evidence of all proves that Jesus was a WOMAN:

  1. He fed a crowd at a moment’s notice when there was virtually no food.
  2. He kept trying to get a message across to a bunch of men who just didn’t get it.
  3. And even when He was dead, He had to get up because there was still work to do.

 

#Me Too?

The world is abuzz with new revelations about sexual harassment, workplace predators and all-around bad behavior.

This leads me to think about a couple of incidents from my past.  Viewed through today’s lens, they’d probably warrant a call to HR.  But — and this is not to excuse these men — the world WAS different when I was young.

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Incident #1

A suburban-dwelling supervisor stopped by my desk one evening to let me know he was going to “apartment sit” a friend’s place in the city for a few days and encouraged me to meet him there for drinks “and”. Said supervisor was married, decades older, and my direct boss.  Accepting might fast-track a promotion and certainly lead to plum assignments; refusal could turn a cordial relationship into enmity.

Unlike, say, Harvey Weinstein, there was no physical intimidation.  But the message was clear: if you want to advance, here’s one way to do it.

Incident #2

I had a tiny office and a very large, very tall boss.  One day, he came in, closed the door, and proceeded to back me up against the wall while attempting to kiss me. Physical and scary, as this man had total power over me — not just in that moment but going forward if I handled things badly.

Did I tell anyone? No. Because what good would it have done? Men had no hesitation coming on to women at work; it was almost expected and it happened a LOT. So with both bosses I tried to offer a reply that would protect their egos while I rejected them –thereby preserving our working relationship.

With boss #1, I flattered him by reminding him that I was a lot younger and said that if we became involved I’d risk falling for him, which would be a very bad idea.

He bought it.

With boss #2, I flattered him by telling him how much I liked working for him (he was brilliant) and I may have lied and said I had a boyfriend.

Was this brave? Of course not.  Just simple gut instinct that if I didn’t make a big fuss, they’d stop.  It didn’t occur to me that they might victimize someone else or that this could be a pattern; I only wanted them to leave me alone.

My questions are these:  Does every proposition by a person in authority qualify as sexual harassment? And has it become too easy to assign blame without also considering ways in which the other party might respond?

I get that a powerful person like Weinstein can intimidate the hell out of a young woman whose career might never get off the ground if she doesn’t “go along”.  But showing up at the guy’s hotel room might send the wrong signal.  And if he answers that door in his bathrobe, why in hell does she go in? Is she that naive? Or is she a participant in a quid pro quo?

I don’t mean to diminish the seriousness of sexual harassment. Men who think “grabbing pussy” is a compliment, or feel entitled to treat women as objects, are disgusting. On the other hand, I wonder whether we’ve gone too far in the other direction, labeling every advance or teasing remark as harassment, which minimizes those that are.

Perhaps we should learn how to diffuse a tense situation before it gets out of control. Plus karate, in case that doesn’t work.

What are your thoughts?

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Chance Encounters of the Meaningful Kind

What’s the best part of travel for you? The food? The culture? Hearing another language? To all these, I’d add, “Having unexpected conversations with strangers.”

I’ve got nothing against museums, monuments, scenery, restaurants, etc. – they all enrich the experience. But to get to another level, you’ve gotta get personal.

Some of my most vivid memories of last winter’s trip to Paris were random and often awkward chats that, despite my halting French and their equally limited English, somehow managed to connect us on a more profound level. In one shop, the attempts to find my correct size led to observations about women in general – how we often think we’re larger than we are, or want an outside observer to reassure us that we look attractive. (Yes, even Parisians can be insecure!)

And at a little place near the hotel specializing in tableware and jewelry, the owner engaged us in a discussion of art, politics (both US and French) and the current state of global anxiety so many of us share, as well as recommendations for which current exhibitions to skip and which to put at the top of our list. What could have been an ordinary, five-minute transaction became an enjoyable half hour conversation.

Our trip to Sicily raised the need to communicate to a whole new level, since almost no one we encountered spoke English and my Italian is basic at best. Yet, we blundered through and in doing so had some delightful moments.

There was the cashier at the grocery store who began to recognize us and teased us about buying yet another bottle of a favorite wine. And the woman selling fish at the local market who insisted that my husband eat a raw shrimp right on the spot so he’d believe her when she told us how fresh they were.

Back in Milan on Wednesday, our last night in Italy, we met two very chic women – a mother “of a certain age” (i.e., close to my own) and her adult daughter – who were also staying at our hotel. We’d shared a car with them earlier in the day when the hotel had taken us to a destination in town and then met by chance in the bar. After the mother greeted us, we invited them to join us and we started talking.

In this case, language wasn’t the challenge; the daughter alone speaks seven languages. (We Americans have much to learn from other countries: for most of us, studying another language in high school is the extent of our globalization and we expect the world to speak English when/if we leave our borders.)

But what I found fascinating was the ease with which our conversation skipped among a number of topics, some light and others quite serious, in a way that rarely happens on a first encounter.

In the space of an hour, we learned about their heritage, their life in Jordan, their fashion business (buying for their boutique brings them to Milan four times a year; how lucky is that?), and some of their family history, including seeing photos of the lovely younger daughter and father, both deceased.

We discussed politics, karma, spa vacations, the importance of intuition, Turkish hostilities towards Armenians and Jews, Bruce/Caitlin Jenner and the Kardashians, favorite fashion designers, which cities are “simpatico”, where to get good pizza in Milan, US universities, modern marriage, and more.

In short, we began to know them in a substantive way, and if we hadn’t been leaving early the next morning we would have enjoyed talking further.

I don’t know if we’ll continue to be in contact, but that’s unimportant. What matters to me is the generosity with which these two women shared stories about their lives, and the depth it added to our trip. Rather than being passive observers in another country, I felt that we were among friends.

And that’s a huge part of why I love to travel.

xo, Alisa

 

 

How To Be A Happier Couple

We’re off to Italy tomorrow — (see #1 below). Since I won’t be posting while we’re traveling I wanted to share the following thought-provoking article with all of you.

(Shared from WhoWhatWear):

According to the app Happify, the most blissed-out couples have been married for under five years and have no children. If you’re among that demographic, congrats! If you’re not, or if you foresee yourself crossing over into a long-term partnership or having a family at one point, fret not, as there’s still good news—happiness in relationships, just like individual happiness, is something you can work to achieve. Here, eight research-backed methods for becoming one of those happy couples of whom everyone is jealous (and not just on Instagram, but in actual life).

1. BE ADVENTUROUS

According to the New York Times, “New experiences activate the brain’s reward system, flooding it with dopamine and norepinephrine. These are the same brain circuits that are ignited in early romantic love, a time of exhilaration and obsessive thoughts about a new partner.” So while butterflies inevitably fade, studies show you can inject new energy into your relationship by regularly trying new things with your partner. Try date night activities that are outside of your comfort zone, rather than spending another night in watching Netflix or simply walking over to your favorite neighborhood restaurant. It’s fine to continue with these beloved activities (after all, fall TV!), but if you want to keep the flame alive, it’s advisable to mix things up every once in a while.

2. MAKE AFFIRMATIONS A DAILY OCCURRENCE

According to research conducted by Terri Orbuch, a psychologist and author of the book Finding Love Again: 6 Simple Steps to a New and Happy Relationship, one of the biggest learnings from her divorced clients was that they wished they had been more affectionate toward their spouse, or that their spouse had been more affectionate to them. Dr. Orbuch recommends performing one small act of kindness for your partner each day, be it a verbal affirmation (something focused on a positive attribute they possess or a positive feeling you have about them) or a physical action (like folding their clothes, giving them a hug). Taking specific note of the small things your significant other says and does to make you feel loved is important, too, as negative interactions are more naturally notable to our brains than are positive ones.

3. TALK ABOUT THINGS OTHER THAN MONEY, WORK ETC.

Dr. Orbuch’s research also revealed that the happiest couples made time to talk about things you might talk to your boyfriend about in the early stages of dating—dreams, values and goals. She recommends you commit to spending 10 minutes per day discussing with your significant other something that does not concern your job or other practical life demands. Ask your partner questions about their past (“What’s your favorite memory from childhood?”) and encourage them to share their bolder visions for the future (“What would you do tomorrow if money was no object?”).

4. FIGHT MORE BUT BETTER

Communication is key in relationships, and because you are two separate people, with separate world views, perspectives and goals, chances are that communication sometimes manifests as an argument. If you’re fighting small fights, often, this can be healthy, as it means neither partner is letting resentments build up. That said, the key to a “good” fight is to really listen to your partner’s point of view from a non-defensive place, and to try to look at the situation not just from their perspective, but from a non-partial, third party perspective. Also, it’s important to remember that you likely suffer from a closeness-communication bias, which means that you think you’re communicating your perspective to the people with whom you’re most intimate better than you actually are.

5. MAKE UP MORE

Apparently, being intimate one time per week is enough to increase happiness levels for couples, according to one study, and that going from one time per month to one time per week creates a happiness boost equivalent to that of a $50,000 raise. Though the same study also shows that intimacy more frequent than one time per week does not improve happiness levels, we don’t really believe that you can over-do it on this one.

6. LAUGH A LOT

Couples who laugh together, stay together, according to one study. Apparently, remembering times in which you shared a giggle in the past helps increase happiness within a relationship, as well.

7. MAKE OTHER PEOPLE A PRIORITY

This one has a few caveats. In news that’s sad for discarded single friends everywhere, it turns out that couples who hang out with other couples feel closer to one anotheras a result. More sad news, for divorced people, is that hanging out with friends who have split makes couples 75% more likely to divorce.

Generally speaking, though, it’s assumed to be healthy for any relationship for couples to spend time apart, with friends and family who are outside of the relationship bubble. This way, you’re not putting all of your expectations and needs onto one person—author Bella DePaulo articulates the dangers of doing exactly that here.

On another note, couples who prioritized others in the sense of parading their relationship for them online are not happier than couples who keep it a little more low-key. Read more about this fascinating phenomenon here.

8. DRINK TOGETHER… or don’t

Consuming a similar amount of alcohol as your partner increases the odds of success in a relationship; however, if you and your significant other do not have similar boozing habits, there could be trouble down the line.

Car Wars

I’ve written before about my theory/belief/fear that inanimate objects, such as the house you left behind while you swanned about on vacation, have a way of punishing you.

This week, it’s my car.

The palladium princess had been hooked up to a battery charger all summer and was running like a top (whatever that means) upon arrival, so off I went on Monday to get it/her inspected and renew my registration before it expired and some random cop desperate to make quota could pull me over.

With a passing grade under our belts, PP and I set off for a day of errands and adventures and looked forward to more of the same: Physical! Haircut! Dentist! Flu shot! – I’m telling you, life doesn’t get more exciting than cramming 4 months’ worth of overdue appointments into less than two weeks.

Tuesday I head to the garage and – oh joy – my newly inspected steel maiden will not start. Argh! Quickly borrowing my husband’s car so as not to miss Critical Appointment Of The Day (eyebrow shaping and lash lift), we leave her hooked up to the battery charger.

Which does nothing. Or, to be more precise, creates a charge just long enough to drive back to the car inspectors and get a diagnosis.

To no one’s surprise, PP needs a new battery… or, the universe needs $200+ to leave my wallet. Yippee.

Wednesday: The car is running smoothly so off we go to the dermatologist for a little “upkeep” in the form of microneedling. I have some extra time so I stop at CVS on the way, being careful to park away from other vehicles.

However… NOT careful to park far enough away from the Bane of Urban Existence, the parking barrier. Can I just say that I do not understand the need for these concrete logs to be approximately the same height as the low-slung carriage of any car smaller than an urban assault vehicle?

I back out and hear that sickening crunching sound that tells me I’ve scraped the undercarriage. Which would have been bad enough except that’s not what I did. The damn barrier must have gotten lodged under the front bumper because it’s been dragged and is now separated from the rest of the car. Crap and double crap, although at least PP is drivable. Small miracles.

Thursday. First order of business is to call the insurance company – always a super way to start the day. Then the body shop, where Very Nice Person Nick makes an appointment with me for Monday and suggests I stop by earlier so he can order any necessary parts.

Which, of course, turns out to be the entire goddamn bumper. Because the universe obviously requires another 500 bucks to exit my wallet.

Today: The day is young. If I stay home, what can happen? Don’t even ask.

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I Vant To Be Alone (Sort Of)

Do you consider yourself an introvert or an extravert? For me, it’s a frequent tug of war. While I love spending time with our family and friends, I’m basically shy and easily exhausted/overwhelmed by constant conversation. At the same time, I’d find it depressing to be a total recluse. Call me a closet introvert — or perhaps more accurately, a “schizovert” (a description I like better than ambivert, which sounds as though you have mixed feelings about standing upright.)

Where do you fall on the spectrum? Are you outgoing, a homebody, or a bit of both?

11 Signs You’re a Schizovert

  1. You dread parties but have fun once you’ve settled in.
  2. Your big presentation went well; now you need a nap.
  3. A lot of people think you’re salt-of-the-earth; just as many think you’re an asshole.
  4. You can whip up something for dinner when the kids bring unexpected friends over… but you’d rather they didn’t.
  5. At any gathering, you’re the last to arrive and the first to exit. (It’s not personal, I promise. We schizoverts just have a short social-attention span!)
  6. When your significant other is away, you leave the TV on to keep you company.
  7. You’re equally spontaneous and rigid.
  8. Going to the hairdresser and doctor qualify as social engagements.
  9. The busier you get, the more you want to take your phone off the hook.
  10. Your ideal number of pets is 0-1.
  11. You enjoy coming home from vacation as much as you enjoy leaving home.

Ironically, as I was writing this, I was invited to something — a result of making some wonderful new friends this summer. Note to P: I really would go if I could.

xo, AG

 

The Eclipse is Coming, the Eclipse is Coming!

Panic in Otter Rock! 100,000 extra visitors are expected to swarm the Oregon coast next weekend where we’ll be Visibility Central. We have one main thoroughfare, which is sure to be bumper-to-bumper, so locals (we summer residents included) have been warned to stay indoors for the duration of the long weekend. Good times.

One worried resident recommends that we padlock the gate between our little development and the neighboring hotel. As if that would deter any would-be miscreants who want to sneak into a community full of retirees.

I’m not sure exactly why she thinks the unwashed hordes are about to descend. To do what? Crash a canasta game? Knock down geezers on their morning walkabout? Trample the brambles? The sky goes dark every day, ‘ya know. Get a grip, people.

To be on the safe side, though, we’re stocking up on necessities: gas, batteries, brie and chocolate. This will require fighting for provisions along with the toothless crackheads who frequent our local grocery store– unless they’re too stoned to know about the Big Event. Luckily we have enough pinot noir to sit out several months of siege.

But what if it’s cloudy/foggy that morning, as it so often is? People who are paying $100 for a parking space are going to be pissed off big time.

Then what?? Riots in the streets? Tacky tee shirts ripped from their hangers? Mugs with “I heart Oregon” smashed to the curbs? Local hazelnuts hurled at the windshields of unsuspecting motorists? Tourists pelted with saltwater taffy? Maybe I should be less blasé.

Still. We’ve got eclipse goggles. We’ve got candles. We’ve got vodka. We can do this.

Just pray for sun.