Musings on Manners

Did you see the special on PBS about manners in the Edwardian era? The historical consultant for “Downton Abbey” gave viewers the rundown on the ins and outs of manners for the posh set back in the day. Rationalized by the perceived need to maintain social order to prevent an uprising a la French Revolution, they developed strict codes governing every part of life from raising children to table manners to clothing and everything in between.

We don’t need to tighten our societal stays to that extent, but I frequently wonder what happened to good manners. In her book Talk to the Hand, Lynne Truss postulates a theory that they were thrown out in the ’60’s in an effort to divest society of anything remotely reminiscent of the upper strata in order to create a transparent world as well as a way to rebel against the strictures of the past.

While creating a world with a higher level of individual freedom was a good thing, the problem came in the form of a systemic lack of respect at some levels. Sharing too much personal information (guilty); not minding other’s personal space such as people who ride on public transportation with their arms and knees sprawled; asking highly personal questions without really knowing someone; the ever popular fights on Black Friday, it all cuts into the quality of life.

Over the course of my adult years, I’ve watched as sitcoms rely less on wit and absurdity and more on how many references to genitalia or sexual situations they can cram into a half-hour for laughs. I don’t even watch “Big Bang Theory” any more because of this trend.

Social media amplifies it. The anonymity gives people the false courage to make inflammatory comments for the joy of it and for the warped pleasure of creating chaos. I blocked several people on FaceBook because of this.  Even my own beloved NPR has had issues with trolling lately. I wish that they would, could screen commenters more thoroughly. It hasn’t been pretty the last few months. It’s likely to deteriorate as the election cycle progresses.

It would help if I didn’t read comment threads.  It is fine to disagree. It is fine to have a divergence of opinion. Personal attacks, vulgarity, rudeness for its own sake, or whacking people over the head with religious texts are not.

I miss the days when candidates referred to one another as “my learned/esteemed opponent” and gently stated their position rather than resorting to crude comments in a desperate attempt to make themselves look better.

Roseanne Cash once blogged about the need for structure and boundaries in the day and in interactions with others. Without respect to them there is no safe place for intimacy. It’s something that needs to develop over time. Deb Ollivier, author of Entre  Nous, lived a good part of her adult life in France. She observed that the French reputation for coldness isn’t so much about snobbery as it is the creation of boundaries out of authenticity and respect for one’s self and others.

Personally, I am blessed. I have friends who are wise enough to know that the twain of our politics and social vision or our spirituality will never meet, so we simply don’t bring them up. We focus on shared passions for animals, for food, for movies. We value each other and time shared in conversations to initiate discussions that will leave us both covered in scratch marks.

And in those moments, my hope for the world starts to breathe on its own.







Hibernation Protocol

The air temps are bad enough, crawling up into the single digits and hanging there by their fingernails. We are in expectation of below-zero wind chills tonight. We have been rewarded for the last two winters with a rather mild one this year. The contrast intensified the shock of not uncommon weather for mid-January.

We follow hibernation protocol today with DVDs, hot beverages for me and lots of nose work to amuse and delight Oakley. Except for short runs in the yard for hygienic purposes, we are staying inside.

The big challenge: not letting my impulsiveness lead me down the path of ruin. I found a new strategy in a weight loss article posted on the Additude website: plan your meals and snacks out in advance. That way, you can override the part of your brain that looks at options for meals, gets overwhelmed, and drags you down Binge Alley. I tried it yesterday and it worked pretty well. Today began with oatmeal for breakfast. Lunch will be soup and salad. I scored a small turkey roast at Woodman’s on Thursday, so that and veggies will be dinner. For snacks, I have Kind (chocolate-nut) bars and veggies to munch. Perhaps a small bowl of popcorn to delight the palate this afternoon, but only if I get hungry. Oakley will have an extra Kong stuffed with spray cheese and pumpkin.

This morning, I did a Latin dance workout that I found on YouTube–about 15 minutes, but pretty vigorous. I’ll see if I have some coloring sheets in my work basket; otherwise I’ll run off a few fresh ones.

I should be able to keep myself busy today. The warm up creeps in tomorrow. No precipitation expected until late in the week. It’s just for the day, not forever. We’ll get through just fine.


Not Today, Reaper. Not Today.

Oakley had his distemper shot and yearly once-over yesterday. He’d lost a bit of weight, not a bad thing with his left hip. That’s the one that may have dysplasia, a condition that increases the odds of him getting arthritis as he gets older. Dr. P and I chose to hold off on X-rays as long as possible because he’d need to be sedated, something neither of us are thrilled about. He forgave the vet and the vet tech for the needle pokes, and received a sizable chunk of freeze-dried liver for his reward. The week began to redeem itself as we walked outside into the grey morning.

Monday started off with a round of my own gastrointestinal unpleasantries. Not Oakley’s, but my own. He just sat and cuddled against my leg while I called and cancelled a scheduled breakfast with a couple of friends I don’t get to see enough. There were several calls with a grumpy Hubby as he negotiates the bureaucracy of retirement while the renovations on his mom’s house drag on.

Meanwhile on the world stage, actors and singers left the planet in numbers I cannot remember ever happening before in less than a week. David Bowie (deep respect to him–his music and style didn’t resonate with me, except for “Let’s Dance,” but my God/dess, did he have guts and talent) , then Alan Rickman (Marianne’s true love in “Sense and Sensibility”), then Dan Haggerty of “Grizzly Adams” fame. There were several others, but they were the most notable.

The personal left curves came later in the week. One of the women I’d known in Brittany rescue circles and hung out with at picnics died unexpectedly. Evidently she’d sustained a heart attack in her sleep. Her last post on Facebook gave no hint of anything amiss. I’m sure that she had quite the welcoming committee on the other side of the Rainbow Bridge. She will be missed by many, two- and four-legged alike.

The second one came in the form of an entry on a blog that I love and follow. The author, like me, has had issues with her weight throughout her life. She also love history, and created an eating plan for herself based on rationing during WWII in the UK. (please check out The 1940’s Experiment for more details.)  She wrote this week about ending up in the hospital while on vacation with some issues where weight may have played a factor, and then she wrote about getting herself back on track. She’s on the mend now and rededicating herself to her efforts.

Ever read or hear something and felt that God/dess, the cosmos, the Universe had just dealt you a kick in the pants? Her blog entry was mine. Right now, I think I’m OK–some crackles in my knees, a stiff back in the morning. But what about a year or so down the road? Am I playing dice with myself?

I’m probably, based on my grandparents’ ages, going to live to 96. I used to believe that I would live to be 100, but between Orion’s allergies that prevented us from sleeping during corn season (100-1=99), getting Oakley properly trained and socialized (99-2=97), and his tummy (97-1=96), 96 is a reasonable guess. And I want to do it in good health.

I begin again. Every morning has involved Pilates (not pie and lattes, unfortunately) and/or yoga. After just a few days, my back has stopped cursing me when I roll out of bed. I made a run to Woodman’s and stocked up on more exotic fruits and veggies to amuse my ADHD-addled impulsivity-controlled palate.

I keep in mind, too, the words of a local acquaintance who lost a tremendous amount of weight with daily yoga and a strict diet. She would ask herself when she was having cravings if she was living or dying with each choice.

It’s that simple. Perhaps not easy, but it’s that simple. I’m choosing to live today.




January Cleanup

It’s a larrupin’ 13 above out there with a small but significant north wind. A bright sky keeps the mood elevated, as does a cup of Irish breakfast blend. Oakley had to tend to some necessary personal business out side. He set a personal best, I think, for speed. No complaints, though. Unlike the last two winters, the temps cycle in and out of the freezer drawer, giving only a day or two of discomfort, and we have only had two sizable snows unlike the constant bombardment of a year ago.

While the roads are passable, the wind chills aren’t, so we stay inside.  It’s a good day for puttering with decluttering. I cleaned out my sock drawer this morning. I’ll do laundry later, and purge the contents of the unmentionable drawer. Overdue for the latter.

The urge to purge coincides with the new moon. I cleaned out my Facebook friends list this morning. If we had no meaningful interaction, adieu. If you believe the best way to educate people about animal abuse is posting graphic pictures, good-bye or exile to the unfollow list. Same goes if you use racist memes to promote your candidate or views on immigration. Farewell.

A few more decluttering projects and we’ll be ready for Chinese New Year on February 8. It’s believed that you will bring in good luck with an uncluttered house and paid-up debts. We’ll keep working on the former and hope that this brings in a calmer year, whether it’s of the Monkey or not.

A Back-to-Basics and Stay in the Moment Year

Happy New Year, gentle readers. I hope that your end of year commemorations were peaceful and happy, or at the very least the local people in blue were not last minute additions to the guest list.

Mine passed peacefully, but not without a few bittersweet notes. My niece and nephew are adults now. Very odd to see them as such, especially my nephew with his shaved head. My sister and brother, now firmly entrenched in their 60’s, have finally figured out that 1. what happened in 1955 should stay in 1955 and 2. we no longer have the luxury of time to quibble about that, or which dead relative said what, or the color of the sky. The darker note was my sister in law’s diagnosis of dementia. The last round of neuropsych testing indicated that she’s holding steady with no deterioration since the last consult with the psychiatrist. For every remembered name, for every recalled detail, for the results of this doctor’s visit, we give thanks. We know what the future is likely to hold, but we will deal with it when it gets here.

The last chapter of 2015 completed, we step into 2016 with a focus on the truly important things. I don’t make New Year’s resolutions. Intentions, yes. Resolutions sounds too harsh and unforgiving. If the intention comes to fruition, great; if not, oh well. My intentions are pretty simple:

  • to remain civil and kind in the face of the unrelenting wave of bat crap craziness that intensify as November’s presidential election draws closer. To remain civil and kind, period. I shudder at comments on social media and the lack of anything resembling manners in the real world. I’m not advocating the strictures of “Downton Abbey,” but can we say “please,” “thank you,” and “excuse me” at the very least with a response of “how interesting” when someone 180 degrees from you on the political spectrum tries to pick a fight?
  • revitalize meditation and yoga practices to help keep my brain focused and not let the ADHD gremlins hijack my thoughts.
  • to plant a vegetable garden this spring.
  • read more real books. I just read Anita Diamant’s The Red Tent and wondered where I’d been since it saw the light of day.
  • and the ubiquitous lose weight.

The last is a radical journey to what works. I’m combining two things that have worked in the past: paying attention to body cues and following an exchange plan that I used in high school. It’s worth a shot.

May you have a year of many moments worthy of your precious attention, and may you have a year of peace.

And for the sake of any deities you believe in, or for the sake of humanity, get out and vote in November.