Friday, August 6, 2010

Don't Flaunt It, Mrs. Obama!

I was reading this article about Michelle Obama and her "lavish" vacation in Spain.  Here is another article that really blasts Mrs Obama:

But while most of the country is pinching pennies and downsizing summer sojourns-or forgoing them altogether--the Obamas don't seem to be heeding their own advice.   
The author seems to think the Obamas should be cutting back like the rest of us especially since Mrs. Obama is taking this vacation on the taxpayers dime.  She labels Mrs. Obama a "material girl" and a modern-day Marie Antoinette.  Articles like this always make me roll my eyes.  

Mrs. Obama was wealthy before she became the first lady.  She had been able to afford this standard of living long before Barack Obama made it to the White House.  The only difference before was that she was not as high profile.  I personally don't feel like she has to change her life completely for anyone's benefit.  And we as taxpayers are paying Barack Obama's salary and benefits.  That doesn't mean we have the right to dictate how they decide to spend money that is earmarked for their personal use.   And it is not their fault that they need to travel troops of Secret Service.  That's the world we live in.  Furthermore, we pay the Secret Service their salaries to do a job, i.e. protect the First Family.  They would need to do this job whether Mrs. Obama decided to vacation in Chicago, Spain or on the moon. 

I get it.  Times are hard.  The economy is doing terribly.  Folks have never experienced such difficulty.  But even Christ acknowledged that there will always be haves and have nots.  It's how the world has been set up.  Why begrudge anyone for their good fortune?  It's not as if Mrs. Obama doesn't do her fair share of community oriented work.  But she's still a high status and very wealthy woman.  Why shouldn't she enjoy it?  I know I would. 

Human nature dictates that people sacrifice when they have to.  The Obamas don't have to.  It would be a nice gesture to take more frugal vacations but honestly and truly, we all know that there is nothing the Obamas will do that won't draw criticism.  If she vacations in Virginia, folks will whine about how she bought (gasp) $15 drinks at the bar.  If she decides not to take a vacation at all, folks will question her motives and accuse her of being a martyr.  Please. 

And it's absurd to compare Mrs. Obama to Marie Antoinette.  Yes, the country is going through rigors right now and everybody is taking it really easy.  But just like in the first Great Depression, not everyone will suffer.  Some will be just fine.  Some will stand to make a whole lot of money because of the whole thing.  It is not Mrs. Obama's responsibility to soothe folks and make them feel better about the mess that we have put ourselves in.  We are all complicit in this economic ditch we find ourselves in and sooner or later, everyone will feel it in some way or the other.  Just some more than others. 

Mrs. Obama shouldn't dim her light for the benefit of anyone else--shouldn't dumb herself down so others don't feel intimidated by her intelligence or scale back her vacations so others aren't reminded about how much they are struggling. She's not flaunting it.  We would have never have known about this vacation without the media taking pictures and creating a buzz.   She shouldn't hide how wealthy she is.  She's worked hard and she should enjoy it.  And she is not doing anything that previous First Wives have not done.  She is the wife of the President of the United States.  Why not act like it?

I'm saying all this as someone who took her last vacation three or four years ago to Ghana.  And it's still up in the air as to whether that was a vacation at all.  

My advice to all those offended by Mrs. Obama's trip?  Focus on yourself.   I know it's hard to see others enjoying when you're struggling but don't begrudge anybody their wealth.   That doesn't attract wealth or fortune. Work on building (or conserving) your own spiritual, emotional, social and financial wealth. To me, that is energy far better spent.  

Plus the outfit Mrs. Obama was wearing was flyy.  Haters are always going to hate. 

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Should I grow it out again?

I've been wearing my hair very short for more than a year now.  I think I'm approaching 2 years since Z2 is going to turn 3 in December.  Yesterday, the hubby cut my hair as he usually does every 2 to 3 weeks.  While he was cutting it, he suggested that come winter I try to grow it out again.  Initially, my reflexive response was, "No way."  But I let him continue talking.  He said that it's been a while and that I should give it another go.  Don't do much to it.  Just wash and wear.  I thought about it for a moment then I realized that I do have a job now and I have to go to work every week.  I mean, my job is very laid back but I still want to be neat and professional.  All the other times I have grown my hair out I was in school or just staying at home.  

Furthermore, and perhaps more importantly, I do not want to go through all this again.  My hair will grow out nice and full and then eventually start to break off.  I don't have the time, energy or the money to invest in trying out products and seeing what works for my hair, i.e. what might help strengthen it and keep it on my head.  The hubby seems to think that with all the exercise and because I'm eating differently, things may be different this time.  Maybe.  I don't much want to try.

The hubby likes this short cut on me and I think it looks good too.  But I know he would prefer it if I had longer hair.  I won't pretend that his preference doesn't play on my insecurities from time to time.  Now that I do have a lot of muscle on my body and the short cut, I often wonder if I'm giving off enough a feminine vibe.  It's amazing how much we associate softness and long hair to femininity. 

If my hair did somehow grow this time around and I let it lock, I would still be inclined to wrap my locks.  And I'm just not in the mood for headwraps at the moment.  Not to mention that for my face, I need styles that are not too big . .. a big, poofy afro just wouldn't work so naturally I'd need some headwraps and scarves to get me through that in-between stage.

In fact, I'm just comfortable with this style I've got going on right now.  Even though sometimes I wish I could do something different, this is very practical. 

Book Review: Lift by Kelly Corrigan

Lift by Kelly Corrigan is a slim volume that is a love letter to the author's two young daughters.  Having two children myself, I could of course appreciate the desire to write something to let my babies know some important things about how I thought about them, how they were,  my hopes for them, some wisdom I have gathered over the years, what I was thinking, the experiences that drove my actions, what I was trying to achieve, why I failed them at times, and why I was such a great success at other.

Corrigan is a cancer survivor and this of course informs how she writes this letter to her daughters.  To me, there's an underlying sadness (or is it sentimentality) that was sometimes difficult for me to get through.  Especially since, aside from her own life and death struggles, she speaks of the death of the son of one of her close friends.   She actually spends 1/8th of the book on this subject (and since the book is not more than 100 words, this is actually a good chunk of the book).  I think she tried to draw lessons from the boy's death that she could pass on to her children in this letter to them but all I felt was this choking sadness and loss that really darkened the whole message and beauty of the book.  Still, there was a lot of "lift", insight and wisdom bolstered by the humor that life will often impart.

I enjoyed it tremendously.  There were some real jewels in this book the main one being how the author derived the title.  The writing was lyrical and really, you could complete the book in one sitting.  I don't know if it's because I'm a mother myself that this book touched me.  I can't say my review of it is unbiased.  But for such a little book, it's well worth the read.  I'm looking forward to reading her other book soon.  

Here is an excerpt from Lift.

Immediately after reading Lift, I began to read The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold (which a  new movie is based on).  I couldn't even get a quarter way through: too gorey and heart-wrenching.  I honestly coudln't do it.  

Currently, I'm re-reading The Joys of Motherhood by Buchi Emecheta (one of my all-time favorite novels).  Once I finish that, I'm so looking forward to reading Dreaming Me by Jan Willis.  I want to get into some other books about Black Buddhists too. 

And I am just wondering to myself . . . I believe and hope that I am at least a good an author as some of these wonderful authors I have been reading.  Wondering when my time will come.

Book Review: The Color of Water

I had known about James McBride's book The Color of Water: A Black Man's Tribute to His White Mother since high school (or early college) but never picked it up.  Some years ago, I found a hardbound copy at either the thrift store or a library fund-raising sale and bought. it  I only recently got around to reading it, though, while I was waiting for a book I had placed on hold to come in at the library (Lift by Kelly Corrigan). 

The Color of Water was a good read, full of poignancy and triumph in the face of racism, poverty and (sometimes) overwhelming cultural dictates.  It is just a beautiful story and you could tell how much McBride respects  his mother: it came through every word.  And if the story McBride tells is true, his mother is an extraordinary woman, who was not interested in what others thought but was self-assured and confident in her ability to make the right decision no matter what.  

McBride approaches the story in a very methodical way.  He interviews his mother (who is less than willing to give an yinformation) and researches his mother's background on his own (not coming up with much).  It seems like because his mother was not one to share freely, McBride was unable to tell us about how she felt at certain moments: we have to kind of piece it together for ourselves.  That's fine though . . . it speaks to the kind of woman his mother was in terms of her personality and approach to life.  She didn't have the luxury of unnecessary emotional shows.  I guess in that regard I would say the book lacks a certain depth: an exploration into the inner workings.  I think also that this study of his mom was equally a way to learn about himself (where he came from and how he came to be who he is) as a tribute to his mom.

And I found it very interesting that what ends up being super important to list at the end of the book was all the academic accomplishments of McBride's siblings.  A little hollow, I thought.  I sure hope my parents wouldn't list my academic accomplishments as the main thing they are proud of. 

I also noticed when reading reviews that some Jewish people were not too pleased with this book.  If I were Jewish, I don't think I'd be either. 

Anyway, it's good to own the book.  I think I would read it again. 
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