I’ve decided that God is somewhat more like my dog and a lot less like the popular images of him in the church these days. And if I am wrong about that, I imagine that He is big enough to forgive me.
Verona wasn’t high on my list of cities to visit in Northern Italy–until I got there.
I wondered: is the dark side of the moon darker tonight?
Wonderful post reblogged from Live and Learn by David Kanigan:
What if the Book of Revelations does not represent the will of God for man but simply represents his foreknowledge about man’s selfish, intractable and rebellious nature which will inevitably lead to his demise, and the earths, unless…
…tiny, fluffy little drifts of fiberglass insulation float in the air like fairies…
Smartphones are as ubiquitous these days as Wonder Bread was when I was growing up.
Turns out they might be just as over rated when it comes to how helpful, or healthful, they actually are for keeping us all “connected”, especially for kids.
But back to Wonder Bread for a moment for some context.
Open any cupboard door or breadbox lid back in the sixties and you would find a loaf of Wonder Bread. You would know it by the dazzling white wrapper and the bright primary colored dots and bands. What an eye-catching design! Hard to miss on a grocery store shelf or in a pantry.
My favorite sandwich on Wonder Bread was peanut butter and marshmallow fluff. But mostly I ate bologna sandwiches with mustard, because even way back then, we knew that marshmallow fluff was a little over the top. But bologna sandwiches–health food, no doubt about it.
And Wonder Bread did promise from the start to “help build strong bodies eight ways”, and later, twelve ways, as we became more educated about nutrition.
Never mind that this was actually a reference to all the added nutrients it contained. Or that these were practically necessary for Wonder Bread to even qualify as food, because the basic ingredients of white bread in the sixties: refined white flour, sugar, water, yeast, etc., really don’t have much nutritional value.
Brilliant Marketing. And we fell for it.
Of course, this is old news. We all know this. Now.
But let’s face it folks, we are talking about the Tang generation here, so it’s easy to see how indoctrinated we were by marketing claims.
Tang was science, and space travel.
Tang was the future.
It was almost an American duty to drink Tang. And we did so, gladly, in service to our country.
It was what the Astronauts drank for crying out loud, plus, it tasted awesome. I pretty much drank it everyday for like twelve years.
The only reason I have any teeth in my head today is because they fluoridated our water back then too.
And of course, now we know that Tang was to orange juice what crack cocaine is to Budweiser.
And fluoridation was really a hard core commie plot, just in case you didn’t know that either.
And yes, at the time, we thought we were geniuses. Turns out all the geniuses were writing ads for Tang, Wonder Bread, and Oscar Mayer.
Now, back to Smart Phones.
Last night, in a segment titled Screen Time , Sixty Minutes reported that the National Institutes of Health are doing a study of the brains of kids to see how cell phone usage affects brain development over time.
The results are not complete, and won’t be until they can study the children over a number of years, but already, they have observed that children who spend more time on their phones show changes in brain development, a slowing down of development in certain parts of the brain, as compared to children who don’t spend much time on devices.
They have also discovered that babies are more sensitive to the addictive effects of screen time, in particular as it relates to smart phone usage over tablets and other media delivery systems, than their older counterparts.
Other research revealed that while babies might appear to be learning from their screen time, much of what they learn does not cross over into the real world. They described how a baby who learns to play LEGOS on a screen cannot then play LEGOS off screen. In other words, if they want to play LEGOS in the real world, they have to learn to do it in the real world. So stop screen timing your babies and get out those LEGOS.
Generations of parents have limped around for days after stomping on those little plastic demons, and what makes you think your so special that you shouldn’t have to?
Another finding the NIH reported was that while young smart phone users say that they feel more connected to friends and family because of their smart phone activity, they are actually experiencing more depression, loneliness and feelings of isolation than they have in the past, translated, before wide spread cell phone usage.
This got me thinking about those genius marketers.
The question that I’m begging to ask young users is “If you have grown up with a smart phone since childhood, how would you know if it improves your connection to others or not?”
It might just be that you believe this because you have been told it for as long as you can remember and you are told the same thing nearly every time you look at your screen.
There is always some new app that you must have right now, right here in order to stay better “connected”.
There is always a new phone coming out that will out perform your old one and that you won’t want to live without because it will improve your quality of life and your social media game and everyone you know will have one and how could you possibly connect appropriately without it?
And as one industry insider reported, apps are constantly monitoring your phone habits and adjusting and updating the marketing messages that you receive on your devices, so that they seem to be responding to your needs, but what they are really doing is cleverly manipulating you into developing the needs that they want you to have.
Brilliant Marketing. And we are all falling for it.
Evidently, one of the things social media activity does for human beings is stimulate the production of dopamine, a powerful neurotransmitter which operates in the reward centers of our brains. And of course anything that stimulates our rewards center–sex, drugs, amaretto cheese cake, can become a habit forming problem if we let it.
Which goes a long way in explaining my long standing love/hate relationship with Facebook.
I know it’s a terrible time suck, and I don’t even like it that much, but I keep going back.
Even after discovering that corrupt and hostile foreign entities used it as a platform to foment a deeper political divide in this country than most of us alive can ever remember.
Which just might be the real hard core commie plot of our time.
©2018 By Ilona Elliott
Christmas Rituals are everywhere right now. Lights! Trees! Shopping Sprees!
And decorating! It’s definitely at full throttle. I think I’m done though.
In the past, my Christmas decorating was very Martha Stewart-esse, with everything from homemade cedar garlands to red and green lights on the picket fence and rose arbor, to holiday themed soaps in the bathrooms and a reindeer throw on the couch.
It was lovely coming home on a dark December night, driving through the deep woods and up the steep driveway to those lights. As I climbed the stairs and unlocked the door, the front porch smelled like fresh cedar boughs. And the house was scented by clove studded oranges in a bowl on the dining room table and a live fir tree in front of the window.
Even Cody, our rescued Malamute, felt like Christmas, with his black and white mask, his thick fur coat and curly tail, and a couple of jingle bells on his red collar keeping time to his wiggling welcome home dance. Come to think of it, we did bring him home for the first time two days before Christmas.
BEST CHRISTMAS GIFT EVER!
It was all quite wonderful.
But the older I get, the more pragmatic and less sentimental I am.
These days I prefer decorating that is pared down to simplicity: Indoors– some candles, a few baubles and greenery; Outdoors– white lights in select fir trees, and a wreath on the front door. I like the house the way it is already–light and bright and sparely decorated. Christmas clutter just doesn’t do it for me anymore.
Or perhaps I’m just getting lazy.
I’ve got the Christmas spirit though. I really do. I just don’t feel I need to make a display of it anymore.
Sorry Martha, your icy stares and eye rolls won’t sway me. As a matter of fact, there are a few other traditions on the chopping block this year:
Christmas cookies–far too fattening for a couple of sexagenarians with symptoms of pre-diabetes. They’re out. Not that I won’t miss you kolachkes, but you were a bitch to make.
By the way, I love using the word sexagenarian and plan to do it a lot over the next nine years. It sounds so racy. And it’s so not!
Christmas shopping–over also, unless mailing a check to my sister to buy gifts for the grand kids and ordering a couple of small home appliances online qualifies. Who needs more stuff?
Certainly not this sexagenarian!
Christmas stockings–went the way of pantyhose, a long, long time ago. Filling stockings is such a pain. Not quite as painful as filling pantyhose, but close. They’re both dead to me. I thank God for leggings on a regular basis, because, like Him, they are so forgiving!
There are some Christmas traditions I don’t want to toss though. Like sending out cards. I love giving and receiving them. I just finished writing out my short stack of them.
There is something about a card with a hand written message that says “I’m thinking about you”, and this time of year, I want people to know that, yes, I am thinking about them.
Because I am–thinking about people. Remembering them. It’s not really considered a Christmas tradition or ritual, but it most surely is one. Why else would you send a card to someone you haven’t talked to for a year?
So I’m not some sort of sexagenarian Grinch. And I’m not a Scrooge, either, but since we are on the subject, consider this:
The spirits that moved on the heart of Ebenezer Scrooge began by showing him Christmas past. His renewal started with his remembering.
So for me, remembering is the most important Christmas tradition of all. I hope I will always have the where-with-all to practice it.
It’s the one ritual that has kept me going through the years. No matter how lonely, spare, lost or disappointing the year may have been, in December, I look back at the wonders of Christmas past, and it does my heart good. Even while it makes me sad.
How do I practice this tradition?
Most years I pull out the family photo albums so that I, like Scrooge, can travel back in time.
I can go all the way back to the very beginnings of my maternal family’s life here in America. Or I can visit my child mother, propped on a stool surrounded by her parents and sisters, posing for a family photo. Is it any wonder they nicknamed her Dolly?
I can travel back to my parent’s wedding, or to our little post war Cape Cod house, or to snowstorms in Connecticut, my brothers swathed in winter clothes, throwing delighted smiles at the camera.
I can even return to my very first Christmas and sit in my dazed Mother’s arms again, surrounded by my four older brothers, wild eyed and waving their gifts, beside the tinseled white Christmas tree in our tiny living room on Cricklewood Road.
I can stop and marvel at the wall to wall relatives and friends in party hats and party dresses, drinks in hand, crowding our kitchen during some long ago New Year’s Eve party, and wonder at how happy and free and alive they all are. I can hear their laughter again. I can smell their perfume.
There is smiling Auntie Kay, looking like a movie star, sitting next to Auntie Jean. Dad and Uncle Vinnie are looking a little drunk, and Aunt Mary is reacting, laughing out loud, to something funny, and perhaps ribald, one of them has said.
And see how pretty Aunt Hattie is, sitting on Uncle Joe’s lap. Someone way in the back, next to Daddy, is holding up a bottle of booze, and Uncle Judi is throwing back a drink. And there’s Mom, tucked in the corner, wearing a party hat and a great big smile.
The first time I saw this photo, I was a little taken aback at how wild and young my aunts and uncles and my parents appeared.
Until I realized–this was New Years eve, circa 1950’ish. Of course they were happy. They were alive. Most of them had lived through the lean years of the depression. They had all lived through, and survived, the Second World War.
And here they were, huddled in our warm little kitchen, safe, young and in love, looking forward to the best years of their lives.
Happy New Year indeed.
And this is the thing about this tradition–everyone in that photo is gone now. Some I haven’t seen for years and years and years.
But I can see them again, and I will, I’m sure, this Christmas Eve.
And I can celebrate with them.
And I can celebrate for them.
And I can celebrate Christmas, in my way.
I don’t need the Ghost of Christmas Past to take me back.
I’ve got this collection of photos, and this heart full of memories.
And I’ve got this spirit of Christmas…right here in my heart.
And I hope you’ve got yours too. It starts with remembering.
©All images and text. 2018 by Ilona Elliott
Timely and important words written by Renee at Life in The Boomer Lane. Please share them:
It’s impossible to say what remains of a life departed. To loved ones, vivid memories, for sure. To those who came in more casual contact, moments of memories less vivid. To those who never knew the departed, perhaps an awareness of who they had been in life. What is left of those who were never […]
How do the Italians get away with it? They are so bold. So out there. So creative. So colorful and artsy.
Can you imagine painting your house Pepto-Bismol Pink, or Kelly Green maybe Tomato Red, or a startling Lemon Yellow, or if you are the sedate conservative kind, Turqoise Blue?
What would your neighbors say? In Burano, they would say Bravo, and thanks for keeping with the status quo.
Burano is a beautiful place. The buildings are bright, bold and eye-catching. While it may not have the architectural interest of major Italian cities such as Rome or Bologna, or it’s sister island Venice, the colors are so compelling, it’s a happy, fun vibe walking through it’s neighborhoods.
It’s one of the Venetian Islands, so it is a canal island, and you reach it by boat, as we did, on the last day of our Italian tour.
There’s something about strolling along the canals, crossing over the quaint bridges, and exploring winding little alleys through residential areas here that is just so appealing. It was a welcome break after two weeks of non-stop touring through Northern Italy.
Burano’s a great place to just walk and shop and eat, which we did, and the crowds are much thinner than in Venice but slightly thicker than we experienced on Murano. And the pizza was very good, but it’s hard to find bad pizza in Italy.
We also toured the island of Torcello, which is tiny, has only about seventeen full-time residents, a handful of restaurants and sidewalk vendors, and a man who stands on the sidewalk that leads from the boat wharf into the tiny town, playing his accordion for you.
I absolutely lost myself in the quiet of this beautiful little island, which was at one time, quite surprisingly, an important center of trade and politics. It has a long history stretching back to the fifth century and was once more economically powerful than Venice. The Italian plague, malaria outbreaks and infiltration of swamp plants in it’s lagoons contributed to the islands demise.
There are remnants of Romanesque architecture scattered around the grounds and integrated into the buildings here.
The Cathedral of Santa Maria Dell’ Assunta contains impressive Byzantine mosaics, but most of the opulent buildings that once graced Torcello were plundered to provide architectural elements for buildings on other islands.
These two islands along with Murano were a favorite part of this trip for me. They were quieter than the major tourist destinations we visited. I did not feel inundated by crowds or commercialism on any of them and yet there was the opportunity to eat, drink, shop or just chill and enjoy the visual feast that is the specialty of the incredible country of Italy.
©2018, All Text and Photography by Ilona Elliott