Friday, November 30, 2012

What Constitutes Rich in America?

What Constitutes Rich in America?

With the “fiscal cliff” looming ahead there has been much discussion about the pros and cons of increasing taxes on the rich. The difficulty, however, in addition to the theoretical differences in the major political parties with regard to the potential long-term risks in taxing the rich more, is defining what constitutes “rich”.

While the Obama administration and Democrats contend the voting public gave them a mandate to tax “the rich”, there is a contentious dispute as to what constitutes rich in America. For the 98% that means anybody earning more than the median. But that is not fair. Essentially, if 98% of the population votes to raise taxes on the rich, they are voting to increase taxes on anybody but them. But, is it fair or even reasonable to allow an electorate to vote to increase taxes on others? I think not!

The arbitrary threshold of $200K for an individual and$250K for a family also causes consternation. While many may concede that an individual earning an annual income of $200K may constitute extremely comfortable, it is not reasonable to presume that a family with an income of $250K would qualify as wealthy.  From my humble perception, if one earning $200K equals wealthy, than 2 earning $400K may constitute wealthy – but certainly not 2 earning $250K. How on earth does Congress decide that 2 or 5 can live almost as cheaply as one? While this may have been reasonable in 1933, it is certainly far from reasonable in 2012.

Additionally, the theory that one must be taxed at a significantly higher rate if a couple earns more than $250K would certainly cause me to reevaluate my commitment to marriage. Rather than pay a significantly higher tax rate, if my partner earned $140K and I earned $120K, I would opt to cohabitate or, if already married, divorce and live together, to avoid the punitive taxes.

Again – I do not fall within these parameters, but if I did, this is what I would espouse.  They only fair options: (1) a flat tax on all income with no deductions or exemptions; or (2) a federal sales tax on everything but food. Oh too bad if somebody on welfare has to pay 25% tax on cigarettes or beer. Guess they can’t afford it. If somebody is on the dole, they shouldn't  buy luxuries!

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Appreciating Silence

Appreciating Silence

While lying in shavasana at the conclusions of this evening’s yoga practice while the music was still playing fairly loudly, I was meditating on the beauty of silence. As one who has learned to appreciate just being in the moment, I’ve come to love absolute silence with the exception of whatever natural sounds are brought to me by Mother Nature.

My husband loves background noise. When he is home He always has either the TV blaring or music playing on DirecTV or the computer or the CD player. But when I am home alone, I generally leave it all off (with the exception of Jeopardy or Homeland).

I love the beauty of silence as I watch the fire burning in the fireplace, the birds at the feeder, the sunrise or sunset, the ice covered trees in the winter, flowers bursting with a kaleidoscope of color in the spring.  I can revel in the silence of an evening when the rain is falling with the fresh smell of the dampness in the air. When I indulge in reading with a cat curled up next to my shoulder or hip, I appreciate the silence of all but the gentle purring of the animal next to me.

One of the great benefits of living in the country is the quiet at night. Where we live there are no sounds of highways, no whistle of tractor trailers, no ambient sounds of city noise, voices, church bells, revving motors, or sirens piercing the night. Instead, I have the pleasure of the sounds of my husband's breath, the occasional bullfrog or owl.

The more I’ve experienced the beauty of silence around me the more I appreciate it, crave it, and indulge in it when the opportunity presents itself. And because it is so rare, it is all the more precious.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Tieks by Gavrieli – My Latest Footwear Obsession!

Tieks by Gavrieli – My Latest Footwear Obsession!

When I’m in need of mindless pleasure I can while away hours shopping for shoes online. Until now my favorite purveyors of fine footwear included,,,,, and  In my youth I rarely gave consideration to comfort, style reigned supreme.  I used to quote Billy Crystal as Fernando on “Saturday Night Live” who always espoused that it is “better to look good than to feel good”. As with many shoe aficionados, the beauty of the shoes meant more than comfort.

Ultimately, the myriad injuries to my right ankle over the years caused chronic instability, which meant no more stilettos. And commuting to my workplace in the city necessitated the search for the perfect commuter shoe. While many women taking public transport in the District of Columbia sport athletic shoes, I’ve been vociferously against that option as the ultimate fashion faux pas. Since I’ve never thought a ballet flat flattered my feet nor had I ever worn one that did not lacerate my heel, rub the area of the vamp raw or cause blisters, I resorted to Euro flats which I found ugly but comfortable.

Then a few weeks ago, on a day I’d driven to Washington, I wore my gorgeous Hugo Boss alligator ankle boots. I thought they’d be fine to attend a meeting and an afternoon outing to the National Portrait Gallery. But – I was so wrong. By 3:00pm my feet were in such agony I decided I would have to find some of the foldable shoes that I’d read about that I could tuck into my handbag for those foot pain crises. Most of the options I’d seen reviewed received terrible ratings for comfort, durability, and fit. 

But as I was scanning Face Book postings that evening, I saw an ad for Tieks by Gavrieli offering a 20% discount for “liking” them on Face Book.  The ad said that Tieks were one of Oprah’s favorite things.  Not being an Oprah fan, that did not convince me to “like” Tieks on Face Book. However, I Googled the brand and read reviews; I went to the website and found myself impressed.

The shoes were described as “the most versatile designer flats in the world. Made of the finest Italian leathers and designed to fold and fit in one's purse. Wearable all day, every day.”  The flats come in an array of colors including snake prints, metallic, and vegan options. The soles are cushioned. The shoes come with a small pouch to keep the folded flats in your purse, clips to hold a folded up trouser hem, and a small bag to hold your heels. The sole has a thick padding to cushion one’s step.  The leather uppers are extremely soft. The shoes are true to size and conform to one’s foot.

I was hooked. I had to have a pair. But, the shoes start at a pricey $165 and increase to $295 for the gorgeously desirable snakeskin prints. So I “liked” Tieks on Face Book, received my coupon immediately via email, and ordered a pair in platinum metallic. They arrived within a few days. The package was gorgeous. The shoes were packed in a turquoise box reminiscent of Tiffany’s complete with a bow and a handwritten note from the company.  I wanted to savor the experience of opening the box. I felt like Cinderella when I slipped those ballet slippers on my feet. They fit like a glove. I wore them for two days in a row constantly. The padding on the sole is excellent. The heel did not rub. The shoes looked fabulous on my feet, slimming and elongating – unlike other ballet flats I’ve tried. The leather is as soft as butter. The fit was exquisite. I want more.

Today, Tieks launched a new color for its Face Book fans – Azure Snake. I want them. I lust for them.  My heart races at the sight and thought of them. But, alas, at $295, they are out of my reach – at least until we win the Power Ball on Wednesday!   But I am now a convert to the ballet flat.  Check them out, like them on Face Book and give them a try.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Gone With The Wind – Still a Spectacle After 73 years on Screen

Gone With The Wind – Still a Spectacle After 73 years on Screen

AMC screened Gone With The Wind yesterday from 6:30am to 11:30am. I missed the first half while giving my in-laws a send off and watching CNN; however, I couldn’t resist the pull of the movie and plopped myself down on the couch to watch the machinations of Scarlett O’Hara for the final two hours.

My mother first took me to see GWTW when I was 11 years old. The movie had been rereleased and was shown at The State Theater in Logansport, Indiana. I was mesmerized and so entranced with the strength of the woman who stood in the field at the conclusion of the first half, holding that yam and vowing she would never go hungry again.  This was long before I ever imagined that I would someday find myself reenacting the Civil War period.

Shortly thereafter my mom gave me her 1936 edition of Margaret Mitchell’s classic to read. Despite the length at approximately 1036 pages, I read the book over the course of a single weekend and realized the story was so much more than what had been depicted on the silver screen. I became fascinated by the American Civil War and how if affected the civilians.  Margaret Mitchell knew Civil War veterans and recalled stories told by her relatives and friends. This book of fiction compelled me to study history.

It is true that for those looking for absolute authenticity in the movie or book for that matter would be greatly disappointed.  Mitchell tended to romanticize the South and the lost southern cause. Keeping in mind, however, that Mitchell was a southerner raised in the tradition of the South, this should not be a surprise – nor should it compromise the great story that emanated from her pen.

For me GWTW is a great story of a woman’s triumph over tragedy, of resilience, of making hard, pragmatic decisions in the interest of survival, and of using her assets to her best advantage to achieve an end. I wanted to cultivate a bit of Scarlett O’Hara within myself, to be able to succeed in what was a man’s world when I entered the workplace while still retaining my femininity.

And, despite the improbability of a well-bred southern girl making a dress from her mother’s faded and dusty curtains, and my incomprehension that Scarlett would actually be infatuated with Ashley Wilkes as portrayed by Leslie Howard, I still love the book and the movie.  In today’s world, Scarlett would probably be on a realty show.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

San Miguel by T.C. Boyle

San Miguel by T.C. Boyle

I really wanted to love this book. Generally I enjoy the works by TC Boyle and enjoy becoming immersed in a sweeping story of historical fiction.

San Miguel, an island in the western most part of the Santa Barbara Channel, is the title character in the book.  Boyle writes with lyricism about the island and its forbidding wind, weather, and rocky terrain and how pioneers of sorts tried to tame the land and make lives for themselves with varying success. The book is actually based on the lives of two families, the Waters and the Lesters, who inhabited the island at different times between 1888 and the beginning of World War II.

The first story begins with the dawning of 1888 when Marantha Waters, her adopted daughter, 2nd husband who is a veteran of the Civil War, and servant girl relocate to San Miguel to operate a sheep ranch on the island, which purportedly will provide the fresh air necessary to cure Marantha’s consumption.  While the writing is filled with details about the decision to move, the attempts to make the place habitable, and the trials and tribulations of life on an isolated island with a single, rustic house and that receives supplies irregularly by ship, I did not feel empathy, sympathy or ultimately any interest in the characters. To me Marantha seemed perpetually resentful, angry, bitter and self-pitying as she constantly coughed up blood.  While her negative attitude was no doubt, one of the facets the author wanted to convey, I struggled to read to the mid point of the story. Despite the raw beauty of the place, and Boyle’s inimitable writing style, I did not like the people who inhabited the book.  As such, I can only award 3 Hershey’s Special Dark Chocolates out of 5.