Women’s revolution, Part II

Grandma. The Matriarch.

I am seeing an interesting phenomenon in my professional work: women of the Boomer generation entering their later years with the same independent attitude they’ve had throughout the last several decades.

Women of the forties, my mom’s generation, became the traditional housewives of the 50s. Daddy, the breadwinner, knew best, and mama stayed home with the kids and put three square meals each day on the table. Roles were defined and while women grumbled a little, they still gained (some) satisfaction keeping a spotless house and ironing all the shirts and trousers of the male family members. Their daughters were taught to do the same, and their sons (often) were treated as privileged beings.

These women devoted their later years taking care of Grandma and Grandpop, often taking them into their own homes to do it.

In contrast, the women of the “boomer” generation stormed the board rooms, got their own degrees (real ones, not the “Ph.D.–Putting hubby through school” variety), and became a potent force in the workplace. They divorced when necessary, not always adhering to the “stay together for the sake of the kids” mentality.

Their kids learned to be self-resilient, often taking care of themselves after school, sometimes being raised by a single mom. These women expected that husbands take an active role in the housework, cooking, and child care.

Not always a good thing, but just what was. And I am speaking in general terms here, not specifics, understand. There are always exceptions.

Fast forward to retirement age. In the past, traditional wives would put their own lives on hold, becoming the 24/7 caretaker to ailing husbands–often ailing because they had neglected their physical health in service to working to “provide for the family.” At least that was the rationale, although I still assert that smoking cigarettes and not exercising is a personal choice.

Are we seeing a different pattern with the “boomer” ladies? I think we are. They have gone into their marriages wanting an equal partner. They do not have a willingness to buy into the “wait on me hand and foot, especially when I’m ill” mentality. And they are getting  angry when they feel forced into that role. At least the ones I am talking to are.

So my question this morning is: who is going to take care of the “old guys” if the “wise women” stand up and start saying, “Where’s mine?”

I am thinking we might start seeing some older husbands (and some younger ones) step up to the challenge, turning into caretakers for their own maturing spouses, even as they chose to become more active co-parents when the kids were little and both parents working.

At least, I hope so. Otherwise, we’re going to be seeing a LOT of very full nursing homes!

 

Taming the wild thistle

artichoke

artichoke (Photo credit: wundoroo)

Ah, the mighty artichoke! According to legend, it was created by Zeus when he turned a rejected lover into one.  (Zeus had a habit of doing this).

Upset with the propensity for schools using Native American caricatures as school mascots, the Scottsdale (Arizona) Junior college adopted the artichoke for their mascot. At least their football stars must be healthy.

The artichoke is packed with nutrition, ranking seventh out of the USDA top twenty for  anti-oxident foods. It’s a good source of folate, dietary fiber, and vitamins C and K. Plus, artichokes look cool on the buffet table next to a delectable dip.

Have I convinced you yet?

My goal, when I found two in my coop food basket this week, was to learn how to cook them. And they can be a challenge. They are a thistle, which means the points of the leaves are prickery, hence the scissors; you trim each one.

Then you have to cut off the point. I tried two knives and found a serrated one worked best.

shot with teas

See all the pink leaves? Those come from the middle of the artichoke, once you cut off the top. You pull on these out–you haven’t lost anything by doing this: they are too small to hold dip.

all the equipment

After the pink leaves, you need to scrape out the inner stuff with the spoon. The official terminology for the inner stuff is  “a thicket of fuzz called a choke” according to the Joy of Cooking.  That takes care of the choke part; I’m not sure where the “arti” comes in!

Important to scrape it all out, because if you don’t it doesn’t go away, but rather, sits on top of the good part, the heart of the vegetable, like those fine fish bones you can feel on the tip of your tongue when you try to eat a piece of trout. (Ignore the trout, though, because this is a vegetarian recipe).

When you get through all this preliminary block-and-tackle work, the rest is a piece of cake.  Plunk the artichokes in a Pyrex dish and cover, then microwave for 5-8 minutes.microwaved artichoke

Nuke some butter to go with, and dig in:

artichoke with butter

The mortal remains fill a dish like lobster shells. And yes, I missed a thicket or two of fuzz!

mortal remains

 

Finding life’s balance

bella circus performs : yerba buena gardens sa...

When I was little the circus would come to town, and if my folks had the money we’d go see a performance. I liked the horses, didn’t find the clowns terribly funny, and gasped at the tigers and lions. But my absolute favorite were the artists who walked the tightrope.

They had this long floppy pole for balance, and I would hold my breath as they made minute adjustments, sometimes stepping back, then teetering precariously before they walked ahead slowly, testing each foothold. Only when they reached the platform at last, did I breathe again.

Life is like that, too. In difficult situations, the future seems precarious. I find that I have to move back before I can go forward. I tilt one way and then another to find balance.

Sometimes I forget that balance is ALWAYS a matter of making adjustments, depending on the current situation. That finding a balance in life is always temporary. I struggle to be flexible in the situation, ready to teeter and tilt and fight gravity for a toehold.

But that’s not such a bad thing. Kathy Freston, in her book Quantum Wellness talks about the four Rs of balance: Regular, Reach, Relate, and Rejuvenate. Regular is the ‘getting things done’ phase. In this category fit all those things you HAVE to do: work, chores, sleeping, eating, those ‘to do’ lists that multiply like rabbits.

Regular seems to be a strength of mine. Given a firm deadline, I can usually suck it up and get it done. Maybe not perfectly, but somehow, the important things are usually finished.

The second R, Reach, is also one that I enjoy. I’ve always been a reacher. I delight in discovering a new idea, a word I don’t know, a world I haven’t visited yet. It becomes an irresistible invitation. Been there, done that, got the T-shirt is my motto.

But I start to fade on the 3rd R, that Relate part. By nature, I am an introvert. Give me a good book, a warm cat, a comfortable couch, and I am content. I need to remind myself that there are others in the world, and that friendships need maintenance in order to thrive. I forget that, sometimes.

And when it comes to the 4th R, Rejuvenate: Have fun? Take care of myself? Do all those good things like exercise and eat well and sit in the sun and laugh? Ah, those are definitely way, way down the To Do list!

As Pogo once said, “We have met the enemy and they is us.”

I walked along a favorite creek not too long ago. It is in a pristine slot canyon, with high red rock walls on either side. To get to the spring at the end, I must criss-cross the water a dozen times.

Each crossing is different. Some are easy, with large flat rocks. In some, poles have been placed across the water, and I must balance with one foot on each log, in an awkward, hitch-step fashion to reach the other side.

As I get deeper into the canyon, fewer hikers have gone before me. When there have been rains or frost in the early morning, the crossing rocks are slippery, and sometimes I end up with a wet foot. Or I choose a rock that settles into the mud, shifting uncertainly, and my arms fly out in balance in order to reach the safety of the other side.

Each crossing is different, each requires a different strategy to find balance. Sometimes I misstep and I end up in swift, cold water that jolts me into awareness of the present moment. At each crossing of the creek, I find that balance can be maintained only for an instant, and then a new challenge presents itself.

And I begin to recognize that life is like that, too. A work in progress always moving forward, in balance for just a moment before slipping into chaos once again. I begin to understand that life is all about finding balance and losing it, and finding it once again.

A wealth of radishes

Saturday Morning Food CoopEvery other Saturday I make the trek to a close by town to harvest baskets of vegetables and fruit at my food coop. I put in my order on Monday, but it’s never guaranteed what will be there.

We follow the seasons: winter saw a lot of broccoli and winter squash; now I am seeing fresh sweet corn. The size varies: One time I got a ten pound butternut squash; this week the mangos are small and the zucchini enormous–just like you’d find in a regular garden.

You bring your own container, and pick up a basket of vegetables and a basket of fruit:

Food Coop Baskets

This week there was watermelon, Asian pears, bananas and mangoes; fresh sweet corn, asparagus, purple potatoes, endive, orange peppers, onions, garlic, mushrooms:

basket close up

When I bring them home, Foxy has to sample. Who says cats aren’t vegetarian!

Cat eating vegetables

My challenge is to cook them all. Salad, of course. Vegetable broth for the leftovers. They sent along herbs as well this week: fresh basil, oregano, rosemary. My refrigerator is so fragrant.

food on table

Now the research and fun starts. Artichoke and endive? Egg plant? I’ve got some busy times ahead of me this weekend.

Borrowed beauty

My neighbors are winter visitors, coming here only when their Chicago jobs permit. they miss so much! Today one of their cactuses was in glorious spring bloom:

orange cactus, spring blossoms, cactus flowers

When I visited my own garden, this bloom surprised me. Yesterday it hadn’t been there, and this morning it was:

purple iris

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So I borrowed it from my garden and brought it inside!

We don’t have to “own” beauty to enjoy it. The best beauty is borrowed.