This little piggy went to market

So I was at Trader Joes, and what did I see?  A youngish woman wearing white gloves.  They were the kind of ladies gloves that were already obsolete in 1970, when I was five, but which I remember having to wear anyway on dressy occasions.  The gloves were thin and fine, most likely silk or some silk/polyester blend.  They were very pretty, and they were clearly not intended to be a fashion statement.  They were intended to be a vigilance statement.  These were the gloves that said: "No swine flu for me!"

I understand that sentiment.  I myself am the type of person who takes care to wash my hands whenever I come home from anywhere.  I have been known to pull my own pen out of my purse to sign credit card slips and thus avoid using the communal pens lying around shops.  And would it surprise you to learn that I floss my teeth, every night, and that I've never had a cavity?

The point is, I understand wariness.  I understand and try to abide by the keys to good health.  But how tragic it will be to discover, at some later date, that women threw off the shackles of patriarchal, WASPish fashion (corsets, white gloves, veiled hats, and floor length dresses) only to be thrown again under the bus of hot, sweaty gloves because of swine flu.  

Don't go there people.  Resist the urge.  Wave your pretty little digits in the April sky.  Wave them high. Wave them low.  And, at the top of the lungs, shout "No.  White.  Gloves.  NEVER AGAIN!"*

*Note: You do have my permission to wear gloves of all types in inclement weather and even white gloves if you are dressing up like Veronica Lake, Audrey Hepburn, or Gypsy Rose Lee, or if you somehow think that white gloves will improve your romantic prospects.  But only then.


Goddess of the Week: Ix Chel...speaking of swine

You had to know that when the end came it would not be through fire or flood -- it would be through pigs.  Swine flu, or baconnaise's revenge, has arrived, so naturally panic has ensued.  Luckily, there is a goddess just for this occasion.  

Say hola to Ix Chel, the Mayan moon goddess, who is also a medicine goddess.  Her favorite patients are women in labor, but, in a pinch, she will look after the influenza ridden too.

She can definitely feel your pain.  Although she never had swine flu, she did have a bad relationship with her husband, the sun.  Total jealous, demanding jerk.  He convinced himself that she was sleeping with his brother so he threw Ix Chel out of the sky.  

When she found refuge on an island of serpents, the sun was all, "Come back.  I promise I'll change.  I won't be jealous anymore."  

Do I need to say she went back?  Yup.  Big mistake.  He was his old jerky self the next day.  Finally she realized that goddesses need gods like fish need high heels and she left him for good.  

Free of a bad relationship, she could devote herself more fully to her work, which is lucky for you because swine flu ain't no pig in lipstick and it may be headed your way.  Oink. 


Wise Women Friday: Fanny Brice on Honesty

Words of wisdom from the early twentieth-century singer and comedian Fanny Brice:

Let the world know you as you are, 
not as you think you should be 
because sooner or later, 
if you are posing, you will forget the pose, 
and then where are you?

The truth is, I lied.  I am a poser, and now I must come clean.  I do not have a Mangalitsa pig named Litsa.  I do not have a pig at all.  I have never had a pig, and if I ever did have a pig I would never plan to eat it.  I feel guilty leaving my dog alone for more than a few hours at a time; how could I ever muster the steely resolve to eat my own pet pig?  If I actually had one.    

You knew I was lying, didn't you?  I thought so.  But, apparently, some people didn't.  I got an email from an actual breeder of Mangalitsa pigs.  He wanted to know if I really had one.  When I said no, he offered to throw one on the truck for me because he was sending a bunch to LA anyway.  He was very nice, and I felt bad that I had lied.  

Fanny Brice is right.  Liars never prosper.  Cheaters never win.  And an imaginary pig will never cede you any bacon.  

Sigh.  Poor Litsa.  I miss her already.  


Letter to Planet Earth

Dear Earth:

I know you are feeling a little hot under the collar these days.  I know you are mad about the whole carbon glutton thing, what with the cars and the gassy cows.  And I know you are pissed about deforestation.  It's a drag.  Really.  No trees = bad.  I get it.  These things get my tectonic plates jittering too.

But I'm just wondering if you're starting to take things a little too personally.  You know that saying "It's not all about you"?  Well...it's not.  

Ok!  I can tell by the fact that it just started hailing on my house that you found that a bit upsetting.  Understandable.  Totally my fault.  I have this problem called tactlessness.  I'm working on it.  Believe me.  But hear me out.   What I mean to say is that sometimes our problems seem less overwhelming when we look at a more universal perspective.  When I start to feel bad about the fact that I passed the bad at math gene onto my children, I try and remember that my time in this world is really very short.  The space I take up in this universe is really very small.  Do I really want to use my candle flicker of an existence lamenting the bad math gene?  No. Of course not.  

Likewise, you are a lovely planet.  You are very beautiful.  Everyone says so.  But you, too, are part of a larger cosmos.  Right?  And the cosmos is not all about you, is it?  No.  It's not.  So, while your problems are very frustrating, in the universal, time-space continuum scheme of things, they do not define you.  You had a noble history before your recent woes, and you will have a noble history after they pass (although the interim will be unpleasant for those of us weathering it out).  And now -- as always -- you are part of something bigger, something that you contribute to in your own special, groovy blue-green way, something that smells remarkably like raspberries.  

So, chill out.  Maybe meditate a little bit; it reduces seismic pressure and gives you a sunny -- but not too sunny -- outlook.  Remember: it's all good.  You're all good.



Goddess of the Week: Seshat, goddess of blogging

If you write, you must thank the Egyptian goddess Seshat.  If you use a pen, or a keyboard, or for that matter, an iPhone or an inkwell, Seshat is your gal.  Her name means "she who scrivens," and she is the goddess of wisdom, knowledge, writing, and, therefore, blogging.  

She was very industrious.  She invented writing and measurement all so that you could keep track of your accomplishments and lovely little scribbles.  She took careful note of war prisoners and prizes, so if you have any of those, don't worry about where you put them.  She's got it all written down and will be able to remind you.  (Note to G.W.: This could prove a problem.)  And although she may remind you of Marian the Librarian, this goddess was no plain Jane.  She always wore leopard print.  

Channel this goddess: when you are blogging.  Duh.  


Wise Women Friday: Christina Schwarz

Words of wisdom from best-selling novelist Christina Schwarz:

Even the desert is packed with shapes and colors.

In college, I had a friend who was like the desert: a surface of monochromes.  She had sand-colored hair that matched her trademark beige shorts and off-white tees.  She could barely look strangers in the eye; she was that shy.

Beneath the surface, however, she was packed with shapes and colors.  She was wild and eccentric.  She was addicted Pepsi, which she hid in the trunk of her Mercedes so that she wouldn't have to share.  She had a trust fund, but she was always borrowing money.  In four years, she never turned one assignment in on time -- or even close to on time.  She only finished her senior art project because a large group of friends spent hours helping her rubber band popcorn kernals into strips of raw silk which she then dyed and shaped into a chinese dragon.  Really, she was an undependable bit of a sponge, but once you got past the monochrome she was also a lot of fun and strangely hard to dislike.

Christina Schwarz, this week's wise woman, does not seem anything like a desert.  She is vivacious and witty, smart and stylish.  She is also unfairly pretty (note to God: in the future, please ration out the gifts a bit more equitably).  

How do I know?

You must remember that I am very important.  In fact, I had Ms. Schwarz to dinner last night.  I made her soup and a pear tart.  We talked about her insightful and gorgeously written new novel So Long at the Fair, her other books, and we even got to hear about Oprah.  She was lovely and elegant and down to earth.  

How -- you're wondering -- did I get so lucky?  Aren't I simple, humble Margaret Finnegan, raiser of Mangalitsa pigs and defender of bacon and goddesses?  Aren't I more at home with a good bowl of flan than bestselling novelists?  Yes I am!  But what you don't know is that I do have a credit card and do know how to use it.  So when my daughter's school held a silent auction and I was allowed to bid on multiply copies of So Long at the Fair and a book club night with the author I staked out that bid sheet.  A few parents managed to get past me, but I am fast with my pen and even faster with my elbows.  When the night was over, the Christina Schwarz night was mine.  

Which is all a roundabout way of saying that the desert may be packed with shapes and colors, but dessert with a smart novelist packs you with calories and conversation, and that is always a good choice.  


All the News that's Fit to print

"In a bid to save millions of dollars in annual costs, The New York Times plans to eliminate several weekly sections, with other parts of the newspaper absorbing some of the content, Bill Keller, the executive editor, said on Thursday."

In a separate bid to save millions of dollars, Keller announced that the New York Times will henceforth be known as "The Carls Jr. Times." In keeping with the synergy of this exciting branding opportunity, Keller added that starting May 10, the paper will be the subject of an exciting new reality program on the CW network. Hosted by popular Carls Jr. Spokesman/hottie/food channel personality Padme Lakshmi, this program will focus on ten cub reporters who must fight to death to keep their jobs. "Think 'Gladiator' meets 'The Office' meets 'Dancing with the Stars,'" explained Keller. Titled "Fit to Print," the program will feature reporters in aerobic/modeling competitions that show how important fitness(hotness) is to writing news that is fit to print. In addition, reporters will have the opportunity to mud wrestle with today's top news personalities, including Octomom and Kim il Jong.
In other cost saving moves, Keller notes that the style section will be combined with the "Carl's Jr. Food section," which has the noble mission of taking the stigma out of obesity. Travel writers will be replaced with monkeys and international news will be replaced with pictures of kittens.


Goddess of the Week: Athena, goddess of crafts

When it comes to multitasking, few goddesses excel like the Greek goddess Athena.  Not only was she the goddess of wisdom, the goddess of war, and the patroness of Athens, but she was also the goddess of crafts.  Her specialty was weaving, and it was said that no one worked a loom as well as Athena.  Of course, humans being what they are, that was an invitation to trouble, at least it was for Arachne.

Arachne also specialized in weaving.  In fact, she was so good that she boasted that not even Athena could match her skill.  (Ok, now I know I've said this before, but you really don't want to compare yourself to a god or goddess.  You might as well step into a lion's cage because things are going to turn ugly super fast.  Modesty, people!  Show some modesty!)  Now, Arachne was actually lucky.  Athena could have smote her down then and there, but she decided to give the young woman the benefit of the doubt.  She transfigured herself into a withered crone and went to see Arachne for herself.  

"Sure.  I get it.  You're good," said Athena looking at samples of the young woman's work.  "But, you wouldn't really dare compare yourself to the great goddess Athena, would you?"

"I'm so totally as good as Athena," said the little snot.  "I am so good, that if there were an Olympics of weaving, I would beat Athena."

"Oh!  You are so on!" said Athena removing her disguise and revealing her true self.

The goddess and the young woman sat down at their respective looms and got to work.  Athena wove a stunning and suggestive tapestry depicting the fall of humans from hubris.  Had Arachne been paying attention, she might not have designed her tapestry to show the gods and goddesses on top of Mt. Olympus performing embarrassing acts.   

Still, when the competition was over, even Athena had to admit that the quality of Arachne's work was as fine as her own.  But there was no getting around that truth.  So Athena turned Arachne into a spider who still weaves today.  

On a more contemporary note, I think if Martha Stewart had heeded the story of Arachne she would have avoided that embarrassing jail time.  (Let this be a lesson to you, Rachel Ray!)

Channel this goddess: When overwhelmed with the desire to knit/sew/crochet/scrapbook/decoupage or turn old sweaters into festive felted dolls!  But be warned: think twice before you start selling things on Etsy.


Wise Women Friday: Agatha Christie

Words of wisdom from the writer Agatha Christie

Curious things, habits.  People themselves never knew they had them.  

I'm sorry about that bad habit of yours.  You really should have listened to your mother.  She told you not to bite your nails/smoke/over indulge/eat with your mouth open/complain/whine/interrupt people/get enough sleep/drive slower/blame all your troubles on her.  But then, by the time she actually noticed, it was already too late, wasn't it?  The habit had become as engrained as a planter's wart.  And now you're stuck with it.  

According to a recent article in the LA Times, habits are incredibly hard to break.  Apparently, that is news to someone, somewhere (perhaps that neighbor of yours with the penchant for self help/diet books.)  As for me, I make it a habit to know all of my faults, so I already knew that I couldn't break those regrettable tendencies.  I know, for example, that I have programmed myself to worry too much/sneak chocolate/hate people more successful and talented than me. (You know I mean you, right?)  I have also made it a habit to splash my face with water ten times whenever I wash it.  I've tried eight, but it never works.  I just keep going until I reach ten.  Don't ask me to do eleven -- that would be like asking a vegan to wear leather.  I must read before I go to sleep, and I must have three pillows: one under my head, one over my eyes, and one under my knees.  I must eat dessert.  I'm sorry.  It's wrong of me.  I know.  I've tried to stop.  But I need a little sweet thing.  That's just how I am.  

I am a creature of habit, and I'm sorry to tell you, but you are too.  I didn't want to tell you; I knew it would upset you.  I kept it to myself as long as I could, but eventually the truth built up inside me like lava in a volcano, and then the words just erupted out of me, the way they always do.  Every time.  Me and my big mouth.  I wish I could be discrete like you, but saying too much is one bad habit I just can't seem to break.  


Growing up Litsa: Litsa gets her own place!

Well, the girls didn't like it, but we've had to move Litsa out of the house.  People will tell you that you can house train a pig, but the truth is you can't.  You can put lipstick on a pig, but it won't make her Sarah Palin.  You can put a leash on a pig, but it won't make her Lassie.  A pig is a pig is a pig.  And pigs pee wherever they damn well feel like it.

Don't worry, we have the perfect place for Litsa.  It's a little brick building in our backyard.  I know what you're thinking.  You're thinking: Margaret Finnegan, you do not have a brick building in your backyard.  But I really do!  And believe me, it's a good thing because coyotes troll our street like they're peddling ice cream.  Luckily, those big, bad boys can huff and puff all they want.  Litsa is safe in her little brick house.  She's actually put up some darling curtains: white with purple violets.  Altadena Hiker came over and helped her hang them.  Then they had tea and scones and giggled over the New Yorker's latest "Shouts and Murmurs."  Those two do like their New Yorker.   If I were jealous, I'd worry that AH was trying to win over my Litsa's affections, but I've promised AH the loin, so I know she's just earning her keep.  


Goddess of the Week: Eostre wishes you a happy Easter

How are eggs coming along?  Are they boiled and dyed?  How about the jelly beans and the chocolate bunnies?  Admit it, have you been nibbling your way through them?  Will there be any left on Easter morning?  None at all!!  Well then you're worst than me and that is just sad.  Alas, you will simply have to run to the store on Easter Eve to get everything you need to fill your baskets.  

No matter.  When it comes to chocolate it is always appropriate to dig right in.  So let us give thanks to Eostre, the English goddess of spring and the dawn.  Actually, some people will have you believe that there never was an Eostre, but if that is the case than go ahead and thank Ostara, the Germanic goddess of spring and the dawn. 

It really doesn't matter which of them you thank as you nosh on that colored egg.  Both goddesses are associated with springtime fertility.  Ostara carried around an egg. Eostre had crazy baby-bunny-making hares pull her chariot across the sky (she may also have had the head of a hare, but goddesses can be particular about their ears so let's not get personal.)  The main point is that, whether you prefer Easter baskets or Easter bonnets, you have a goddess to thank.  (And that's a good thing because those early popes really excelled at taking the fun out of everything).  

So welcome spring, welcome sun, welcome chocolate bunnies and marshmallow peeps of all shapes and sizes, welcome boiled eggs and plastic eggs and chocolate eggs both hidden and in baskets, welcome scary giant bunnies and cute baby chicks, welcome Easter, welcome Eostre, welcome Ostara.  And to all a good night.  

Channel this goddess: Channel this goddess when eating hot cross buns or feeling the strange urge to frolic in meadows, plant gardens, fill baskets with candy, hide eggs, or simply celebrate the arrival of a glorious spring.  


Great Bacon Caper Breakfast

Hooray!  I survived the Great Bacon Caper Breakfast.  You may recall that I was nervous.  You may recall that I feared feeding such an intimidatingly talented group of bloggers, all contestants in the Great Bacon Caper contest.  But beautiful Pasadena Adjacent was right, everyone was lovely, and if the food was disgusting no one let on for a moment. 

Needless to say, my sweet Mangalitsa piglet, Litsa, was the star of the party.  Everyone adored her sweet Marilyn Monroe haircut.  Altadena Hiker even had to get out my old curling iron and give Litsa a precious little up-do, and Petrea at Pasadena Daily Photo insisted on painting Litsa's nails.  I never knew those two could be such girly-girls, but, as The New York Times notes, Mangalitsa pigs tend to bring out a woman's inner princess.

As much as they liked Litsa, I think some of my guests were more interested in the pork products Litsa will one day become than in my cute little piglet's sunny personality.  Restless Chef was pumping me full of lard recipes.  She does love her lard.  I think she's hoping I'll give her some Litsa lard, but, while Restless Chef is delightful and a very talented writer, I'm still not sure if she is worthy.  I might give some Litsa bacon to Susan at Open Mouth, Insert Fork. But then she has offered (brided) to pitch an article to the LA Times home section on suburban animal husbandry using me and Litsa as examples.   That will be totally good for my platform, and I do know how much Susan likes a good bacon, lettuce, tomato and avocado sandwich.

I was a little disturbed when Paula Johnson (the vegetarian) tried to dress Litsa up like Liz at Pasadena Adjacent and walk out of the house with her.  (And just so you know, Paula, I never for one second believed that Liz had a curly tail, and you can tell West Coast Grrlie Blather all you want that I did, but it doesn't make it true.  I will admit that when you got Toadberry to give Litsa an Hungarian accent I was fooled for a little while -- but I never believed Liz had a tail.)

As for my other guests, well, they were very well behaved.  Mademoiselle Gramophone did try and steal prize winner Linda Dove's pound of bacon, but, for a poet, Linda Dove is actually pretty tough.  Linda had the situation totally under control.  

All in all, it was most festive and charming morning.  Maybe when Litsa's bigger we can do it again!  


Wise Women Friday: Teresa of Avila on Personal Conduct

Words of wisdom from the Spanish nun, mystic, and writer (1515-1582):

Be gentle to all and stern with yourself.

I do not know a lot about Teresa of Avila.  I know she wrote many beautiful prayers.  I know she committed her life to absolute poverty and served the poor and suffering in Spain.  I know that she was very wise, and that it is true that we should endeavor to be gentle to all and that we should be our best selves.  

But from my perspective, the problem isn't people not being stern with themselves.  In my little microcosm of the world, people are plenty stern with themselves.  They beat themselves up about their weight, about unavoidable obstacles that keep them from reaching fantasy ideals of success, about paying too much for groceries or hair cuts or anything, or about cleaning enough or cooking enough or working enough or saving enough or exercising enough or relaxing enough or even forgiving themselves enough.  

What most people need -- at least the people I see -- is to be more gentle with themselves.  At the very least, we need to treat ourselves with as much kindness and compassion as we would our friends and loved ones.  But so many of us have little Dick Cheney's stuck in our heads.  And those mean Cheney's lie in weight, right behind our visual cortex, plotting and blaming and making us feel inadequate and lame and nervous and worried.  

But the chances are, you are not so bad.  In fact, I will take a gamble and pronounce you good.  You try hard.  You do the best you can.  You think about other people, and you try not to make the world a worst place, and you have a lovely smile and a great laugh, and you deserve to cut yourself a little a slack.  So...cut yourself a little slack.  Make it a lot.  Be gentle to all, even yourself.   


Going Whole Hog!!

More exciting bacon news!!!  

This very day -- at 8:23 a.m. to be exact -- my hungarian Mangalitsa pig arrived.  It is small now, only about twenty pounds, but then it's only six weeks old.  It's kind of weird looking; imagine a pig dressed like a sheep or Hillary Clinton in a Marilyn Monroe wig.  You get the idea.

We've named the pig Litsa.  My husband didn't want to name it at all.  He's of the why name something you're going to slaughter and eat school of thought, but just try and bring a pig into a house with two kids and not give it a name.  Impossible.  Besides, I eat a Tom turkey every Thanksgiving.  What's the big deal?    

I know what you're thinking?  Why get a pig?  Well let me tell you: it's all about the blog.  People love bacon.  People love pets.  So people will love my heartwarming story of raising my own lovely Litsa bacon. It's only a matter of time before I'm one of those bloggers the media go to for substantive comments about pork-barrel politics or Lord of the Flies commentary.  Wham! Bam! Thank you Ma'am.  I'll have platform coming out of my ears.  

You're probably wondering if I will invite you to eat my Litsa bacon.  Well, I'm afraid not.  One, we can't slaughter her until she's 300 pounds; that's when her marbling is at its most deliciousness.  Two, frankly, I'm not sure if you're lovely Litsa bacon worthy.  I mean I'm going to a lot of work here.  Raising a pig is no easy task.  Just this morning it took me ninety minutes to comb her hair.  So...what do you think?  Are you worthy?