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Sunday, 11 September 2011

The End of a Decade

The End of a Decade
I write this as I sit in front of my computer and watch outside of my window.  It is raining – not a common site for a year that due to an extended drought, the municipality has decided for the first time in the history of Los Angeles to have mandatory water rationing.  It is December 30, 2009, a day before the end of the first decade of the new millennium.  Tomorrow as predicted the sun will come up and we will have a wonderful weather around 70F – more like a temperature expected for New Year’s Day in Southern California.

Today, although I am babysitting my four-month-old grandson who is visiting with his mom – my daughter, from New York, I could carve time to sit down and reflect upon the past and the present. Tomorrow, the turning of the clock at mid-night, will end the most significant decade of my life. 

As I write this, my grandson is in his playpen cooing. I love it.  It reminds me when his mother, my daughter, was same age, and I was attending American College in Tehran. It was so hard, for me, to focus on my studies when she was in the next room cooing in her bed. But today my grandson’s presence is southing and it inspires me to write.

It is hard to believe that we are already ten years into the new millennium. Yes, indeed, time speeds up as we get older and it seems the last decade went galloping away.  Still it is fresh in my memory, the fears of the worldwide failure of the computers, that never materialized and all the hoopla and predictions of the Y2K bug.  The year 2000 rolled over without any notable glitches. 

The trepidation of Y2K bug reminds me of a chapter I have read in history books about the premonitions people carried when approaching the year 1000.  It is said that in the year 999 people were awaiting a catastrophic conclusion of all things and thinking that the world will end.  But as we all know, it didn’t.

It feels like yesterday, watching on TV the celebration of coming of the year 2000 in different countries – from Bangkok to Paris to New York and finally Los Angeles with the most uneventful celebration.  I remember when a few days later, Jay Leno, on his show, making fun of the Tinsel-town’s “big” moment by re-creating L.A.’s millennial celebration, using two flashlights and lighting up a small Hollywood sign.  I thought it was funny.  I love watching Jay, and in the last decade, until his time slot was changed from 11:30 to 10pm, it was my most watched program.  At first, I thought, the time change of the show, will be better, because I didn't have to stay up late, to watch the “Tonight Show,” but in reality I never watched it at the new time slot. 
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Time magazine called it “The Decade from Hell,” but in my book it will be summed up as the decade of trials and adjustments. It started with personal challenges, tribulations, trepidations, but ended up with smiles.  It was the worst of the decades and the best of the decades – I learned the most, suffered the most, traveled the most and enjoyed the most. 

With its highs and lows it became a redefining decade for most people.  Boomers, the post World War II generation, including myself, started the third act of our lives or in another sense we realized the harvest-time arrived unexpectedly too soon.  Personally, the decade began as a bumpy road.  My husband and I got separated and things began to fall apart.  It was surreal when my husband said that he no longer wants to live under one roof, but fortunately time patched up our estrangement and the decade ended up with a high note.  The final year of the decade was all smiles.  In January of 2009, our oldest daughter was married and in keeping with the momentum, our other daughter followed suit and got married over the Memorial weekend in May.  We welcomed our first grandson in summer and my husband and I became very proud grand parents. 

Just like my life, America grew with complexities. Things happened that we could not have even dreamed of.  The guru of lifestyle, Martha Stewart went to jail for insider trading.  Arnold Schwarzenegger the Austrian actor of Conan the Barbarian with his thick accent became the governor of Kaah-leefornia.  And who could have ever imagined that in our lifetime America would elect a black son as president?  And how can one forget that the presidential election with the approval of Supreme Court was high-jacked by the Republicans in favor of W. Bush.  And then came the fiasco of automobile industry.  The heartbeat of America encountered unthinkable crisis, creating more lost jobs and pushing more families into bankruptcy.
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The dreadful decade that some call it the Aughties, brought disasters of Biblical proportions – the attack of 9/11, the hurricane Katrina that almost wiped out an entire city, the devastating Asian tsunami that killed 230,000 people, the global financial collapse and last but not least the massive money derailing of Bernie Madoff who cheated his investors with billions of dollars.

On the sunny morning of September 11, 2001, America was attacked by the enemy, an unthinkable situation.  On that morning, we were awakened around six by a call from my daughter, “Turn on the TV and watch the CNN,” she asked us.  At first we didn’t realize what was the matter, but when, minutes later the second tower got hit by a jetliner, the media announced that the blowing up of the towers was an act of terrorism that the highjackers have crashed commercial jetliners into the twin towers of the World Trade Center. The pictures of the Twin Towers blowing up in fire that we saw, on TV, on that morning, are etched in my memory and will stay with me forever. 

My daughter, Tina, stayed glued to the TV for the rest of the week.  I saw how the incident engulfed her.  She was supposed to fly on that very day to Armenia.  Of course her flight was cancelled.  Another thing that kept her close to the incident was that a year ago, she was working at the 80th floor of the World Trade Center.  And then the idea that she had flown the same jetliner from Boston to Los Angeles just a week ago, boggled her mind.  She was really in an estate of shock for the entire week.

The incident shook America, creating an unprecedented fear of terrorism.  To retaliate the “House” agreed to launch war on terrorism, by invading Afghanistan and Iraq. We poured billions of dollars into two unnecessary wars, depleted our coffers, sent our young men to faraway lands, by telling them that they are defending America from terrorism.  The wars elicited discontent within Americans and we became an unpopular nation.

We also witnessed the great meltdown of the economy that barely escaped a near-death experience.  In the meantime the easy borrowing money from the banks, created the housing bubble that in turn erroneously created a robust economy. Gas and food prices went skyrocket.  The price of gas from $1.80 in 2000 jumped to almost four dollars.  I decided no longer to look at the price of the gas on the marquees of Gas Stations.  So, now I just put gas, charging to my credit card and not caring about the hike of the price, because I have learned that my trepidations are to no avail – it is all politics!  Yesterday, the premium gas I put in my tank was $3.23 per gallon – and my son says that the gas station I use to feel my tank, carries the best price.  We have to cut corners to make the rich gas companies richer.

In the West we don’t name our years, like Chinese calendar, but had we to name them, the year 2009 would have been called the Year of Bailout.  I say, “thank Goodness that US treasury headed by Ben Bernanke acted creatively by bailing out the banks to avert another catastrophe.”  Although we are in the throes of the biggest economy downfall, but fortunately we didn’t hit the rock bottom as it happened during the Great Depression when people threw themselves out of the windows.  This time the pundits had learned their lesson from the history and the past mistakes.  I have learned that possibilities in America are endless and that the cycle of history will bring back prosperity and the economy will rebound.
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The Decade also saw the revival of new thoughts and doctrines.  A philosophy based on the power of the human mind was introduced by the book of “The Secrets” and made the “Laws of attraction” a household name.  Since I was a child many occurrences in my life had given me the notion that our mind carries a supernatural power, thus making me totally believe that our thoughts influence chance and that you can achieve anything if you put your mind into it.  The book of “The Secrets” made it universal. 

In the last decade we became more Eco-conscious. We witnessed an awakening about the damages that humans have inflicted on our planet.  We learned how the emissions of Co2 threaten our atmosphere and how it has jeopardized our climate.  Al Gore published the “An Inconvenient Truth” and the phrases “Global warming” and “going green” entered our vocabulary. This movement being close to my heart, made me to initiate a club in our middle schools to bring environmental awareness to youngsters.  The club is called Jr. Ambassadors.  One thing that I have been able to accomplish, in connection of “green” lifestyle, and makes me proud is that I have been able to cut our household waste to almost zero.  I compost and recycle.  I am looking forward to installing solar power, soon. 

All too often, when I am driving alone along the freeway, a thought starts brewing in my mind.  I feel disgusted that I am polluting the air by driving a car by myself on the freeway. Then I realize how anti-green is living in suburbs and using a six-cylinder car to do errands or even worse to have a SUV or a Hummer – the trendy cars that the rich and young generation are using.  I wholeheartedly support the emergence of “back-to-City” movement – a reversal of post World War II city-to-suburb exodus. 

I am trying to become as green as possible, to cut down on carbon footprint.  I am more health conscious, in buying and preparing food.  During the last decade, Organic food became more prevalent.  Today, I visit Whole food and Trader Joe’s stores more often.  I have changed my buying habits because five years ago I received the scare of my life when the result of my blood test showed that I have diabetes.  I started an exercise regiment, changed my eating habits, reinvented myself and resolved to improve my health with a positive attitude.  And I did… Now, I am using new recipes with whole grains and less meat.  I am trying to adopt new eating habits and regiments that support good health.  No more white-basmati rice – a staple in our food that has been around for generations.

The world also became more aware of the hazardous toxins in the environment. The plastic containers – a big part of our daily-life, were claimed to be hazardous.  They may release cancerous toxins into our food, we were told. Then we heard that the danger from canned food might be even greater than plastic containers.  All these leave me baffled and confused of what to eat, what to use and how to manage a healthier lifestyle.  Recently, I replaced the plastic jug that I used to store water in the refrigerator, to a glass container.  I have also bought a stainless steel reusable bottle-water to drink from it at the gym.
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Americans developed the habit of going to coffee shops.  “Starbucks” culture crept into our lives and made drinking of coffee, part of our social scene.  Young and old, without objection to the exuberant high prices, around the world, flocked to Starbucks and made a big footprint in the world’s consumption of coffee. Recently at the airport, I asked my husband for a Latté from Starbuck.  He came back with a large paper cup filled with regular coffee, telling that he didn’t buy the Latté because the price was close to $5.  Instead, with half the price of the , Latté he had bought a French Roast coffee and had added milk.  I thought I would have done the same…

The mobile phone technology grew in leaps and bounds.  A hand held cell-phone could deliver astounding information and landline telephones became almost obsolete.   It was less than ten years ago that Blackberry was considered a fruit and green was a color associated with St. Patrick’s Day. Today, Blackberry is a cell phone, more like a small hand held computer and “green” means conserving the environment and making less waste.  In summer of 2007, Apple launched the iPhone with awe-inspiring features – take a picture by your iPhone, anywhere in the world, and later click on the picture and it will show you where and when you did take the picture – it is nothing short of astonishing.

During the last decade Computer became my best friend and in the meantime my nemesis.  I get so much joy in reading and expanding my horizon on Internet and then I see how it derails me from my work.  One minute I am enjoying a morning coffee, checking my emails, next it is already 3pm.  I wonder how young moms could keep up with all these interruptions and still focus on their family needs?  How are they balancing the drudgery of housework, the Internet, the social networks, their jobs and in the meantime raising a family? The irony is that today getting information electronically is just a matter of a few clicks, but we get sucked in and loose the sense of time. 

Today I feel, because of the Internet, my life is more cluttered than when the kids were young.  One part of me wants to learn the newest trends in technology and to catch up with social networks and learn how to get on face book and become a twitter-grandma, but the other part of me is hesitant by doing that to bring more clutter to my life. 
* * * * *

2009 marked 30 years from when we left Iran after the fall of the Shah, to settle in Glendale California.  Yes, time flies.  I cannot figure out where the years went by. It seems unreal that I am a grandma.  And if not for the framed picture of me holding my grandson, hanging from the wall next to my desk, it would have been impossible to accept the passing of the time – nothing like a grandchild puts life in perspective.  Ha!

When I close my eyes all comes to my mind.  Sifting through memories, I think about my own personal life, then about the lifestyle changes that has occurred. It was during the last decade that I learned the meaning of empty nest.  How did all end so fast?  Now the refrigerator is too big for me and there is no drive to buy food at Costco and no drive to even make food. 

When Oprah Winfrey in November of 2009 announced that she had decided to pull the plug on her program, I realized that during the last 25 years I have hardly watched any of her shows.  It seems I have missed out on American pop-culture.  There are so many shows that I’ve only heard of their names.  During the last decade the genre of TV shows shifted to reality shows.  Apprentice, one of the emerging reality shows, hosted by Donald Trump, was a rare show that I have watched since its inception.  It was because my daughter was very interested into watching it.  But still, Jay Leno remains my best watched show. 

If you were to ask me, “Who, your most favorite news anchor is?” I would answer, Connie Chung, Which makes me realize that I am still living in the 80s.  It seems during the past many years I have hardly watched any News.  I have not watched any soap operas either, not even one.  Now I regret it, because maybe, I could have learned to speak a better English. 

While the kids were younger and we were new to the country I used to watch more TV.  My most watched shows were the game shows and then thousands of Lucy Ball’s reruns that I love them all.  I can say that all I learned about American culture was from Lucy Ball – it was and it is my most favorite show.  Then, comes Three’s Company and then, The Jeffersons.  It seems that I have been caught up within a time warp watching only reruns. 

Lately the CNN is more often on my TV screen, that’s why I am familiar with Anderson Cooper, Larry King and enamored with feisty political commentator Rachel Maddow from MSNBC.  In the past, I have also watched one or two seasons of “Dynasty” with lovely Linda Evans and Joan Collins.  Merv Griffin, Phil Donahue, Johnny Carson and Jay Leno are a few other TV hosts that I am familiar with.  That concludes my knowledge of TV shows.
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Tradition dictates that at the beginning of every year you should try to make vows and promises to yourself to bring good habits into your life.  My first resolution for the next decade is to simplify my life.  Then, I want to “live deliberately.”  I have borrowed the phrase from Henry Thoreau.  He says, “I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.”  Me too, sort of like Thoreau, want to “live deliberately” meaning I want to be more in touch with my feelings, I’d like to cut down all the unnecessary entertainments, get back to the basics, and try to live in the moment.  But unlike Thoreau, I want to enjoy my days surrounded by family and friends – not solo in the woods. I wouldn’t mind moving to a farm where we can make our own organic food and not to worry about the toxins we are putting in our body and the polluted air that we are breathing. 
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Other resolutions in the bucket-list would be to spend less time in front of the computer and more time watching TV – so far 9/11/11 that has not happened. I'm still glued to my computer. Like old times I want to go back to reading the daily newspaper, and to make time to snuggle with a book or a magazine.  I also want to learn how to knit, I am going to take painting classes and the most important I will organize my pictures that have been lying around in boxes for thirty years – a tough decision.  I guess tough times call for tough decisions.  Ha! 

Yes, during the next few years I will watch TV and organize my albums.  Hopefully I’ll be able to catch up with all the shows that I have missed; the soap operas, the remaining Oprah shows, Charlie Rose, Jay Leno and in the meantime I’ll organize my pictures.  I am also going to make a special effort to create a scrapbook, first for my grandson and then for my kids.  Life is Good…

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