Thursday, December 23, 2010

Year in Review (to be continued)

"All writers are vain, selfish and lazy, and at the very bottom of their motives lies a mystery."
~ George Orwell

I'm not sure I'm ready to sum up 2010. No trips to Paris or Australia. My blogging rate has decreased dramatically. I quit a job. I didn't apply to any MFA programs. I look at 2010 and do a bit of head scratching. Did I accomplish what I wanted to?

I've always thought of writing as being both selfish and solitary, and as long as I've just been looking out for myself, I've been able to justify that selfishness; that right to write. When I'm alone, it's easier to decide, "I'm going to borrow a bunch of money so I can get a new degree that I'm not sure how I'll use."

But I'm not alone, and that's a good thing. It just changes how I think of things. It necessarily affects how I make decisions.

The holiday season posed a new challenge -- figuring out how to see my family and my boyfriend's. For each of us, that includes a mom in one house and a dad in another. Throw in step-parents, step-siblings, and ailing grandparents, and you get a crowded schedule. Christmas Eve we visited my grandfather at the "transitional" facility; from there we went to my mom and stepfather's for a lasagna dinner. The next morning we went to my boyfriend's mom and stepfather's for lunch; from there we went to my grandma's -- she just got her gull bladder removed, so my dad cooked the traditional pot roast and potatoes. The next morning we went to his dad and stepmom's.

I feel bigger, as my circle has widened. The number of people to whom I have to send "thank you" cards has tripled, which is wonderful. It's just a lot harder to be selfish now.
Here's us in Chicago a couple months ago, looking at the giant bean.

Edited to change "numbered" to "number."

Friday, December 17, 2010

On the Bright Side, I Get to Listen to a Lot of NPR.

In the morning, I leave with the swarms of suburbanites heading toward our jobs in the city. In the evening, I join them again.

I got off work at 6:00 this evening. I just got home. 6:45.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Angry, Angry Left

Like many of us on the Left, I was outraged over the Obama-Republican tax compromise. Outraged! As he said in his news conference, defending the deal, a majority of the public was in favor of letting the tax cuts for the rich expire. President Obama himself was in favor of letting the tax cuts for the rich expire. After all, if we're serious about reducing the deficit, how could we give further breaks to people who don't need it?

But in order to extend the tax cuts to the middle class, in order to extend unemployment benefits, in order to secure a reduction in the payroll tax, he negotiated a two-year extension of the tax cuts for the rich.

My outraged has diminished. Besides, I never really get angry, let alone outraged. But visit Daily Kos or some of the other liberal blogs. By their portrayal of the President, you'd think Obama ordered water torture or started two wars. They treat him at best like a corporatist, uncaring about the nation's poor, and at worst like an imbecile, bamboozled by the Right.

Ah, but the more the Left yells, the more centrist President Obama appears; the more he appeals to independents. The more he negotiates with the Right, the less scary or radical he appears to the Obama's a Secret Kenyan Muslim Socialist Society.

I don't care who he's in a room with, President Obama is the smartest person in it.

* This site makes me happy.
** My dad comes home Thursday! Here he writes about getting ready to leave Kenya again.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Finger Clippings

My grandfather fell last week. He was on a job (yes, that's right, he still works two or three days a week) and slipped, breaking his right hip. He went to the hospital, had surgery, and now is recovering in a place that specializes in "transitions." I visited him yesterday, his 95th birthday, and brought the nail clippers I'd promised to bring the previous day.

His fingernails were long and yellow. He struggled to squeeze the clippers enough to cut through the hard nails. I finally asked if I could do it. I took his left hand and set it in mine, palm down. Finger by finger, I trimmed his nails, careful to catch the clippings in my hand.

"Don't save those," he said. "Drop them on the floor. They'll sweep them up."

I did as ordered.

Both my mom's dad and my dad's mom still live in their own respective houses. I wonder if that's key to their longevity and mental acuity: while they get some help from their families and neighbors, they are still responsible for themselves. But every year--maybe every day--they give up some little piece of autonomy. My grandfather's fingernails looked like they hadn't been touched in months.

It's easy to think that because they're more dependent, because their physical self has changed so much, their mind and thoughts have likewise diminished. But surely this isn't the case. Grandpa got quite a few visitors yesterday. One asked if he was chasing all the nurses on the floor. He replied, smiling, "They're chasing me."

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Public Speaking

When I started college as a freshman, we had the opportunity to give a speech to get out of a required public speaking course. "Great!" I had thought. "I can take another art class!" I'd also heard that it was almost impossible to fail.

Oh, but fail I did. I still remember clutching the text of my speech; my eyes were glued to it the entire time. The content was great - something about how we should be paying more attention to the oppression of women/destruction of art by the Taliban (this was 1998, mind you) - but I doubt those listening and judging could pay attention to any of it, given how much I was shaking and (probably) mumbling.

Tonight is a public reading at my writing class. I'm going to share the beginning part of my novel-in-progress. I'm psyched. I'm sure I'll be nervous, but it won't compare to that Taliban speech. Besides, my mom and best friend will be in the audience; also, I'm told there will be wine.