Sunday, December 30, 2012

If I was a Poor White Woman

A fifteen-year-old conversation with my grandmother recently nudged itself to the front of my consciousness.  We had been in her car, and the man on the radio was discussing the lack of funding for a midnight basketball program.  

"They need the funding," I said, after we got out of the car. "A lot of teens and young men could use somewhere to go.  Somewhere safe.  This could reduce crime." 


"Isn't that blackmail?" she replied. "If this isn't provided, they're going to commit crimes?"


I'd been sixteen or seventeen and didn't have a nuanced perspective or good response to her rhetorical questions.  All I thought was that it made more sense to have the program than to not have it.  That as a society, we should do what we can to help people succeed.


That memory bubbled up this morning when I was thinking about an argument I had with a friend last night about a woman from Idaho who'd illegally taken an abortion drug and was arrested and prosecuted.  As described in the latest issue of The New Republic, Jennie Linn McCormack was fourteen when she had her first baby in 1993 ("The Rise of DIY Abortions").  She and her mom had gone to an adoption agency, but McCormack decided she wanted to keep the baby.  She got pregnant again to a different man whom she had married at the age of eighteen; the two divorced a few years later.  In 2009, she had a son by a man who was "not a long-term relationship," and three months after that baby was born, she got pregnant again by a different man.


As a single mother of three--including a seventeen-year-old boy with college aspirations--and only a couple hundred dollars of income each month from child support, McCormack sought an abortion.  The would-be father took her to the nearest clinic, over 140 miles away in Salt Lake City, Utah, and paid for the abortion.  When she discovered she was pregnant by him again, he was in jail.  She couldn't afford the abortion nor the 72 hour waiting period that was mandatory in Utah.  


McCormack's sister researched and ordered abortion pills online; they were much cheaper and easier to get than anything legal in Idaho.  By the time McCormack took the pills (it took about two months to get them), she had thought she was about  fourteen weeks along.  But the fetus that came out "was much bigger than she had expected.  It was about a foot long, clearly female, with identifiable features and hair." Not knowing what else to do, McCormack put it in a bag and then a box under her bed.  When the smell got to be too bad, she moved the remains to her back porch.  McCormack told a friend, who told his sister, who called the police.


McCormack was charged "under 1973's Idaho Code 18-606, which makes it a felony for a woman to have an abortion in a manner not sanctioned by the state and carries a possible prison sentence of up to five years."


McCormack obtained a lawyer, and in September 2012 was vindicated, as a ninth circuit judge ruled that "the difficulty poor women experience in obtaining an abortion in Idaho....essentially outlawed the procedure for them."  In other words, "since it was so hard for McCormack to obtain a legal abortion, it was unjust to charge her for having an illegal one."



The rest of the article describes the widespread availability of these powerful and potentially dangerous abortion drugs on the internet, a consequence of restricting access to safe and affordable abortions.  Pro choice groups had largely stayed away from McCormack's case, because she is not a sympathetic figure.  She appears careless and irresponsible, not the kind of woman you want as the face of a movement.  

Which brings me back to the argument I had with my friend.  I read this article and was horrified by what this woman went through.  Pregnant as a young teen by a boy who said she couldn't get pregnant her first time.  Pregnant again and again by men who disappeared from her life.  What must this woman have gone through, I thought, and what can we do, as a society, to help?

My friend agrees that abortion should be safe and accessible and that we need to increase educational resources.  He also argues that again and again, McCormack refused to take responsibility for herself.  As someone with limited resources, McCormack should have been extra careful.  It's hard for me to disagree with this.  But it also calls to mind something Forbes contributor Gene Marks wrote last December:
If I was a poor black kid I would first and most importantly work to make sure I got the best grades possible. I would make it my #1 priority to be able to read sufficiently. I wouldn't care if I was a student at the worst public middle school in the worst inner city. Even the worst have their best. And the very best students, even at the worst schools, have more opportunities. Getting good grades is the key to having more options. With good grades you can choose different, better paths. If you do poorly in school, particularly in a lousy school, you're severely limiting the limited opportunities you have.
Marks is a middle-aged white guy who grew up firmly in the middle class, and his arguments do have some logic.  One of my favorite writer/bloggers, Ta-Nahesi Coates, responds by talking about his days as a student taking courses on slavery at Howard University:
Whenever we discussed the back-breaking conditions, the labor, the sale of family members, etc., there was always someone who asserted, roughly, "I couldn't been no slave. They'd a had to kill me!" I occasionally see a similar response here where someone will assert, with less ego, "Why didn't the slaves rebel?" More commonly you get people presiding from on high insisting that if they had lived in the antebellum South, they would have freed all of their slaves.
What all these responses have in common is a benevolent, and surely unintentional, self-aggrandizement. These are not bad people (much as I am sure Mr. Marks isn't a bad person), but they are people speaking from a gut feeling, a kind of revulsion at a situation that offends our modern morals. In the case of the observer of slavery, it is the chaining and marketing of human flesh. In the case of Mr. Marks, it's the astonishingly high levels of black poverty.
It is comforting to believe that we, through our sheer will, could transcend these bindings -- to believe that if we were slaves, our indomitable courage would have made us Frederick Douglass, or if we were slave masters, our keen morality would have made us Bobby Carter. We flatter ourselves, not out of malice, but out of instinct. 
Still, we are, in the main, ordinary people living in plush times. We are smart enough to get by, responsible enough to raise a couple of kids, thrifty to sock away for a vacation, and industrious enough to keep the lights on. We like our cars. We love a good cheeseburger. We'd die without air-conditioning. In the great mass of humanity that's ever lived, we are distinguished only by our creature comforts, and we are, on the whole, mediocre.  
That mediocrity is oft-exemplified by the claim that though we are unremarkable in this easy world, something about enslavement, degradation and poverty would make us exemplary. We can barely throw a left hook--but surely we would have beaten Mike Tyson.
[...] 
It would not be enough to consider slavery, for instance, when claiming "If I was a slave I'd rebel." One would have to consider, for instance, family left behind to bear the wrath of those one would seek to rebel against. In other words, one would have to assume that for the vast majority of slaves rebellion made no sense. And then instead of declaration ("I would do..."), one would be forced into a question ("Why wouldn't I?"). 
This basic extension of empathy is one of the great barriers in understanding race in this country. I do not mean a soft, flattering, hand-holding empathy. I mean a muscular empathy rooted in curiosity. If you really want to understand slaves, slave masters, poor black kids, poor white kids, rich people of colors, whoever, it is essential that you first come to grips with the disturbing facts of your own mediocrity. The first rule is this--You are not extraordinary. It's all fine and good to declare that you would have freed your slaves. But it's much more interesting to assume that you wouldn't have and then ask, "Why?" 

I'd add poor white women, as Jennie Linn McCormack is, to Coates' list.  It's easy for me to think, were I in McCormack's position, I would have made different choices.  I wouldn't have gotten pregnant at 14 and 19, and I wouldn't have gotten pregnant three more times by two different men.  But it's harder and more interesting for me to imagine the alternative.  What circumstances might have existed that would lead me down that path?  

Friday, December 28, 2012

Four Christmases

I've always thought of myself as having a small but mighty family.  There's me, two brothers, a dad, a mom and her husband, and two living grandparents.  My dad doesn't have any siblings while my mom had two (her older sister passed away earlier this year, and her brother lives out of state).  Holidays were only complicated in that Christmas Eve was at my mom's while Christmas day was at my grandmother's with my dad.  Otherwise, they were comfortable.  I was surrounded by people I'd known most or all of my life.

This past Christmas was my last as an unmarried woman, but I've already reaped the benefits of my growing family.  I had not one, not two, not three but four Christmas celebrations in four days, with presents to give and presents to receive at each.  The first, Saturday, we went to Andrew's dad and stepmom's house.  She scheduled it three days before Christmas so everyone (nine of us in all) would be able to visit our other families on Christmas Eve and Christmas day.  I was extremely grateful for that, and also for the thoughtful gift I received: a new coffee machine that makes an excellent brew.

The next day, we had his mom and stepfather over for brunch.  I cooked!  I followed a recipe and didn't burn anything!  We exchanged gifts, including a necklace and ornament for his mom that I picked up at Ten Thousand Villages, a lovely shop that sells fair-trade crafts from around the world.  I received a really cool pair of moonstone earrings as well as tickets to an upcoming musical.  Afterward we watched the Bengals beat the Steelers to clinch a playoff spot, and played Blokus, an awesome game that involves laying colored tiles of varying shapes and sizes onto a board.


On Christmas Eve, we went to my mom's house for dinner.  My 97-year-old grandfather was there, as well as my two brothers and my youngest brother's girlfriend.  We ate dinner, opened way too many presents, and then played Scategories.  Few people can make me laugh like my brothers can (they're the ones too cool to smile in the picture below, ha).

Finally, Christmas Day, we went to my grandma's house.  My dad had just returned from Kenya a couple days earlier, bringing his young Kenyan friend, Benson.  Ben, 31 years old and from the Turkana region of Kenya, is currently working at the American Embassy in Nairobi.  But it is a temporary, low-paying internship.  He hopes to get a better, more permanent job, whether in Kenya, the United States, or even Canada.  He has a master's degree, having written his thesis on the environmental impact of refugee camps.  Turkana is not far from the Kakuma U.N. refugee camp, which draws people from nearby Somalia, Uganda, and parts of Kenya.

In addition to my dad and Ben, my grandma's nephew and his girlfriend came for Christmas.  Dave is from San Francisco, where my grandma grew up, and he relocated to Kentucky a couple years ago for work. He and his girlfriend have been so kind to my grandma, taking her out to dinner or the casino, or just calling with regularity.  With them, me and Andrew, my brothers, my brother's girlfriend, and Nana, we had a full house.  Ben, a tall, intelligent, and soft-spoken young man, told me that it must be nice having such a large family.

So I guess we're no longer small but mighty; rather, we continue to grow.  How lucky can a person get?


(I had just hit the self-timer on the camera and had to run across the room!)

Blokus Photo from NewBeginningGames.com

Friday, November 23, 2012

Discipline!

In June, my *boyfriend and I began a training programs to reach two hundred consecutive sit-ups.  After an initial test (I could do ten; he, twenty-five), we slowly increased the number of sit-ups we attempted according to a very regimented plan.  Week one, day one, I did five sets of 3, 4, 3, 3, and 5 sit-ups, resting for 60 seconds between each set.  Week one, day two, I did 5, 6, 3, 5, and 6.  By the end of the third week, I was doing sets of 17, 20, 14, 14, and 20 push ups.

I'm repeating week 6 (the final week) for the third time.  I'd previously repeated weeks 4 and 5 because I was still struggling quite a bit by the final set, taking frequent rests.  Andrew, on the other hand, has conquered the final test -- two hundred consecutive sit-ups -- many times.  It isn't easy: I sit on his feet, counting, as he pushes through pain and exhaustion to get to 200 before collapsing.

We added another training program in late August, this one to get to one hundred consecutive push ups.  You should have seen me that first day, performing the initial test: I could barely do two push ups.  Week one, day one, I did five sets of 2, 3, 2, 2, and 3 push ups, resting for 60 seconds between each set.  By the end of that first week, 3 push ups weren't a struggle for me.  I'm repeating week 4, now, as its third day requires me to do 16, 18, 13, 13, and 20 push ups, with 120 seconds of rest between sets.  It's hard!  Between sets I curl up in the fetal position on the floor, asking why I put myself through such torture!

But more than reaching a specific goal--200 sit-ups, 100 push ups, 10,000 words, 1 chapter--I'm practicing discipline.  I'm making myself do something I might rather skip or put off to another day.  I'm taking another step or two in that proverbial journey of a thousand miles.  And anyway, my triceps are looking awesome!

* Was boyfriend in June, fiancé in August.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Another Excuse

I've started listing to an audiobook, "The End of Your Life Bookclub," by Will Schwalbe.  It's the author's account of his mother's last two years of life, as she battles pancreatic cancer (caught too late) and the two share and discuss books.  Just as Schwalbe's mom always read the last chapter in a book first, the author starts at the end and then goes back to her diagnosis and the beginning of their bookclub. Reading together helps change them from a sick person and a well person back into a mother and a son.  I've only listened to the first couple chapters, but I already love and am sad for these real people.

I'm a bit tearie, lately, and I mostly blame the season.  I always seem to get a little sad and tearie (you know, not actually crying, but tears hang out in the corners of my eyes) this time of year, even if life is otherwise pretty good.  Sundays I go to my grandma's house, and lately I've been thinking about how lucky I am to have been able to spend this time with her.  Usually it's just me and her--sometimes my brothers are there, sometimes my fiancé comes, sometimes my dad is home--but mostly it's just me and her.  We talk about sports, politics and religion (the latter two subjects, I mostly listen).  In small pieces, she's told me about her childhood and her marriage.  I've come to understand and admire her so much more through these quiet Sunday afternoons where we mostly sit and watch the Reds or Bengals, and she asks me to wait to fold my laundry until after she returns from the bathroom because she likes to see what I've worn throughout the week.  I think about how much this time has meant to me.  And thinking about that makes me cry harder, because I don't know how many more Sundays we'll have together because a) she's ninety, and b) I'm getting married.  It won't make sense for me to go there every week and do laundry as a married woman.  I'll have to find another excuse.

* * *

This evening I had a great meeting with my writing/critique partner.  Not only do I get detailed and helpful feedback on my own work, but tonight I also got to read the start of a new project of hers.  I'm impressed and inspired by her ability to create new stories and characters.  These meetings help me refocus on myself as a writer--most days, lately, I haven't thought of myself as one.  I have to stop waiting for inspiration and just do it.  Push through the tedious hard stuff of fixing my manuscript.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

I love my job

A young man came into the library today, soon after we opened, and asked for his card number in order to use one of our computers.  While I was looking up his number, he pumped out a gigantic glob of hand sanitizer (which we keep it on our desk) and smeared it all over his hands.  It was dripping.  He then proceeded to smear the clear goo all over his face as well as the top, sides, and back of his head.

Later, I helped him change his Facebook profile picture.

People are fascinating.


Tuesday, October 23, 2012

My Vote Counts

If you live in California, New York, or Oregon, you can vote for Jill Stein or Gary Johnson, and not worry about throwing a vote away.  But as an Ohio resident, I can tell you in all seriousness, my vote is VERY IMPORTANT.  According to Nate Silver's 538 forecast, Ohio has a 50% chance of being the tipping point state; that is, it is as likely as not to be the state that gives Obama (or Romney) the needed electoral votes to remain (or become) president.

I've got to admit, all this attention has been nice.  Every other day, one of the candidates or his running mate has visited my state, from Cincinnati and Dayton to Columbus and Cleveland.  Even in the third debate last night, which supposedly focused on foreign policy, the candidates were wooing Ohio.  That talk about "getting tough on China"?  It was actually about Ohio.

The race has certainly tightened over the past three weeks.  But I'm confident Ohio will do you proud, President Obama.


Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Cutting and Pasting

My manuscript, upwards of 80,000 words, was a decent first draft.  It was a full story with complex, mostly well-defined characters, and a plot with only a few holes.

I've been working on my revision for a few months, though it's really picked up momentum the past few weeks.  This is for a multitude of reasons.  My progress had slowed because, I think, I began to equate the completion of a first draft as some kind of accomplishment.  It didn't matter that it was flawed, that it wasn't published.   The bound manuscript sat on my desk like a trophy.  I was going for a promotion at the library, and so I focused on the possibility of a shorter commute and increased responsibilities, not on my "side project."

But I didn't get the job.  It was a disappointment, but also a relief.  I like my current location and my coworkers.  As an introvert, it takes me a long time to become comfortable somewhere, and I'm finally comfortable where I am.  It was a disappointment, a relief, and a kick in the pants telling me, You've got to DO the things you want to DO!  I want to write, so I must write.  It's as simple as that.  If I'm not going to fix my manuscript, then I need to start something new; and I'm not ready to dismiss this story and these characters I've nurtured for over the past two years!

Second, I gave my full manuscript to six beta readers: My mom, my fiancé, my best friend, an English professor (and good friend), a former coworker/friend/writer, and my friend/writing partner.  Each provided me with different kinds of feedback that's been invaluable as I move forward.  I'm going back through the manuscript, starting on page 1, and making some of their suggested changes.  This involves adding and removing commas, finding synonyms for words I had unintentionally repeated, and restructuring the timeline.  Most of this I can do on the computer, with two documents open.  I edit as I go, then paste the fixed sections into a new document.  But sometimes there just isn't enough room on the computer screen.

Hence, sitting on the floor, tearing pages out of the spiral-bound manuscript, cutting my precious sentences, rearranging them, and taping them back together.  Anyway, I'm about 1/3 of the way through my editing process.  I hope to be finished by the end of 2012... Wish me luck!  If I'm not posting here, it's because I'm working to achieve that goal.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Thinking of Others

Sorry for the absence of posts. I'm at a mall, overhearing a teenage girl whine and complain to her parents that they won't buy her an iPhone. Yay parents for standing strong. She has enough money to buy herself a smartphone, just not a top of the line phone. She's pretty upset. Parents walked away, she's still pouting.

Anyway, things are good. Picked a date, picked a dress, picked a venue. Got a guy. A challenge, for me, is learning to think of the other person, his wants, his interests, as much as my own. I'm good at thinking about myself. Just like that annoying teenager sometimes.

Dad just came back. Explaining to her why she needs to wait; she's still upset but listening.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

A Couple Things

Lately, when I think about how little I've been writing, I feel sick.  Like I'm not living up to my potential.  Like I'm not figuring things out.

This week I plan to start a new routine--one that involves early mornings (when I'm most alert and when my head isn't clouded by unshelved books, late fees, and traffic jams).

But in the mean time, I'd like to share a couple things.  Yesterday, I saw a beautiful movie shot with 70mm film.  Samsara had no dialogue or discernible plot.  Its filmmakers traveled to 25 countries over five years filming prisoners in the Philippines, dancers in Thailand, and tribesman and women in Namibia among scores of other people.  Check out this preview:


Second, I've been closely following the presidential race.  While I'm excited that Obama seems to be the frontrunner, I become more scared at the prospect of a Romney presidency.  He hasn't stood up once to the zaniest wing of his party, and I can't imagine how he would govern.  He acts like he would run head first into a war with Iran!  His comments following the recent tragedy in Libya seem all the more flippant after reading about Obama's sober deliberations prior to American involvement in the conflict.  To write this Vanity Fair piece, Michael Lewis spent six months with the president, gaining almost unfettered access to him, from Air Force One to the basketball court.  It's worth reading from beginning to end,

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Arizona Skies

Sunday I returned from a week-long trip to Arizona.  Two memories will stick in my mind.  The first, seeing the Grand Canyon, left me speechless.  Its sheer size is not captured in pictures (though capture I tried):


The second is my boyfriend of two years getting down on one knee and asking me to marry him.  This was just after we had arrived at the rim and set up a tripod with my camera:


Months ago, we'd talked about marriage.  I even tried on engagement rings.  But in the past few weeks, any time I'd mention marriage he'd say, "I like the way things are now." Little did I know, this proposal had been in the works for a while.

"Of course I will," I replied.

Prior to this relationship, I had never pictured myself getting married.  I'd been happy alone, and the prospect of spending my life single and completely independent never scared me; in fact, it excited me some.  But this excites me more.  The trajectory of my life has changed.  It now includes a partner who makes me laugh and, more importantly, laughs at my jokes :)


Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Cool Skies



We headed to a local park yesterday, thirty minutes before sunset.  It has a man-made lake surrounded by  a 1.4 mile cement path, and this picture was taken about a quarter of the way around.  While I took many more as the sun, a tiny ball of orange, set behind the clouds, this one is my favorite.

I grew up in the city.  The night sky I looked at as a child was mud-colored, though the skies as the sun set were awesome: "The pollution makes it pink!" we joked.  Now I can see much more of the sky; it's impeded only by trees and water towers, not tall buildings and smog.  I like that.

Next month we head west to Arizona and the Grand Canyon.  In the intervening weeks, I'm practicing with my new camera.  I took a year of photography in high school and a semester in college, but you wouldn't know it by my current confusion about aperture, shutter speed, and ISO.

I imagine the skies out there will make my suburban ones seem muddy and modest.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Hot hot hot

Here's a screen shot of my phone today:


Thursday, June 28, 2012

That's the Big Deal

Just over an hour ago, it was announced that the Supreme Court upheld "Obamacare" and the individual mandate.  I clapped and smiled as the news broke.  On the news broadcasts, the reporters are discussing what this means politically: how does this help Obama's reelection chances?  How does this galvanize Republicans?  How vigorously can Romney attack, given that his health care system in Massachusetts was the model for the ACA?

All this is important... Elections matter.  But Josh Marshall at TalkingPointsMemo puts it well:


[T]he politics of the decision pales before its substance, a fact that I suspect will get little attention today. This decision will have a massive effect on the lives of literally millions of people. Mitt Romney may have joked yesterday that the White House was “not sleeping real well” last night. But a lot of people tonight and in the future will sleep a lot better for this result. Young people, people with pre-existing conditions and mainly people who through the chaos of the health care market simply find themselves with no coverage. 
That’s the big deal. 
What also matters is: we may learn that President Obama sacrificed his presidency to push through this piece of legislation — the Dems already lost Congress over it. But presidencies are for doing important things not just for getting elected to second terms in office. And I strongly suspect that even if Mitt Romney wins and gets a Republican Congress, they still won’t be able to get rid of this law. 
That counts. That matters. 
This is an imperfect law. But what’s most important is that it provides a structure under which the country can make a start not only on universal coverage — as an ethical imperative — but on doing away with the waste and inefficiencies created by the chronic market failure of the US health insurance system. Again, that matters. And I suspect that there’s no going back.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Coffee Coffee Coffee

I developed my taste for coffee as a child, finishing cups my mom left unguarded:  it was lukewarm, creamy, and especially sweet from all the sugar that had sunk to the bottom.

Years later, as a teen in France staying with a host family, I was served giant mugs of black coffee (I declined the milk; it looked weird).  I remember going to the school, shaking from the caffeine pulsing through my veins.

In college, I developed my habit: at least a cup a day.

The past couple months, I've brought a large thermos of coffee to work.  Three cups a day became my norm.

Despite all this coffee, I felt tired.  No amount of caffeine seemed to perk me up.  So two weeks ago, I gave up my morning coffee.  At work, during the middle of the day, I drank a small glass. But the next day, I didn't.  Now I drink tea some mornings; I did have a cappuccino on Saturday.  At work today I stared at our Keurig single-cup machine.  I thought about how much I'd love some coffee.  But I didn't make any.

I'm weaning myself off, and so far I've been lucky enough to avoid headaches.  I don't mean to give up coffee completely: I just don't want to be so dependent.

I'll also be glad when it doesn't consume my every thought :)

(There's an episode of "Gilmore Girls" where, because the main character is in a fight with Luke, the diner owner, Lorelei has to go to a new place for coffee.  She orders, "Coffee coffee coffee!" The woman, not understanding Lorelei's enthusiasm for coffee, brings out three mugs of it.  If you haven't watched "Gilmore Girls," I recommend it.)

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Chapter One

My manuscript is currently in the hands of a select few trusted readers.  I'm waiting for feedback and criticism that will, hopefully, help me shape the book into something publishers will want.  Saturday I met with one of my "beta" readers--my awesome critique partner who's been there every step of the way--and received some invaluable feedback.

Not only did she meticulously read it, line by line, noting what she liked with exclamation points, and noting what didn't work and why, but she also articulated what I hadn't been able to put into words: the first chapter seems told in a different voice.

I spent the longest on chapter one.  I had to make sure it did everything I needed the first chapter to do:  Introduce important details and set the stage for the mystery and plot to follow.  Time and care were spent getting my paragraphs just right.

But as I wrote and got to know the character better, I'd like to think I became more comfortable.  The sentences flowed more smoothly.

Knowing some of the problems with the first chapter, I can return to it and improve it.  When I tried to do this a couple months ago, I had trouble even adding a sentence to it.  I think I was still too close to the words.  Now, fortunately, they're less "darling" to me.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Setting Myself Up

For the past couple months, my laptop was on the coffee table.  I sat on the edge of the couch, hunched my body, and did whatever I wanted on the computer: Check Reds scores or watch Hulu or Netflix; read blogs and "like" things on Facebook; yell at politicians.  I had the world at my fingertips.   Click, click, click.

But you know what's hard to do, hunched over on a couch?  Write.  It's awkward and uncomfortable.  Even leaning back on the couch, my laptop on my lap, I found myself avoiding Blogger.  I focused for a few minutes before switching to a tab that gave me more instant gratification.

I've been beating myself up for not writing and for not wanting to write.  I've been angry that I haven't found any inspiration for writing.  But I have to give myself a chance, right?  Today I moved my laptop back to my awesome desk, in the room with my giant penguin and comfortable office chair.

We'll see what happens.


Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Trip to Pompeii


I haven't fallen off a cliff; nor have I lost my ability to type or compose sentences.   The past couple months, however, I've thought of myself more as a daughter, a sister, a granddaughter, a girlfriend, and a library worker than as a writer.

Not that I have to think of myself as a writer to post blog entries... I just have to feel like I have something to say.  And time to say it well.


Yesterday, my boyfriend and I went to the Museum Center at Union Terminal to see the Pompeii exhibit.  I didn't bring my camera to the exhibit, but here are some pictures from outside the building and inside its gorgeous rotunda:








Friday, May 11, 2012

The Long Arc of History

The arc of history is long, but it bends toward justice.  This week, the President of the United States came out for marriage equality.  People may argue that it doesn't matter, that it doesn't change the hearts and minds of bigots, that laws are still the same.  But I think it matters a lot.  The most powerful man in the world just acknowledged that gay men and women deserve the same rights as their straight counterparts.  He acknowledged that a civil union is not the same as marriage.

We've passed the tipping point.  Never again will we have a Democratic nominee for President against marriage equality.  The question is, how long will it be before the other party climbs out of its cave?

Friday, May 4, 2012

More Lightning

If April showers bring May flowers, what do May thunderstorms bring?



My boyfriend took both of these with a really long shutter; that's how he got multiple strikes in one frame.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Lightning Strikes...

I know life is getting back to normal for me when insignificant things like this bother me:

I preordered "Insurgent," the sequel to Veronica Roth's "Divergent," for my Nook.  "Insurgent" was released today.  But my mom has borrowed my Nook, and even though I've paid for the book, none of my software is letting me open up the book file on my computer.  Argh.

Electronic books are here to stay.  But Barnes and Noble will have to do a better job of giving us access to our books--and allow us to share and lend our books--if it wants to remain relevant.

Anyway, things are getting back to normal.  Work's good.  I bought a new camera (through this link so a portion of the sale went to my dad's foundation!)


Wildflowers in a nearby park

And taken this evening, during a nasty thunderstorm (well, not nasty--I love thunderstorms, the louder the better) I took this with a 5-second shutter speed.





Saturday, April 28, 2012

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Truth and Beauty and Regret

I just finished reading a lovely memoir by Ann Patchett, writer of acclaimed novels such as State of Wonder and bel canto.  In the memoir, Truth and Beauty, Patchett chronicles her own development as an author.  But the main focus of the book is her friendship with a fellow writer, Lucy Grealy (Grealy's own memoir, The Autobiography of a Face, won her visits to the Today Show, Charlie Rose, and even Oprah).  Patchett describes herself as a loyal friend to Lucy, a talented poet and writer who struggles with depression and undergoes countless painful surgeries to repair her face, disfigured from facial bone cancer and the subsequent radiation treatments and chemotherapies.

While both women went to Sarah Lawrence for undergrad, they didn't become close until they enrolled in the Iowa Writers' Workshop and roomed together:
We had invented time, and we could not kill it fast enough.  After dinner, dancing, and baths, we read, wrote our poems and stories, brushed our teeth, and tumbled into bed, only to find the next day was exactly the same.  We had not moved one inch forward in the night.  It was like prison, not in the punishment but in the vast sameness of the days.  We were impossibly rich in time, and we lavished the excess on one another.
Patchett describes herself as the ant, Lucy the grasshopper. Patchett was steady.  She wrote her pages, finished manuscripts, and got them published.   Lucy was a gifted writer, but she was also impulsive.  Sporadic.  She didn't meet deadlines or pay bills.  When Lucy was struggling to write a novel for which she had already received (and spent) her advance, Patchett even offered to write it for her.  Lucy constantly asked, "Will anyone ever love me?" even though she had an enviably large circle of friends.

When Lucy died at age thirty-nine, she was alone in an apartment.  It was ruled an accidental overdose, and Patchett shows how haunted she is by the death:
Most nights I dream of her.  I am in a strange city and I see her sitting in a cafe, drinking coffee and writing in a notebook.  She is frail beyond anything I could have imagined, barely able to pick up her cup with two hands, but she's happy to see me.  I run to her, kiss her, and she pulls herself up in my arms to sit in my lap and curl against me like a little bird.
But she dreams of her less and less and concludes,
Lucy, weighing about a hundred pounds, having survived thirty-eight operations, had become officially invincible.  She believed that the most basic rules of life did not apply to her, and over the course of our friendship, without me knowing when it had happened, I had come to believe it myself.  The sheer force of Lucy's life convinced me that she would live no matter what. 
That was my mistake.
Robin and Me, December 1994
This book, about a gifted woman whose demons prevented her from reaching her full potential, struck a personal cord.

My mom's sister passed away last Wednesday at age sixty-five.  I've written of Robin's encounters with the hospital in the past and of her nine lives.  Because her health problems and personal struggles have so dominated the last decade of her life, it's easy to forget what a vibrant, funny, and creative person she had been.  She made us homemade cards on our birthdays that, when you pulled a tab, dropped confetti all over.  Robin had a dog she named "Zac" because, she joked, he smelled "egg-ZAC-ly" like poop!  She was a constant and welcome presence when I was in the hospital following my accident.

I wish I had been more of a presence for her these last ten years; I no longer had the excuse of being a child.  I think of how regularly I visit my grandmother, how I've been a steady presence in her life, and wish I had been better for my aunt.  It may not have made a difference in my aunt's life, but it probably would have made one in my own.

When someone dies, we reflect on that person's life.  We think about its arc, its highs and lows.  But we should also reflect on our own lives.  I wonder, am I being the kind of person I want to be?   What are my values, and am I living up to them?  But for now I'll just allow myself to be sad--sad for my mom who lost her only sister, for my 96-year-old grandfather who lost his child, and for me and my brothers who lost our only aunt.


Friday, April 6, 2012

Last night, as I handed off my manuscript to one of my beta readers, I nervously prattled on:


  • "Thanks for doing this."
  • "I hope this isn't tedious."
  • "I hope it's at least somewhat enjoyable."
  • "I hope you don't hate it."
  • "Thanks again."
I might have said some other things.  You'd have thought I was embarrassed by my writing; that I didn't expect others to enjoy it.  But the truth is, this is the scary part.  Sending my baby out into the world and hoping she does okay.  Can she stand up for herself?

While I was writing, I didn't have these insecurities.  It isn't that I was totally confident in everything I typed, just that I wasn't worried about it:  I concentrated on the story and the characters.  I tried to make the language as sharp as possible.  

Here's my baby!
During the next few weeks, as my beta readers critique the 287 pages I've been working on for the last year and a half (geez, that's less than a page a day!) I should start my next project.  Do what calms me most: concentrate on characters and story.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Falling, Falling

Because of passport issues, we stayed on the American side of the Niagara Falls (the less-pretty-not-quite-as-spectacular side). We went off-season, so many of the attractions weren't open.  But thanks to climate change, we had some awesome weather for mid-March: sixties and seventies and sunny.

The first day we walked right up to the falls.  You can get right up to them!  You could jump, if you were so inclined!  And because it was a weekday and, again, off-season, we didn't have to fight a crowd to take pictures.



Friday and Saturday we explored some of the wineries in the region.   Most had opened in the past few years after growers discovered the climate was perfect for wine; Welch's Grape Juice had gotten their concord grapes there for years.  There were some excellent dry whites and dry reds (my favorite) but their sweet wines weren't bad either.  Tastings were about five for five dollars, or four for four.  We brought six bottles home.



Two last highlights of the trip: 1. Walking to a nearby casino in the pouring rain, a couple offered me fifty dollars for my umbrella (I refused--it's a horrible umbrella that flips inside-out when there's a five mph gust of wind, and I'd bought it in Notting Hill, London!) 2. Inside the casino--smoky and slightly depressing, we chose a penny slot machine, spent two dollars, won thirty,  and promptly left.  If only I'd sold the umbrella, I'd have come up $80 ahead!

It was good to get away, even for a short while.  Now back to 40-hour work weeks and book edits!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Road Trip!

Tomorrow we drive to Niagara Falls, NY, for a short trip.  Neither of us have been there, and it's about an eight-hour drive from Cincinnati--not too bad.  I finally get on full time with benefits, and the first thing I do is use my vacation hours.

I'll consider it a present to myself :)

On an unrelated note, "The Hunger Games" open this weekend.  I reallyreallyreally want to see it.  I've been mildly obsessed (is that an oxymoron?) with all things related to the movie, but I'll have to wait until I get back.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

A Modest Proposal


Last week, a county board of commissioners in North Carolina rejected a “state family planning grant that would cover contraceptive supplies along with other medical services related to family planning.”   Chairman Ted Davis said, “If these young women were responsible people and didn’t have sex to begin with, we wouldn’t be in this situation.”  

We’re in the midst of a war on women—specifically, women having sex outside of marriage—and a good solution has been hard to find.  Shame and stigma doesn’t work anymore.  Gone are the days when pregnant young Suzie is sent to stay with her aunt until the baby is born.  Now, teen moms are celebrated on television.  Unfortunately, the Constitution prohibits us from arresting consenting adults for having sex. 

What about the church?  The Catholic Church promotes abstinence outside of marriage and discourages the use of birth control even within a marriage. But studies show most Catholic women have used some form of birth control.  How often do we see huge families anymore?  That can’t all be due to the rhythm method.  In fact the Catholic Church has done such a bad job discouraging sex outside of marriage and the use of birth control among its own members, that they’re actively fighting the federal health care law that require insurers to cover contraception.

Clearly we’re going about this all wrong: shame, legislation, and God have not stopped women from having sex.   No, in order to seriously reduce the number of women having sex outside of marriage, we need to make sex for women as undesirable as possible.  We do that with three little words: Female Genital Mutilation.

Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) has been practiced for centuries in parts of Africa and the Middle East.  There are a few different kinds of FGM, but the most common procedure involves cutting off a girl’s clitoris.  She may be two weeks old or fourteen years old.  Without the clitoris, sex for the girl will not be pleasurable.  She will still be able to have sex and get pregnant, but because the act itself may be painful now, she will surely wait until she is in a happy and stable marriage.

Now, some short-term problems have been associated with FGM, such as infection, hemorrhaging, and psychological trauma.  But once trained doctors are performing the procedure in a hospital environment, the number of infections and death by hemorrhaging will decrease if not disappear completely.  And if the cutting takes place while she’s still a baby, she’ll no more traumatized than a boy is from his circumcision.  

Imagine a generation of women growing up, not wanting sex.  Imagine the money we will save not having to pay for birth control or unwanted pregnancies.  Without physical desire to distract her, she can concentrate on school, her career or, better yet, her husband!


Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Good Timing

Today I was offered a full-time position at my library, complete with benefits and more responsibility.  When full-time positions opened in the past, I was reluctant to apply.  What about writing?  What about my dreams?  But every day I edit.  Every couple weeks I meet with my writing partner, which really helps me focus on improving chapters I've written.  I'm headed toward the finish line.  And I'm confident that no matter how many hours I'm working, writing will remain a central part of my life.

This evening, though, I'm just excited about paying off my student loans sooner.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Title!

For those not using google reader, I've changed my site layout.  My old one wasn't very customizable, and I couldn't adjust the length of the column to add a button for Amazon.  We'll see if this one sticks, though.  It's kind of girly.


After discarding some horrible title ideas for my book (the funniest, most horrible one was "The Agnostic Godmother"--ha!), I've settled on one that doesn't sound awful.

Actually, when trying to come up with a title I took the advice of a blog post by the literary agent Rachelle Gardner.  First, determine the genre and tone of your book.  Then, go to Amazon and find twenty or so books in the same genre that have titles you like.  Write them down and think about what you like about them.  Then, setting that list aside, brainstorm words and phrases associated with your own book; nothing is off limits.

I wrote down a lot of words and ideas, but it wasn't until I started thumbing through my draft that I'd transferred to my Nook that I came across an apt phrase that I think might work.  When I hand out my first draft to my beta readers, I'll offer them money or cookies if they can think of a better title.  But it feels good to have one in my head.  I'll mention it here once I've tested it and received assurances that it is, indeed, better than "Another Mother," "Temporary Mom," and "The Agnostic Godmother."

From what I understand, a lot of book titles end up being chosen by the agent of publisher, so it could easily change (ha, I'm pretending that I'll find an agent or publisher... it's nice to dream!)

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Four Years

I'm in a bit of a blogging rut.  I keep thinking of things I want to write about--Iran or the assault on women's rights, for example--but by the time I make it to my computer I feel diminished.  What do I have to add to these topics?  What makes my own perspective unique?

Anyone who's maintained a personal blog has likely asked themselves these questions, and I've certainly asked them many times over the past few years.  Actually, Sunday, March 11, will be the four-year anniversary of my first post.  I initially created it as a place to post photographs and remember parts of our trip to London.  At the time, I was still wary of writing too much personal information in a public space, so I didn't provide much context.

In March, 2008, my brother and I (and my friend Nancy) flew from Cincinnati to London to see my dad, who flew there from Kenya with my other brother, who met him in Nairobi a week earlier.  This had been my dad's first extended trip to Kenya, six months, and seeing him safe in London was surprisingly emotional for everyone.  He leaves again next week, after spending nearly three months in Ohio.

London's Gatwick Airport, March 2008; we're hoping to get a flight home


I'm still editing and revising; today I topped 80,000 words.  Things I've had trouble translating into blog posts have been much easier to talk about in fiction.  Maybe I should throw in an Iranian subplot?


Sunday, February 26, 2012

Did you watch the Oscars?  I turned it off during the opening bit after I realized I had seen too few of the movies to understand host Billy Crystal's jokes, nor did I really care who won.  From everything I've read, it seems everyone "knows" who the big winners are going to be.

The three of the nine Best Picture nominated films I did see are "The Descendants," "Midnight in Paris," and "The Help." I liked all three for different reasons: "Midnight in Paris" the most clever and funny; "The Help" the most poignant and emotional; "The Descendants" well-written and acted.  The fact that it was set in Hawai'i is a plus.

Besides those I've seen a few other movies that were quite good, thanks to the library: "50/50" starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt as a young man battling cancer was funny, dramatic, and compelling.  "Drive," starring Ryan Gosling as a Hollywood stunt driver who moonlights as a driver for petty criminals, was quite excellent.  It was suspenseful, well-acted, and surprising.  "Julia's Eyes" was a Spanish horror film directed by Guillermo del Toro, the man behind "Pan's Labyrinth." It was truly scary, gripping me from frame one.

This morning I spoke about the Oscar awards with my grandma.  She said she doesn't go to see movies anymore because she can't hear what they're saying.  I suggested "The Artist," because it's silent (she laughed).  Anyway, I keep checking back on the Oscars to see if anything surprising happens.  But if everything goes as expected, "The Artist" will win Best Picture.

Friday, February 24, 2012

First Draft: When Will I Be Ready?

About a month ago, I finished my book.

Rather, I should say, I reached a finished a sentence that I had decided was my last sentence.  My word count goal had been reached, and my story had been told.

Since then, I’ve written about 4,000 more words to the book.  I’ve added to early chapters and late chapters alike.  I’ve beefed up description and rewritten scenes I had hurried through in order to get from A to B as quickly as possible.

I’m still revising entire sections.  I’m not just editing.  I’m removing entire exchanges of dialogue or moving conversations to different days and settings.  I’m confident that all the changes I’m making will improve my book.  The story will be more compelling and there will be fewer dull spots.

But how do I know when I’m done?  How do I decide that I’m done revising and am only tinkering around the edges?  When do I give the completed book to beta readers and ask them to look for holes?

(Cross-posted from my wordpress site--I thought I'd give that site some attention)

Thursday, February 23, 2012

What's MySQL?

Last week a woman called the library wanting to set up some computer instruction time. Specifically, she wanted help using WordPress to set up her blog. At my branch, the teen librarian is responsible for one-on-one computer sessions, helping older adults do things younger people grew up with: moving the mouse, left-clicking the mouse, and the basics of the internet. But because I have some experience with WordPress and blogging, I agreed to meet with this woman.

You can use WordPress in two different ways. In the first, wordpress.com hosts your site. It doesn't require you to be a computer expert, nor do you have to download any software. In the second, what my dad uses, you register at wordpress.org, buy a domain, find a server, do some stuff with ftp and mySQL, download software and then upload it to a server... My dad had professionals set up his site; now that it's up and running, he is able to maintain it.

I had assumed the woman had the second kind of site: that she had bought a domain and needed help getting it up and running. It wasn't until I began reading "WordPress for Dummies" that I understood how hard that would be. I had a notebook full of step-by-step instructions so that, even if I didn't know exactly what to do, I could lead her through it. Still, I was nervous.

When I finally met with her, I was relieved to find out she had the first kind of site--the one like I have. She wanted help changing the header, knowing where to go when she wanted to write a new post. Adding an email address. I could help her with these things. This is not above my pay grade.

We're going to meet again next week. I'm not sure now much individual attention I'll be able to continue to give her at work--our staff is already stretched thin, and I have other responsibilities at the branch--but in the mean time I'm happy to offer what help I can. It reminds me that just as she is pushing herself out of her comfort zone, using resources available to her to grow and try to enact change, I need to continue to push myself to grow, to keep writing, and to keep learning.

Monday, February 20, 2012

I Forget... What Was I Going to Say?

My grandma has an alarm system. When she returns from a shopping trip or church, she has just two minutes to get from the back of the house to her bedroom to turn off the alarm. The alarm is loud, but not to her 90-year old ears, so she's often forgotten to turn it off and received a call from the company making sure everything's alright. Finally she decided to put a note just inside her door, "Turn off alarm."

I'm not quite at the point where I wouldn't notice loud beeping, but I put up my first Post-It note yesterday where I'll be sure to see just before leaving the condo:
I don't know if you'll be able to read the yellow note, but it says, "Remember cell phone and purse!!!"

Wednesday, I left my purse at work. Thankfully it was there the next morning, my $22 cash and credit card with a laughably low limit in tact. But my relief at finding it was tempered by the realization that I'd left my phone at home, the second time I did that last week. When I'm at work, this isn't a big deal--I don't get personal calls during the day, and I'm still able to check email. I can be reached at the library in an emergency. But I'm in the car for over an hour each day. If there's a problem (my timing belt hasn't sounded too good in a while), I'd like to be able to call a tow truck or Triple-A.

I don't just leave stuff at work or home. I'm forgetful in other ways. In fact, yesterday, I got distracted mid-scrub and left a bowl in the sink and the dishwasher open. Seriously.

I get lost in my thoughts, sometimes. I'm thinking about what changes I want to make in my story, or what projects I'll tackle at work, or the debt crisis in Greece. I'd like to be more conscientious, of course, but part of me is depressed by the idea of filling my mind with boring minutiae.


Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Q & A: Just for Fun

My friend on the Left Coast, George, of Rough and Rede, tagged me with this blog post. I'm taking advantage of his eleven questions to a) fulfill his kind request and b) get me out of my blogging rut (I said, not too long ago, that I would write a post a day!)

The Rules:

1. You must post the rules (and link up who tagged you).

2. Post eleven fun facts about yourself on the blog post.

3. Answer the questions the tagger set for you in their post, and then create eleven new questions to ask the people you've tagged.

4. Tag however many people you want.

5. Let them know you've tagged them!

Fun Facts:

- I planned to be a math or chemistry major when I entered college
- I've been to five countries
- My brothers and I were born two years apart, '80, '82, and '84
- I went to a Montessori school through 6th grade; I can't think of a better education
- I recently turned from a life-long pc user to a mac user. Mac is better.
- If I had to live on a single food for the rest of my life, it would be pizza.
- I'm the same weight as I was in 1998.
- I got my first speeding ticket when I was driving my mom's car on a highway (circa 2003); I was trying to figure out the cruise control as I was coasting down a hill and, somehow, my speedometer hit 90. Oops.
- I just cried like a baby at "50/50": good movie.
- I go to my grandma's house almost every Sunday. For fun.
- I drive a stick shift.

George's Questions & My Answers:

1. Who had the greatest influence on you growing up?

Easily my parents, in different ways. I was a bit of a homebody, so there was no one (besides my brothers) with whom I spent more time. How I look at the world; how I interact with others; how I think about myself: all this is directly influenced by my parents and how they treated me growing up. I see on television and read in books and hear stories from others how their parents talked to them. I don't remember a single disparaging word from either of my parents. I try to be good and thoughtful and unselfish. I worry, maybe too much, about how others are feeling. That's my mom. That's my dad.

2. What do you want people to remember about you?

I've joked about this: "Well, she tried." I have this image in my head of all of us just floating around, living out our lives, trying to make the best of it. It's hard to know what to do. To know what's best or what's right. So we try. I try. I would hope people recognize that. (Ask me again in a few years, and maybe my answer will change. In fact, I hope it does!)

3. Do you believe in God?

There's that E.M. Forster quote I've mentioned a few times here and elsewhere: how do I know what I think until I see what I say? In my story (currently at 79,000 words, about 30% through the revision process!), I'd originally intended for it to be about the relationship between this woman and a teenage girl: one has never been (nor wanted to be) a mother; the other is orphaned, practically speaking. But without planning on it, throughout the story I explore each character's faith, or lack thereof. Does it make one's life easier or harder? It's funny: I may cringe when I hear people on the right bemoan our nation's shift toward secularism. But they're right, I think. We are. Regardless of a person's individual beliefs, our culture is slowly becoming more secular and more inclusive. The Catholic Bishops are asking the government to help do what they weren't able to: prevent women from using birth control.

4. What are you most proud of?

I'll be silly here and say jumping out of a plane.

5. What is one thing you'd like to do before you die?

I'd definitely like to visit more countries.

6. At this age, what has surprised you about your life?

The extent to which I push myself to be around people. Growing up as this painfully shy and awkward girl, I assumed I'd choose a life in which I didn't have to interact much with others. That I could be alone a lot. But ever since high school, I've chosen jobs that force me to be around others. Not just a few others, but a lot, whether it's a classroom full of preschoolers or nursing students, or a public library. I don't think this is a coincident. I think I recognize that if I weren't forced to by my job, I would live the life of a hermit (which seems appealing at times!)

7. Name three of your all-time favorite movies.

Oh, this is hard. Give me a genre, like dream political movies, and I'll say "The American President" and "Dave." Say romantic comedy, I'll say "Pretty Woman," "When Harry Met Sally," and "You've Got Mail." Say movies you've watched half a dozen times on purpose, I'll say "Forrest Gump," "Clueless," and "Independence Day." Say best movies in the past two months, I'll say the American "Girl With the Dragon Tattoo" and "Drive." All time? Hmm...

8. What are you reading right now? And I do mean now.

I'm about two-thirds finished with Tom Rachman's "The Imperfectionists." I'm also rereading Christopher Moore's "Lamb" with my boyfriend.

9. Chocolate or vanilla.

Easiest question: chocolate.

10. If you could have dinner with a celebrity, who would it be?

Probably Stephen Colbert. Especially if he acted like I was on his show and he was interviewing me.

11. What don't people realize about you?

I can be extremely goofy; I try to hide this side of me as much as possible to avoid confusion.

That's all I have for tonight. Thanks for the questions!


Friday, February 10, 2012

Aren't You Finished by Now?

Today's my first and only day off work this week. I'm still revising (my boyfriend says, "Aren't you finished by now?!" and I ask myself the same thing).

I'm stuck on my ending. I've gone back and forth many times, and as written it's kind of in the middle. It's not the horrible choice that may make you hate a character, and it's not the warm and fuzzy, nor is it the clear moral answer. I'm realizing today, as I reread my final chapters, that I need to be stronger. Trust my original plan. Even if it makes you hate a character (which is debatable... I think it may split on gender lines, ha), I think that's okay--it just means you care about these made-up characters and world.

Sorry for the vagueness. I'm excited about making the fix and wanted to get my thoughts out. I'm at 78556 words, and expect it to get longer.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Next Time You Buy a DVD Online...

My dad's foundation has partnered with Amazon. If you follow the link (which takes you to the basic Amazon.com site with some added code), 4% of every purchase you make will go toward his foundation. You won't pay any more, any less. I know I don't go a month without buying something from Amazon; from now on, I'll start from this link:

Every little bit helps:
  • $80 pays for one preschool teacher's monthly salary
  • $50 pays for relief food for one month
  • $40 pays for rental of classrooms for one month
  • $25 pays for one goat
  • $20 pays for one school uniform
  • $10 pays for one mosquito net
  • $3 pays for one student's school fees for one month

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

I watched "Contagion" tonight and am suddenly aware of how much I touch my face throughout the day. According to a character in the movie (which is about a very deadly and rapidly-spreading virus), I probably touch my face two- or three-thousand times a day.

Luckily, we keep hand sanitizer on our check-out desks for staff and customers alike.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Currently Reading...

I've started reading "The Imperfectionists," by Tom Rachman. Each chapter is told from a different perspective in a new setting: contemporary Paris, France, first; now, Rome in the 1950s. As I read, the connections become more clear. From Amazon:

Fifty years and many changes have ensued since the paper was founded by an enigmatic millionaire, and now, amid the stained carpeting and dingy office furniture, the staff’s personal dramas seem far more important than the daily headlines. Kathleen, the imperious editor in chief, is smarting from a betrayal in her open marriage; Arthur, the lazy obituary writer, is transformed by a personal tragedy; Abby, the embattled financial officer, discovers that her job cuts and her love life are intertwined in a most unexpected way. Out in the field, a veteran Paris freelancer goes to desperate lengths for his next byline, while the new Cairo stringer is mercilessly manipulated by an outrageous war correspondent with an outsize ego. And in the shadows is the isolated young publisher who pays more attention to his prized basset hound, Schopenhauer, than to the fate of his family’s quirky newspaper.



Sunday, February 5, 2012

Photobooth

I have a cool app on my phone called "Pocketbooth" - it takes four quick pictures of you and stitches them together like one of those old fashioned photo booths. Here's some of me and my nana (not sure why I look so grumpy in picture #4).

Saturday, February 4, 2012

No Bells, No Whistles

I'd been to comedy shows a couple times--once in college and again at a small club a couple years ago. Watching these men--it's only been men--get up on stage and try to make me and the rest of the audience laugh, I think about how hard it must be, night after night, for them to put themselves up there among distracted, drunk, or heckling crowds. How painful it must be. They don't have tricks to fall back on. There's no band, no bells and whistles, just the stories they tell.

But tonight I saw a true professional--Lewis Black. I didn't worry about his home life or whether or not he self-medicated. He spent some time on politics, how he can't believe that anyone is a Democrat or Republican these days, considering how horrible both parties are. He also said he wouldn't make any jokes about Obama because he's not funny--he's just so smart that he becomes lost in his head and thinks about the rest of us in the abstract (he used his serious voice here). Black spent more time mocking the republican candidates--pretty easy targets, but it still cracked me up.


(Actually, one of the funniest jokes came from the warm-up comedian, John Bowman: he hopes Mitt Romney picks Tom Cruise as his running mate so we can get America's two wackiest religions on one ticket.)

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Let Them Eat Cake

Forbes called it a "sound bite blunder," I call it a "Washington Gaffe". A "gaffe" is a social error or a faux pas; in Washington, DC, a gaffe is when a politician tells the truth. Republican front runner Mitt Romney made the latter kind of gaffe when he explained to Solidad O'Brien on CNN "I'm not concerned about the very poor." Because the very poor have a safety net--welfare, food stamps, housing vouchers--he's not worried about them. He went on to say that he doesn't care about the very rich, either, because they're just fine. He's concerned about the middle class.

I hope he has to explain himself. But his own words suggest that he's not at all concerned about a group of people who are already so disenfranchised. Making ends meet through welfare and food stamps is not an easy life. I'd venture to guess that the "very poor" includes a high percentage of children and elderly. It's good to know what Romney really thinks about these groups. "The Examiner" calls Romney's statements not a gaffe but a "dog whistle to the tea party", which believes that too much money is spent on entitlements that go to the "very poor."

I do wonder how Romney defines "middle class." He referred to his speaking fees of over $370,000 as "not very much." Is a $370,000 income "middle class" to Romney? What about 10% of that, $37,000? I'm sure millions of Americans would love to be making $37,000 a year and pay the 25% tax rate on that money.

Edited to add a link to Jon Stewart's take on Romney's statements.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

le sigh

Things are temporarily on hold for the full-time job. Long story, but I'll continue to pick up extra hours until everything is sort out.

Le sigh.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

I had a great meeting with my writing partner this morning. I've been busy editing and rewriting the past few weeks, and I was eager to share the changes I had made. Also, I wanted some direction on the ending that I hurriedly wrote, so excited to be "finished." She gave me some great feedback and suggestions that will guide me as I continue revising, especially on those last few pages.

But the meeting was also great because I got to read some chapters of her current work-in-progress with new characters and plot lines. I loved it, and I so admire her ability to keep producing new and wonderful stories. It makes me excited for the time when I can begin a new project.


Monday, January 30, 2012

Sushi

I'm a neurotically picky eater. I'm slightly less picky than I was five years ago, and far less picky than I was ten years ago, but I still have pangs of anxiety whenever I go to someone's house for a meal. My desire not to offend someone by refusing what food they offer is typically smaller than my desire not to eat something that's not on my approved "list."

But a couple years ago I had my first pieces of sushi, some California Rolls. Since then I've had lots of different kinds, including, I'm told, sushi made with eel. I ask my boyfriend to order it without telling me what's inside--I don't want to chicken out, thinking about whatever underwater creature is rolled up with rice--which has led to my most adventurous eating in my life. (There was one roll he ordered, explaining I would be very upset if I knew what was in it. After I ate it (and liked it), he wanted to tell me what it was. But I won't let him. Even now, weeks later, I don't want to know what I ate.)

I shocked my mom; I still won't eat bananas.