A Little Bit of Wonder is where I journal about the somewhat roundabout way that I have been working to establish a career and a strong sense of self--I spend a lot of time thinking and writing about "direction" and "identity." I have a Master's Degree in Literature, but I'm no longer working as an English Professor; I'm starting the next step in my life as I work to establish a career as a writer in the non-profit sector.
At my companion blog, Little Wonder's Recommended Reading, you will find reviews for both books and other blogs that I enjoy. The two blogs are inter-linked, so you can access my reviews and reading challenges from the sidebar on the left.
Thursday, October 30, 2008
That brings me to today's inspirational message: if you don't care about voting, you bug me. Offended yet? Good. Now I have your attention. Want to know why you get under my skin?
Well, you may feel like your vote doesn't matter. You may feel like neither choice (Obama/Biden, McCain/ Palin) is a good choice. But at least you have a choice. At least if you go to the polls on Election Day, you're not going to be coerced or harmed. And if you really want to make yourself heard, you've got a voice--and you can use it without fear. To everyone living in a dictatorship or a theocracy, that would be an amazing right and opportunity.
A lot of people that I meet that don't care about voting don't have that perspective. Americans don't know what it's like not to have free speech. Certain ethnicities and races still know and feel the power of discrimination (in regards to voting and otherwise), but the majority of the country has no idea what it is to fear for their lives because of the political climate. You may not have the time to travel to a foreign country, but read a book--In the Time of the Butterflies or In the Name of Salome by Julia Alvarez (two of my favorite novels), Reading Lolita in Tehran by Azar Nafisi, or The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera, for example. Check out Baghdad Burning, an anonymous blog that has been published in two volumes. Take a minute to imagine what it would be like to live under a dictator, or under communism. Even just catch up on your World News--consider the elections in Kenya, or the image of the statue of Saddam Hussein in Baghdad being pulled to the ground in April 2003.
Try to understand the desperation of people who cannot speak out--or people who have spoken out, despite the danger to their own lives, and have been silenced.
Try to imagine what it would be like if we did not have the opportunity every four years to replace our president, or to re-elect members of Congress.
You may not like the way that our government is run, or who is running it. But if you stop to consider these types of things, I feel that you have little choice but to appreciate the construction of our government. It is not perfect, but it is flexible. We have the ability to change our laws and system of governance without destroying the whole thing and starting again from scratch. We have the ability to reinvent ourselves as a nation without tumbling into violence and chaos. And that's why effigies of Bush, Palin, and McCain are so disturbing. That's why shouts of "Kill him!" at McCain rallys bother me so much. We don't live in Latin America or the Middle East, and none of our political candidates should have to fear for their lives.
All that American patriotism that my generation doesn't really seem to understand? All that hokey "American Dream" stuff that Obama and McCain are trying to revive? Well, after eight years of listening to George W. Bush malign the idea, turn it into a slogan, it certainly does sound cheesy. But the gist of it is this--America is one of the greatest countries in the world, no matter how fake our politicans can make that sound when they say it up on a stage, and it's not about Americans being better than anyone else. Because we're not. We have the capacity to be arrogant, selfish and destructive. Our leaders are sometimes as corrupt as in any other nation, and we've been led into some sketchy situations. We've compromised our ideals, and probably will continue to do so. But the American system of government allows us to continue striving for the dream of freedom and equality, change for the better, and ultimately peace.
That was genius on the parts of the men who constructed the United States Constitution. Now we just need to prove that we ourselves can be as flexible as our own system of government. We need to stop allowing issues to polarize us, or political corruption to discourage us. We need to use our free speech to build constructively, not create more choas and a climate of fear and violence. We need to care enough in order to make our voices heard--something that so many new people will be doing on November 4 this year. We need to believe in the freedom and power of our own vote.
And that has been today's inspirational message, just in case you missed Obama's infomercial last night before the World Series. Tune in tomorrow, and I'll be selling you a sausage grinder that comes with a free gift of cubic zerconia earrings.
Friday, October 24, 2008
Ah, memories. Joey and Lisa popped into my head recently, since I have been sick non-stop for three or four weeks now. First was some sort of sinus thing, then I caught the stomach flu. The flu hung on for several days, and even once it was gone, it appears to have irritated my more permanent stomach condition. So, I've been on a steady diet of rice and potatoes for three weeks, although happily I've been able to add cookies, turkey and chicken. So basically, I'm having Thanksgiving dinner over and over again--turkey and mashed potatoes, unfortunately without the gravy or the cranberry sauce--and lots of snickerdoodles. People wonder why I'm complaining--why wouldn't you want every day to be a snickerdoodle day? I'm worried, though, that I'm going to get sick of Thanksgiving even before I hit Halloween. I like to prolong my holiday celebrations, but this is going to get a bit ridiculous.
Having finally started to control my stomach condition, I of course came down with the upper respiratory/sinus infection-type thing that has been making my husband miserable for over a week. I could feel it coming--the achey body, the slightly scratchy throat, but he was being so pathetic that I couldn't help kissing him. (I now have a new appreciation for the force of Joey and Lisa's love... and hormones.) But really, I blame the flat tire I got on Wednesday night. My friends and I had to stand around in the parking lot in the blustery wind, waiting for the Triple A guy to come and change my tire. I got chilled, and I knew my body would give in to the infection after that type of exposure to the cold.
So here I am with chest-pains and a cotton-stuffed head, sniffling and cuddling with my box of snickerdoodles. I keep trying to read Madame Bovary for class, but I can only concentrate on fifteen or twenty pages at a time. Meanwhile, my husband has mostly recovered by now but keeps wanting to kiss me... apparently he hasn't noticed how disgusting I am when I'm sick. His love is not a superficial love--he sees beyond the snotty kleenexs and red-rimmed eyes, the ratty hair and sweaty brow. Or he has some powerful hormones.
Well, at least I'm lucky enough to have a box of snickerdoodles and a love-blinded husband to cuddle with while I'm sick. We'll watch a lot of The Colbert Report and The Daily Show, and then I'll start to panic over the huge amounts of homework that I've neglected. I have learned a lesson from all of this, though--I shouldn't have looked down on Joey and Lisa, back in high school when they couldn't keep their hands off each other. There's nothing more beautiful than someone who loves you despite your snotty nose and hacking cough.
I'll have to keep that in mind, too, when I give this infection back to my husband and he starts hacking and sneezing again. Meanwhile, I'm going to go eat some more snickerdoodles. I recommend the soft-baked kind from Pepperidge Farms.
Sunday, October 12, 2008
After spending three days incapacitated and watching all five Harry Potter films (the highlight of my weekend), now I'm desperately trying to play catch-up with midterm papers, projects, etc. So, I haven't had much time to blog as of late--I've been spending every available brain cell to churn out pages about developmental psychology and Judith Butler's theory of performative identity. And I don't mean using every available brain cell, I mean spending. I'm not sure I'm going to get those little guys back.
The really upsetting thing, though, is that I thought I had adjusted to my life as a hermit--I'm just used to not being able to do much of anything fun, it's the status quo. I shut myself up in the apartment, telling my friends somewhat hyperbolically that I'm "buried under a stack of books." (Really, the stacks of books are all shoved up against the wall so that they don't topple down on me.) Then I can read or write all day, and stop just to watch Bones or Supernatural on Hulu when I really need to give my brain a break. Or the MSNBC politics video feed if I want to get riled up. I'm in touch with the world--really! I talk to people all the time... although admittedly, on Facebook.
So, at least I feel like I'm in touch with other human beings, and I'm still able to get my work done without feeling too bad about missing out. But now, of course, on the weekend that I'm particularly convinced that its physically impossible to get all my work done, all my friends (wow... who knew I had so many here in DC?) have been asking me to do things. Really fun things. Renaissance Festival. Mexican Food. Pumpkin Patch. And meanwhile, Jeremy volunteered for the Obama campaign yesterday.
Suddenly, it's not so easy to focus. I don't feel so isolated from the world, holed up here in my apartment. Fall is my favorite time of year, and suddenly I'm thinking of Renaissance music and those giant turkey legs that they sell at the Festival, the elephant ride I had been wanting to take this year, the crisp smell of Autumn and the bright colors of changing leaves...
Jessy stopped by the apartment after she and the others had been to the pumpkin patch; she brought me two small pumpkins. After surveying the apartment, seeing the books I had scattered across the table for reference as I am writing my papers, she commented, "Wow, you really do look like you're buried under a pile of books."
I guess it's not always hyperbole.
Thursday, October 2, 2008
I've been enjoying a little taste of home this week. By this I mean that both my husband and I have been so busy that we've been living off left-overs and frozen food—and oddly enough, this always reminds me of my childhood. I'm sure the idea of microwaved dinners will make you cringe if you were raised, like my husband, on home-cooked meals. His mother was a stay-at-home mom who would prepare complicated casseroles, sausage lasagnas, and batches of hand-rolled German egg noodles with meatballs.
My mother was a college professor, though, and because she was teaching most of the day and correcting papers in the evenings, roasts and lasagnas weren't the usual fare at our house. I grew up on a steady diet of Kraft Macaroni and Cheese, microwaved Campbell's soup and hot dogs, fish sticks and tater tots, and peanut butter sandwiches. Those were the nights when my parents had the energy to “cook” something. Sometimes they would just pull out one those kids' TV dinners with Penguin on the box—not my favorite. For a treat once a week, though, we would go to Taco Bell for nachos and those oh-so-delicious Cinnamon Twists. We would sneak the twists out of the take-out bag while they were still hot, and then enjoy those stale chips and that highly-processed cheese sauce when we got home.
Though I don't have fond memories of the Penguin's unidentifiable slabs of meat and too-tiny brownies, I still enjoy a good bowl of Mac 'N Cheese, a can of Vegetable Beef soup, or dinosaur-shaped nuggets. Lately, a couple of my colleagues have ridiculed the processed chicken fingers that I bring to microwave for lunch, but even though I would generally prefer to be eating healthier food, I have to admit that I find this diet somewhat comforting. Graduate school is such a stressful, disorienting experience—I want something that reminds me of my childhood, that makes me feel safe and sheltered. It may seem strange, but I associate fish sticks with my grandfather because baked them for us, and I think of Ballpark Franks as my father’s heart-felt attempts at cooking, all the more special because they would come out of the microwave over-done and a little shriveled. But I have a (perhaps overly nostalgic) sense that these meals were made with just as much love as my mother-in-law’s lasagnas.
and Campbell's soup.
So this week, when we’ve been too busy to cook, I've treated myself to PB and J, tater tots, Campbell’s clam chowder, and a lot of microwaved popcorn. I’m motivated by more than just a need to grab something quick – if I was in a rush but wanted something healthy, there’s always the salad bar at the corner grocery store. Typically that’s the option I choose, loading up my to-go carton with slices of red pepper, fresh mushrooms and some egg salad on the side. You can usually get some nice fresh fruit, too – although it’s ridiculously expensive and I have to worry about paying for all this on a graduate student’s stipend.
But I’m twelve weeks into the semester and craving a taste of home—and the microwaved soup and hot dogs make me think of evenings in front of the television, watching Wheel of Fortune with my grandparents. When the peanut butter sticks to the roof of my mouth, I think of hot summer days spent playing in the backyard tent. I can still see my grandmother carrying the sandwiches across the yard, the sunlight falling on her shoulders. I feel safe and happy for just a moment, remembering these things about home, before I have to return to the four precarious stacks of books on my desk and the piles of papers that I need to correct. Next week, I’ll go back to my chicken wrap lunches and salad bar dinners, but for now, I need a little taste of home.