debboamerik: black-and-white cat (Mr. Miles)
2011-01-05 02:25 pm
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Drummers Drumming and Ornithology (mainly)

I have decided that the writer of The Twelve Days of Christmas was obsessed with birds. After all, one sees a partridge, hens, calling birds, turtledoves, geese a-laying, and swans a-swimming. It's possible also to include the pipers piping in the festive bird count. Honestly, through day 7, the only non-bird gift is FIVE GOLDEN RINGS.

Christmas has been good to me in most ways this year, and I don't mean to sound ungrateful, but it's mostly been rather depressing and anxiety-inducing. Some of that has been health stuff, both mine and the wife's. There were a lot of cancelled trips and disappointments. For example, we planned on going to four lights displays, but only got to one. Therefore, I hereby resolve that next year, I will go to the following displays, come hell or high water:

1) Zoo Lights. This year was the first time it was free, and we didn't get there.
2) Winter Lights at Seneca Creek State Park. Stay in the car! It's warm!
3) Lights at Mormon Temple - I heard about this one just this year, and apparently it's fabulous.
4)Hampden Christmas lights in Baltimore, always a good time.
5) Garden of Lights at Brookside Garden - this is the most expensive one, and the only one we got to this year. It's also the only one that runs until the end of Christmas, because the people there have a calendar. (Their summer butterfly festival also runs through the fall equinox; these folks are no one's spoilsports.)

I hope you all have had a happy Christmas. Tomorrow night, I'm making a festive meal: chicken pot roast, some kind of tasty beverage, and possibly (!) cannoli for dessert.
debboamerik: black-and-white cat (Default)
2010-10-29 04:41 pm
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Interesting Dream

Not last night, but the night before...

No, twenty-four robbers did not come knocking on my door. Instead, I had a very odd dream. Apparently, our Congressional Representative (which in my dream was not Chris Van Hollen, and I wish it weren't in real life, but hey) had to quit on short notice due to some kind of health problem. The local Democratic committee decided (why?) to run me. They told me on the day of the Special Election. I won.

As it turns out, Congressional Representatives live in circumstances similar to summer camp: a huge tent filled with bunk beds. The other women and I were complaining about how the men got a hot tub and we didn't. Still, we were comfortable enough, and all our dinners were paid for - dinners out at nice restaurants in the DC area. There were perks.

I was pretty sure my time in this little club was limited, and I was worried about the stability of my family life if I stayed in Congress, so I decided to focus on just one issue, and struggled between international conflicts and LGBT rights. Apparently, I chose LGBT rights, because my first speech on the floor of the House began, "My name is J_______ P_______, and I am here to recruit you." (I may have given the entire hope speech - not sure.)

Then my (current) boss came marching up to me in Congressional group housing and started yelling at me about how I didn't call to tell her I wouldn't be coming in, and she had to figure out where I was from the news.

I went in to work yesterday feeling oddly guilty.
debboamerik: black-and-white cat (Default)
2010-10-15 09:45 pm
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Optimism!

Here are some of the best words I've heard in a long time. This is sweet and loving and oh so very hopeful. It's water in the desert.

debboamerik: black-and-white cat (Default)
2010-10-11 12:08 pm
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Every Day, It Escalates

By now, you have all heard about what we in the LGBT community have known for years: suicide is an epidemic among gay children. It is very hard to live with constant negative messages about homosexuality at home and at school and at the same time cope with your own emerging sexual identity. That's why antigay speech, whatever terms it is couched in, is child abuse. Yes, saying "We just don't believe that it's right" alienates your children and makes them believe that you'll never love them if you know who they truly are. Really.

However, it seems like things have just been escalating lately. One man and two seventeen-year-old kids were kidnapped, raped, and beaten in New York in the past week. Meanwhile, that state's Republican candidate for governor made a speech that attacked the gay community (and then said that he wasn't homophobic and didn't advocate violence against gay people). A gay pride parade in Belgrade (one of my favorite places to visit - I'm not being ironic here, I mean it) resulted in rioting and injury to several police officers.

The Obama administration, in an act of what I can only see as cowardice, sent Valerie Jarrett (a name known only to politics nerds like me) to speak at an HRC dinner on Saturday as their gesture of support. Aside from the fact that HRC is a controversial (widely disliked) organization in the gay community, this did not even make a single major news outlet in the country. Bill Clinton did much better with Matthew Shepard. And the world is still structured in such a way that kids like Sakia Gunn are just forgotten. Thanks, institutionalized racism!

Today is National Coming Out Day, and I think I speak for many LGBT people in saying that it is one of the saddest we've seen in a decade or more. I'm talking to my straight friends, here. Your children are dying. Kids aren't bullies because they are kids. They are bullies because political candidates like Carl Paladino, mainstream religious leaders like Pope Benedict XVI, and ordinary parents, clergy, and teachers make this behavior (and the attitudes behind them) acceptable. Kids aren't committing suicide because there's something wrong with them. They are committing suicide because they are getting the message that they are unlovable and that there is no hope for them. We've got to give them hope.
debboamerik: black-and-white cat (Default)
2010-10-04 07:53 pm

This is Political

So be warned!

debboamerik: black-and-white cat (Default)
2010-09-20 07:03 pm
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Grief and Life

Sometimes I find myself walking down the street and thinking, "My Uncle Bobby won't get to see the neighborhood kids walking to and from school this year," or "Eileen's new students won't ever learn checkers from my uncle."

I miss him. The acute stage of grief has passed. I no longer cry for hours on end. Still, almost every day has lonesome moments. I cry through some. Other times, I just feel... less, somehow, than I was before.

What is most interesting to me is how every grief is different. It carries the signature of the person missed, I guess. For example, when Frank (my godfather) died, I slept for weeks. When Anne Cote died, I wept like a baby. Later, a baby I cared for died while I was away for a few days. What I felt then was sadness and regret that I could not do more.

This is a new kind of grief. Life keeps moving, but Uncle Bobby is in his way my companion through it. That's how I feel right now.
debboamerik: black-and-white cat (Default)
2010-09-13 10:16 pm
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Language Explosion!

I am currently teaching a very basic level of English, to five men, three of them Turkish-speaking. Today, one of my Turkish speakers came out with these two gems:

"I want to shit in class."

"At Ramadan, we eat cock."

Another of my students asked, "What does George mean?" The word he was asking about was "choice."
debboamerik: black-and-white cat (Default)
2010-09-12 06:56 pm
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Too Long in Exile

Church today - it's been far too long. I got there in time for the Gospel reading, which was pretty good considering that every bus and train was late today. I was amazed at how much a church can feel like a home - more like home than one's own house and bed. I guess I've really missed going to church.

There was a modified panikhida service (prayers for the dead) for the victims of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. I cried a little, mostly because I was thinking of Uncle Bobby. I unconsciously (but appropriately) turned to the icon of St. Pantaleimon and prayed about whether the right choice was made. We all thought chemo was the right choice, yet the chemo killed him. He would have died of the leukemia, so didn't we have to try? Or at least, didn't we have a right to try? He died in all the comfort anyone could give - he mostly slept those last few days, in a haze of pain medications and antibiotics. When it was clear that his organs were shutting down, all but the pain treatments were stopped. That's doing as well as we could, right? I know the choice was ultimately E.'s, but all of the close relatives, myself included, thought the course of treatment was sensible. Still, one second-guesses oneself a lot, wondering if the outcome could have been any different.

I was glad to see big signs in the parish hall and out on the lawn advertising the 9/11 Interfaith Unity Walk. It's the church's role to give members more opportunities to get to know and love all other people.

The sermon was also nice. It was given by Fr. M., who is a missionary and has just returned from Outer Nowhere in the Arctic Circle. He talked about God loving the world and wanting to save all of it. Great stuff. He normally preaches very well, and I enjoy hearing him. He also has a goodly crop of children, mostly daughters, who are very sweet. One of them, who is about ten or eleven years old, contributed a plastic baggie she wasn't using so I could take some antidoron home to [livejournal.com profile] papertigers.

[livejournal.com profile] papertigers has been trying to get me to go back to church for weeks, and I guess she is right.
debboamerik: black-and-white cat (Default)
2010-09-09 05:26 pm

Should We Talk About the Weather?

Late summer is a strange time. The weather is more like Los Angeles than the Mid-Atlantic. Days are warm. Nights are cool, breezy, and relatively dry. Some of the trees are just starting to change - including the very top of one maple. I'm worried about my life and the months ahead.

I just received a wonderful email full of great advice from a friend. We've worked together in the past. We have similar backgrounds. I'm amazed that people can see me in such a positive light. I'm grateful to be liked so much as well.

Last night, for reasons that I don't understand, I was overcome with terror when I got off the Metro. I could hardly stand to walk home, and walked as quickly as possible. When I told her about it, [livejournal.com profile] papertigers offered to meet me at White Flint when I get off work tonight. That wouldn't have even occurred to me.

I am lucky to be surrounded by thoughtful people.
debboamerik: black-and-white cat (Mr. Miles)
2010-09-07 05:57 pm
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A Letter to My Cat

Dear Miles,

You are extremely cute and somewhat insane. Do you realize that I spent three and a half hours on Saturday looking for you, calling your name, and begging you to come home? I walked into underbrush so thick, I doubt you could have even penetrated it. I had a stick. I lifted tree limbs. I talked to every person I saw. I spoke Spanish, and I don't know Spanish. I made a flier with the bold headline "LOST CAT" and a picture of you. I told everyone how handsome you are. I cried in the tub. I raged. I couldn't eat. [livejournal.com profile] papertigers couldn't eat. Neither of us could enjoy anything.

And then you just sauntered up to the sliding glass door and demanded your dinner.

Why didn't you come home when called? Because you didn't feel like it, pure and simple.

You are lying here on the sofa, curled up into a little ball, with one paw on your nose. Yet you regularly claw the carpet as though it were a scratching post. These things are difficult to reconcile. On the one hand: adorable! On the other: bad! I feed you twice a day, yet you often claim to be starving, and when the food comes out, you jump onto the chest of drawers and try to eat Sandy's share. And by the way, we buy this expensive food just for you. But do you appreciate it? No. Instead, you try to drink the milk from my cereal.

Also, please note that the cupboard where I keep my computer was not meant to be your bed.

Love,

Your Favorite Mommy
debboamerik: black-and-white cat (Default)
2010-08-30 09:56 pm
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Vignettes

I. (A dialogue between [livejournal.com profile] debboamerik and VeryProtestantBoss)
[Scene: [livejournal.com profile] debboamerik is getting her lunch out of the refrigerator. VPB stands in the kitchen doorway.]

VPB: I hear you go to a Russian Orthodox Church.

DA: Yes, I do.

VPB: Is it true that you have to pay to go to an Orthodox church?

DA [mystified]: No.

VPB: But you have to pay to go to the Greek Orthodox Church.

DA: No, you don't. You don't have to pay to go to any Christian church that I've ever heard of.

VPB: But they say you have to pay to be a member!

DA: Sure, but that doesn't mean what you think.

VPB: What does it mean?

DA: If you want to do things like run or vote for Parish Council, you have to contribute to the parish, and you have to be of age.

VPB: How much?

DA: That depends.

VPB: So do you have to pay to go to services?

DA: N... [repeats] You don't have to pay to go to services at any Christian church!

VPB: So... just to take Communion?

DA: NO! We let little babies take Communion; how could they possibly pay?

VPB: But you still have to pay to be a member.

DA: Yes, and not just in Orthodox parishes. Catholics do that, too.

VPB: [looks confused, is asked a question by someone else, walks away]


II. (Scene on the Metro)

Three young black boys were sitting on the Metro near me. The oldest one, who was about 16, was acting much younger than the youngest one, who was about 11. I was meditating on the classic style of the youngest one's clothes. He could have been from any era from the 1930s up, dressed as he was, and looked equally cute and stylish. The oldest of the three was being noisy and singing, and trying to get the other two to sing along, which, after a minute or two, they did. Then the oldest one took out his phone and started blasting music with it. I caught the middle child's eye and gestured that they should turn the music down. He gestured back in a class-clown sort of "I don't know" way, so I tried to gesture headphones. Same response. Finally, I caught the oldest one's eye and said, "Hon, you're going to have to turn that way down or turn it off. The rules are that you're supposed to use headphones on the train."

At that point, a skinny young white man stood up and started yelling at them, telling them that I was right and that they shouldn't be talking so loudly either. I ignored him and went back to my book. After all, I talk loudly with my friends on the Metro, and I am 32 years old. The kids waited a second, and then, looking at me rather than at the man, turned their music off. I smiled at them. They started talking (in an audible undertone) amongst themselves, saying that the man had to have a woman speak before he would dare say anything, which I found rather amusing.

When I got off the train at Twinbrook, I saw the people who had been directly opposite me on the train at the farecard machines. The woman said, "Thank you for saying something to those men! I was too shy to say anything myself."

"They were just boys," I said.

"What?"

"The oldest of them couldn't have been more than 16."

"Oh... I was too shy to look, like I said..." I had this lady's number, and she knew it and was embarrassed.

"Kids are dumb," I shrugged. Anyone over age 25 would have agreed, so the woman did. I helped her and her husband work the farecard machines, and they gave me their trade-in farecards. Then I went to the grocery store.
debboamerik: black-and-white cat (Default)
2010-08-30 07:30 am
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Zombies! At Target!

I dreamed that the Goddess of the Dead invaded Target while we were shopping there, and a few of the other shoppers pleaded for their children's lives (why [livejournal.com profile] papertigers and I were spared, I don't know). They were all to be turned into zombies, but she granted the people their children's lives. She seemed to find it all very amusing. One of the women who had already been turned into a zombie took her child home, made sure he got cleaned up and dressed, and helped him pack a bag, all without touching him. He was very upset and we had to explain that Mommy was sick and didn't want him to get sick, so she couldn't touch him. That didn't quite explain why she wouldn't look at or talk to him, but he was seven and we were trying not to make the situation more traumatic than it had to be.

Then, since everyone else was a zombie (and we suddenly had custody of three kids), we got free stuff at Target. That was fun.
debboamerik: black-and-white cat (Default)
2010-08-29 08:54 pm
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Great Weekend

This was a great weekend. Not a perfect weekend, but a great weekend.

Friday night we went to see Twelfth Night at Shakespeare Free for All.

Yesterday, we had a wonderful brunch of cheesy scrambled eggs, biscuits with butter and boysenberry jam, bacon, and coffee.

Today, we went swimming and grilled potatoes and onions and turkey burgers (in Trader Joe's incredibly good barbecue sauce - the only bottled sauce I've ever had that was actually good) on our Notebook Grill. One of the best parts was sitting quietly on the bench with [livejournal.com profile] papertigers watching the grill heat up.

We've been reading and snuggling and enjoying the nice weather.

These are the sorts of weekends when one is just happy to be alive.
debboamerik: black-and-white cat (Default)
2010-08-26 08:20 pm
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Growing Old Gracefully

I have been thinking a lot about the concept of growing old gracefully. I had a conversation with my grandmother recently that precipitated this. We were talking about how hard things have been for my dad and his siblings since my uncle died. Grandma Snazzy (yes, we call her that) mentioned that she doesn't have any friends. All her siblings and most of her friends have died. I mentioned that one can always make new friends, and she said that at her age (she's in her late 80s), they die, too. In a way, I get this. But isn't that life? Everyone does die, sooner or later.

Grandma Snazzy has generally been a great example of the idea of growing old gracefully. When I was a child, she and my grandfather took trips around the world. They visited China, Yugoslavia, and Peru, among many others, on inexpensive package tours. Grandma, who was a shoe saleswoman at The Broadway, retired when I was in my early teens. She then devoted herself to volunteer work and gardening. She was always busy - busier than my high school senior self, even though I was singing in three choirs and participating in Mock Trial. Now, however, she has been slowed down by her broken hips, and she's idle and unhappy.

My Granny (great-grandmother), on the other hand, bloomed almost to the very end of her life. She died just before her hundredth birthday. Grandpa Pumpkinhead (other side of the family, but yes, we call him that) died two years before I was born. The year that I was born, my Granny, who was already 80, traveled to Egypt. She later went to Ireland and the Holy Land, among other places. Back in the U.S., she signed up for Bible study classes at her parish church and History classes at her local community college. After she broke her hip a few times, Granny was forced to live in a residential care facility, but she was still the life of the party. She attended daily Mass. She won awards for her creative Halloween costumes. She also won money at bingo and taught herself to read Italian (I should mention that she was not on the Italian side of my family).

The interesting thing, to me, is that my Granny was a widow, while
Grandma Snazzy is not. According to my dad and uncles, Granny was quite subdued when Grandpa Pumpkinhead was alive, and became more active as a widow. I wonder if this is part of what is holding Grandma Snazzy back, and if so, I find it rather sad. I think, though, there are other factors. Grandma Snazzy enjoys being active, but she's not the most social person in the world. She's also in a private home in a gated community miles from real public transportation. Still, both of them give a person a lot to think about. What is growing old gracefully? Does it help or hurt to be a widow? What does one do when one finds one's friends and family dying, one by one?

Any and all ideas on this topic are welcome.
debboamerik: black-and-white cat (Default)
2010-08-23 03:36 pm

Shouldn't Have Gotten Out of Bed

I did not sleep well last night, and this morning my eyes felt gritty and tired and my feet felt like lead. This is a necessary part of the story I am about to tell, which is mostly about how I am an idiot.

I dragged myself out of bed at the appropriate time. I put on clean clothes and deodorant. I ate breakfast, fed the cats, watered the plants, and brushed my teeth. Then I walked to the Metro. The first train to arrive was crowded, but I looked at the time on my phone and decided to take it to Grosvenor, there to change to a less crowded train. I did so. I sat in a nice seat, put my phone on my lap so that I could check the time without moving much, and promptly fell asleep.

I woke up just before my station, grabbed my work bag and my purse, and got out of the train. No sooner had I left the train than I realized that I had left my phone, which had been in my lap. Cursing my idiocy, I went to the station manager, who gave me Metro's standard "check with us in 5-7 business days" form. I asked if he could just call ahead and have someone take a look in the car; he said, "No, I can't. I'm doing all I can." That upset me further, since it was patently untrue. (For the record, I've had a station manager call ahead and retrieve my book before now; why not a phone, given a full description?)

All day long I have been upset about this. It's not just the phone... it's the other things. [livejournal.com profile] papertigers got me this phone for our anniversary. It has a special ring tone for her calls. It has all my phone numbers in it. She got me a special chip and a USB cord and headphones suited to my phone's unique ports, all so that I could use my phone as an MP3 player. I had only just begun to do so. It's an expensive phone. It has a full keyboard. It's the nicest thing of its kind I've ever owned. I feel incredibly stupid for leaving it like that. It's also my only link to potential jobs (though I think I can check my voicemail from other phones, thank God).

Sometimes I am just not the brightest or the best.
debboamerik: black-and-white cat (Mr. Miles)
2010-08-16 09:25 pm
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Quick Quote

Tempura Pedic Mattress For Sale - $275

Comes with soup and your choice of beverage?
debboamerik: black-and-white cat (Default)
2010-08-15 09:19 pm

Why and How

This post is mostly me musing on myself, but I'm making it public because people might have things to add.

While making dinner tonight, I found myself thinking back on a disturbing episode involving unwanted physical contact that happened a few years ago. I'm still very disturbed and deeply ashamed of this episode, and I did a little thinking about why. After all, I was raised on the philosophy of "my body is my own." Why hasn't that translated into a stronger sense of my own personal boundaries, and more ability to stand up for myself?

I think maybe it's not enough to teach kids that they can say no or talk to a trusted grown-up. I think a kid also needs a sense of his or her own body as a worthy object of protection. I developed, somehow, a deep dread of appearing selfish and making demands on others, at a very young age. I also developed a lot of shame about my body, and a feeling that the mind was the worthier part. I could point to a lot of reasons for this, but most likely it was a combination of all of them, plus some that I haven't thought of. I have been lucky to have, in [livejournal.com profile] papertigers, someone who helps me to understand that I am allowed to feel angry and ashamed.

It also makes me think of a parallel incident, when I was in Mauritania. In this situation, a young boy of between ten and thirteen years old hit me on the back with a stick while I was walking down the street. Mauritanians find this sort of thing tremendously funny. I found it deeply shaming. When I told one of my friends about the incident, she told me that of course I felt ashamed, that racially-motivated violence in general is meant to keep people down by making them feel ashamed. I'm not sure that I agree with her whole analysis of the situation, but I know that it gave me a new perspective, not just on my life, but on my own society. That perspective has been really important because it has allowed me to see how people work, consciously and unconsciously, to control each other and keep those they see as their inferiors down. It's given me insight into myself and my own less-than-beautiful motives, too.

Yet all the insight in the world can't keep me from feeling somehow responsible for being hurt. Why is that? I wish that one could conquer pain by understanding the reasons for it, but it takes more than that.
debboamerik: black-and-white cat (Default)
2010-08-11 10:56 pm
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A Good Farewell

Today was my uncle's funeral. I attended noon Mass at St. Matthew's Cathedral, where John F. Kennedy's funeral Mass was held. In the meantime, in Los Angeles, my family was holding their funeral service.

This is the eulogy my father gave )
debboamerik: black-and-white cat (Default)
2010-08-07 04:32 pm
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Talks about Uncles

As it turns out, not going to Uncle Bobby's funeral isn't going to be the drama I was dreading. The funeral is on a Wednesday, so unless I wanted to miss a week's work (and therefore a quarter of my monthly income), there was no way to do it. I'll be saying a rosary on Tuesday while they have his rosary service at Holy Cross, and I'll try to take a half day on Wednesday so I can go to the noon Mass at St. Matthew's here in DC and do a funeral pray-along. (My family is mainly Catholic - French, Irish, and Italian - so this is an act of solidarity with them.)

I actually had a conversation with my dad today. He's pretty down about losing his only older sibling, and is expressing it in angry terms, as he often does. He says he's lost four pounds this week, and with the way I was eating and sleeping on Wednesday and Thursday, I believe it. He and my little cousin A., who is going into her Senior year of high school and was really, really close to Bobby, are going to do the eulogies. I am proud of my cousin for being strong enough to make herself so vulnerable.

I am still very upset. We will miss him very, very much.
debboamerik: black-and-white cat (Default)
2010-08-06 07:58 pm
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Adorable and Hilarious Essay

The task was to write about a celebration. This was written by an African student (not mine), shared by a teacher who wishes to remain anonymous:

I was been for two days in Chicago for my friend wedding. the particularity of this celebration was "homosexual marriage gay".
I never seen before I came to u.s ,and in my life the gay wedding. The groom was my friend from Georgia. 70% of the people was just a handsome men. with a strong physical body like an athletic. I was thought about their life. Because the organisation was wonderfull, in the front of the river, the multicolor light has been deposit on the grown, around the red table. It was not a surprised for me, when it was the time to kiss a bride, that was one of the amazing moment, upon hugging each over, watever you know or not.
I will never forget this party, because I never saw that, and everything was great foods, clothes, and all organisation. I wonder that I change my mind about gay people.