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11/01 Direct Link
It's funny how my feelings about holidays have done a 180 degree turn. As a child, I liked holidays, although I yearned for a "real" family; somehow, me and my mom never felt at all like the kinds of families I read about in books like the Bobbsey Twins series. But at least holidays alleviated childhood boredom a little. As a young adult, realizing my relatives didn't care, I said "Bah Humbug" to holidays and hated them. Now, happy with son and connected to half siblings, I'm into decorating trees, stocking up on Halloween candy, cooking pumpkin bread, dying eggs.
11/02 Direct Link
Just had an idea for a picture book: "Going to the Mall with Auntie J," based on my son and I, of course, going to the mall with J. Of course, I'll be imagining what the experience was like for T; he was so little then. And as I painfully brainstorm, I look out dark November windows and remember traveling to the hospital every night after my work day, his school day, just to see her attached to Goddamn tubes, giving Tway too many vending room chips--but feeling I owed it to my bestfriend, to be there for her family.
11/03 Direct Link
I've never missed voting. I voted on crutches when I was twenty. When T was a baby or toddler, I'd bring him with me. I stood in line maybe an hour voting for Harold Washington--how I rejoiced when he won the primary! The next morning, going to work, the subway car stalled, and I heard a worker cry, "Harold Washington for mayor! We have overcome!" I still feel tingly goosebumps. I voted for Barack Obama, and my son and I ordered pizza and watched the returns--again, goosebumps. Our country so flawed--but peacefully changing power via the ballot box is beautiful.
11/04 Direct Link
Election Day. I've always loved voting--having a say in what happens in our country--and it marked the transition from powerless childhood to adulthood with rights. Rights were important to me, as my mother was very controlling, forcing me to switch to a different high school midyear mainly because I was happy and that meant I wasn't as close to her. So being able to make my choices when I turned 18 was invigorating--and voting was one of those adult choices. And my son, half African American, remembers those who died so that he could walk, unharassed, into a polling place.
11/05 Direct Link
My son dreamed last night that I'd been elected mayor, reporters buzzing around the outside of our apartment, and I was mostly worried if I looked OK, my son going, "Mom! You're mayor! Who cares!" The biggest deal was being given free White Sox tickets; they were good, not great seats--not scout seats. (We have a deal--when my novel gets published, I'm buying us scout seats.) What a cool dream--and yeah, the best part was the free Sox tickets! My son has always had great dreams--my favorite is when he dreamed he was the prize in a McDonald's Happy Meal.
11/06 Direct Link
I hate crossing streets in darkness; I wonder, the morning I was hit by a car almost 40 years ago, if it was a dreary, cloudy morning--did the oncoming lights of the car seem to pierce me? I've been more fearless since knee replacement surgery, though--after being unable to leave my house for weeks, I cherish being physically able to be out and about--and I realize that being confined is no life at all. Maybe, when the sky is pitch black, I should remember how I enjoyed being out late when I was a young adult, how that was freedom.
11/07 Direct Link
S's friend died today, and I stupidly asked, "Are you OK?"

S said, "No," and began crying.

What a stupid question for me to ask--of course she's not OK after losing a friend. But what do you say? Comforting words are cliches that won't have any impact for weeks, months. Yes, you're glad you knew the person and that the person existed. But the gaping hole of the person's absence is much too big to allow gratitude, not yet. "Treasure the memories," sympathy cards advise, but all you can think of is that there won't be any new memories, ever.
11/08 Direct Link
I vacillate between complaining and proclaiming how lucky I am. My heel spur is really getting to me--here I go and have two knee replacements to help me walk, and now the heel spur is making walking painful all over again, and how I love long walks! But--at least I can walk. J couldn't. A can't walk far, nor can G. I can (sort of) afford to go to see a physical therapist for help. I can still write--my passion. I guess I believe in "positive complaining." Venting is healthy--but remember that there are a lot worse problems out there.
11/09 Direct Link
I write a lot about J: a short memoir about my friendship with her; for my middle grade novel, draft chapters about a kid with her disability starting 7th grade; and now I'm thinking of a picture book about a little girl with OI starting kindergarten. I guess this is my way of keeping J alive. I'd need to do a lot of research for the picture book, and that always gives me pause--not that I mind work, but I'd be immersed in one project, and I love to switch back and forth between stuff. I'll see what my muse says!
11/10 Direct Link
How grouchy I feel today! At the lung specialist's office, I learn that I have post-infectious cough, and I write the term down--and the doctor "helpfully" defines "post" and "infectious." I wish sometimes that my first impulse wasn't always politeness, that I'd raised my eyebrows and said, "I know what 'post' means." Of course, maybe she automatically defines words for herself and just vocalized her thoughts--but I doubt it. I prefer doctors who assume you'll understand their technical explanations--then, I feel included and respected. I respect the expertise of doctors--but don't we all have areas of expertise and deserve respect?
11/11 Direct Link
I have mixed feelings about Veteran's Day. I respect veterans and can't imagine the discomfort and suffering they endured--I am soft. To be at constant risk of death, to have to learn how to kill--no, can't imagine it. Of course we need to protect ourselves--of course we need to intervene in situations like World War II--and yet. War seems wrong. War means killing, and most religions agree that killing is wrong. Yet somehow we give war a pass. What would the Good Samaritan have done if he'd come upon the robbers beating up the guy? Would he have fought them?
11/12 Direct Link
I read my brother--well, my half brother's--Facebook post about our grandmother--although I never think of her as my grandmother, as I met her only once, though we lived on the same side of town for years, and one year we lived within walking distance. One half sibling said that she didn't accept that I was her son's child; another assures me that she'd frequently remind my dad. "You do have another daughter." Maybe. Still, when I see people posting about how great she was, it hurts, and only now, via this Facebook post, it's confirmed that yes, I am part German.
11/13 Direct Link
I feel funny after admitting to my PT that I'd gone to N for two years but hadn't liked it--did it seem like I was bragging? Did he think that probably I hadn't been good enough, that really I'd flunked out? Did he think it inappropriate for me to say I hadn't liked the school his daughter plans to attend? Probably none of the above--he was just making conversation to pass time while treating my bone-spurred heel. As always, I long to connect with everyone in the world, have to keep reminding myself that people are just doing a job.
11/14 Direct Link
I love the sounds of kids--toddlers who unabashedly giggle joy at being in a place with donuts, babies who cry their discontent with no restraint. I try to smile when kids are noisy, to make their parents feel at ease--I remember, all too well, neighbors banging floors/ceilings with broomsticks when T was little, or the dirty looks at morning Mass. How I loved the priest who made a point of preaching that we should be welcoming to parents with little ones. Back then, single mom fearful of how my ex and his family would treat my son, church nourished me.
11/15 Direct Link
I used to say that I "raised myself." Actually, I did have role models and guidance, for I had books. My mother had been a reader before electric shock treatments stole that from her, and she made sure I had books. When I finally picked up a Bobbsey Twin book and became totally immersed, I found a ready-made group of friends, and I clung to dreams and values I found in books. Friends could be loving. From the weathered Book of Knowledge encyclopedias we found at Goodwill, I learned the virtue of working hard to reach dreams--that's what heroes did.
11/16 Direct Link
Wish anger didn't overcome me sometimes, making me want to use ugly curses and throw and break things. What I hate most is that I remind myself of my mother and feel relatives' accusing eyes: "See? You're like her," and the abandonment stings. But in calmer moments I know that I inherit stuff from a bunch of ancestors. I read something recently about the value of anger, and it's true. My most impassioned writing is fueled by anger. Wouldn't have my career serving people with disabilities if I hadn't been angered by the way I was treated when on crutches!
11/17 Direct Link
I'm so happy! Today we had below-zero windchill temperatures, but I didn't bother to check the weather before heading out for my routine 7-11 mile lunchtime walk--and I made it to 7-11 and back just fine on my new knees! Later, when I learned the actual temperature, I felt such joy. My new knees will probably be OK this winter! I've been worried, as they have been hurting a lot lately, ever since the temperatures plunged. But if I can still walk miles, I'll be fine! I just hate feeling restricted, and I love walking so much. Thank You, God!
11/18 Direct Link
I complain that stores replace wicked witch hats and hanging skeletons with artificial fir trees and multi-colored lights the day after Halloween--yet there is something about sitting in Subway, the strands of blinking red, green, and gold lights making the dark winter outside not seem so formidable. Thanksgiving and Christmas make the cold weather and snow bearable, and it's only when January arrives, no celebratory holiday in sight, when the winter blues take hold. Sure, there's Martin Luther King Day and I'm happy that's a holiday--but there's no build-up, no ritual joy. And Valentine's Day without a sweetheart isn't fun.
11/19 Direct Link
Daisy sits by my side, deep in feline sleep, as I type. Does she dream? She actually stretches, sometimes, when she's roused from napping. She and my son have a bond--they're "buds," he says, and he shrugs off her tendency to bite and scratch: "You just don't understand the Daise." Maybe! I like that, years ago, he explained that of course she was a bit aggressive--she'd had a "bad kittenhood." The shelter said she'd been brought in by Animal Control, and the tip of her tail was bare of fur. I'm glad she can be warm, well-fed, and comfy now.
11/20 Direct Link
Sixteen years ago J. died in early morning, but coming home that night my answering machine's red light blinked joyously--my friend V's daughter had been born. So this morning I run to the mailbox with a belated card for V's daughter and post a Facebook greeting, and I find an excuse to call J's mother--not mentioning the anniversary, although of course we're both thinking of J. Life would be so different if J were still alive--we'd be planning get-togethers, still talking all the time on the phone, and she'd be so excited about my son getting ready to graduate college.
11/21 Direct Link
I always want to believe that people are more than cogs in a business wheel. That when the store clerk greets you with a smile he's not just thinking of you as a sandwich-buyer. That the physical and occupational therapists don't just see you as a knee and a wrist. That your boss doesn't just see you as a writing machine to be discarded when you split too many infinitives. Can't connections between people transcend money? Yet occasionally people rise above the mercenary. Didn't I read of a grocery clerk who donated a kidney to a customer, or vice versa?
11/22 Direct Link
At Dunkin', LIT radio plays Nat King Cole's "Walking in a Winter Wonderland" and how happy I am to be here for a personal write-in and sip coconut decaf for a not exorbitant price. It hits me--this is my first write-in at Dunkin' during this time of year! Of course, it's only in recent years that I've discovered the value of Dunkin as a write-in place, or that they offered free Wi-Fi. Still, a year ago, I wasn't able to walk more than a block or so in winter weather, even with no snow on the ground. Thank You, God.
11/23 Direct Link
I slept poorly last night, worries about work and bills relentlessly circling my head, and I awoke in a rotten mood, not feeling like doing anything. But when I checked email, I read the NPR story about a nursing home that shut down, leaving the patients stranded--except for the cook and the janitor. These young men worked 24-hour shifts for several days without pay, taking care of the elderly people. As I type this now, sitting at Dunkin' Donuts, I feel my eyes tear. There is goodness in the world, and as long as there is goodness, everything will be OK.
11/24 Direct Link
Sometimes I feel sad looking at our two sixteen-year-old calicoes, knowing that cats rarely live to twenty years of age, and how I'll miss them! The older they get, too, the sweeter and cuddlier and more affectionate they've become--maybe because they've become so arthritic that it hurts too much to move, so why not submit to human petting, grin! Still, it hurts, realizing the inevitable loss. But then I read a shelter's advertisement, trying to get people to adopt "senior cats," urging them to make these felines' golden years more golden. I hope we're making our calicoes golden years golden.
11/25 Direct Link
One gray lunchtime 7-11 walk I rounded G. and H. Streets and what did I see, amidst the tiny gray sparrows flying in group formation, but a bright green parakeet in their midst, flying with them! I couldn't help thinking of the bereft home, missing their pet, and how I wished they could see the bird now, flying free, just one of the sparrow gang! Did the parakeet miss its home with humans and the warmth and regular food, or was it ecstatic to be free? Do parakeets' minds delve that deeply or just note the current moment of flight?
11/26 Direct Link
A car zooms by on Western avenue, fir tree tied to its top, and at Starbucks, carols about mistletoe and people drinking from red cups. Still, I'm happy to look out large plate windows and see sunshine and no snow, although I like the red and white bows decorating said windows. I'm enjoying the soft cushy armchair with table for my hot chocolate cup. Young people type on laptops--students? Anyone doing NaNoWriMo? The whir of lattes being made and whipped cream being sprayed vies with music and barristas chattering. I feel momentary comfort, especially after my best friend's supportive email.
11/27 Direct Link
I feel better--well, a little--after resolving to go to church tomorrow. It's not like I think that's the only avenue, that any belief system is better than any other or even than no belief system. Still, I believe in God, and that reaching out to God helps, and going to church is symbolic for reaching out. What did Ann Landers say, that church was a clinic for sinners, not a haven for saints? Something like that. I need help. I want to smile again. I want to help my son. I need strength. This may be a start. I hope.
11/28 Direct Link
PiBo ideas:

Magical dolls

Talking salt and pepper shakers

Christmas trees coming alive

Being able to fly

Winning a contest

Dealing with sibling with disability

Dealing with parent with disability

Having to help out more after parent's hospitalization

The cake that collapsed

The awfullest cake in the world

Vegetable monsters

The lemonade stand (having money stolen? suspecting best friend? neighbor?)

Feeling sad

The bear comes alive and hangs out in the jungle, is told he's soft by the real bears

The story of the rainbow (scientific vs. biblical)

Founding of Chicago (focus on DuSable)

Fictional story about founding of Chicago

11/29 Direct Link
I am grateful for...

My son. I almost lost him.

L.

A comfy, friendly place to write and drink coffee.

That our elderly felines are still with us.

A nice apartment in a nice neighborhood.

Being able to walk a mile, no problem, even in subzero cold.

Being able to swim laps (almost) again.

A job I like, a nice boss.

Books.

Writing--even though I'm struggling now.

Flavored coffee.

Irish tea that's inexpensive that comes from Ireland in pretty wrapping paper, like a present.

A good physical therapist.

A sunshiny 50-degree Saturday in December.

T having good friends.

Christmas music.
11/30 Direct Link
What white people don't get about Ferguson is that it isn't just the killing of Mike Brown, although of course it is that, too. It's that Brown is only one of a multitude of unarmed Black young men killed by white police officers. It's that, even if he committed strong arm robbery, that doesn't deserve a death sentence. It's that police treat Blacks as though automatically guilty and needing to prove innocence. Obama got in trouble for calling police "stupid" for arresting a renowned Professor in his own home because they didn't believe it was his. But they WERE stupid.