January 1, 2009
It’s been too long. And as my title implies, I have reasons but no excuses.
In January 2008 I got a new job — incredibly challenging. Six weeks later, my mother — who had always been healthy, strong and vibrant and who was 10 years younger than my father — was diagnosed with terminal, metastasized lung cancer. In the middle of this, I started questioning whether or not I wanted to stay in my then-relationship. (I guess the “then” gives away what my decision ultimately was.) My entire life was in upheaval and everything that was not necessary to move forward got put on hold — including the writing.
By March, I’d pretty much decided to leave the relationship but was putting off the actual exit until we could see what effect Mom’s chemo would have on her prognosis. In June, she had her last chemo and was doing so well we were all convinced it had worked wonders. False hope: it shrank the lung tumor but every other tumor grew in the meantime. However, during the time we thought it had worked well enough to make an actual difference in her timeline, two things happened: I told my ex I was leaving, and, that same week, I met face to face someone I had happened to meet online the week before — and knew as soon as I laid eyes on him that I was supposed to be with him forever.
She deteriorated quickly. She died on August 31. Four days before, on her last lucid night, she met the man I married four months to the day later (last Saturday, in fact), and he was with me when she died. I have not begun to assimilate her loss nor the joy my new husband brings me, but I am trying to look both of these huge changes in my life squarely in the eye and take whatever they have to offer.
One effect emerges nearly immediately: I have become more convinced than ever of the importance of measuring one’s actions and their effects. My mother led a fairly simple life but I have come to know how broad her scope was, how many people she affected, how profoundly she is missed, and how very very much a life that was, in effect, a collection of right actions stacked one atop the other came to mean to those around her. She had grace and courage and lived those two characteristics fully. She believed that her responsibility to those around her extended to meeting their needs regardless of whether or not it was “her job” to help and, if possible, sending everyone she met away healthier and whole-er than when she first encountered them — and she succeeded in living this belief to a remarkable degree. She took care of her family, her neighbors, her customers, total strangers, her children’s friends, animals, forgotten civil war battlefields, her own and everyone else’s gardens, the rabbits who exasperated her by eating said gardens, wildlife, this planet. She lived a thoughtful life. She was, in her way, a simple activist.
And I am, very much, her daughter.
Be talking to you soon.
March 1, 2008
Two events have occurred: I’ve taken a new job (minor), and my mother has become very, very ill (major). I won’t be around for a bit until the dust settles here. I’ll post when I can, but at the moment, I have to spend my time and thought elsewhere.
December 7, 2007
I just finished reading Matt Bai’s “The Argument” and below is the comment I sent him about it (because I’ve been meaning to post about this for awhile):
I just finished reading “The Argument,” which I thoroughly enjoyed. And yes, it is going to make a fine Christmas gift.
One of the exciting themes of the book is the extent to which the frustration of the ordinary American with the non-responsiveness of our government has resulted in people voluntarily becoming involved with the process and speaking out. (By non-responsiveness, I mean, how often have you thought that some of the citizen uprisings of the sixties, which in many cases had a profound effect on events like the civil rights movement or our attitudes toward the Vietnam War, would now fall [and in fact are falling] on deaf ears? I watch all these anti-war marches now and think, W has cottoned on to the fact that he can get away with ignoring what the people want, and these demonstrators don’t seem to realize it.) I love seeing the increased involvement in the debate, and the extent to which progressives are not only demanding change but are willing to be the change they want to see.
A tandem trend I’m seeing is this: people are so frustrated with the lack of action by the current administration on truly pressing problems, they’re taking action themselves over and above speaking out. A good example is the issue of climate change — W refuses to do anything constructive about it, but nationwide people are changing their own habits and voting with their dollars in ways that will make a difference. I believe some of these problems (climate change is a good example here, too) are going to require intervention on two levels — governmental policy and citizen activism. I also think that it would be easy for citizens to bow out if government had taken the lead (“Well, the government is taking care of that so I don’t have to do anything.”). So, ironically, by failing to take the lead on these major issues, our non-responsive government might actually have done us a favor, by frustrating the citizens to the point where they themselves take the lead. By the time the government follows suit, the two-level intervention will be firmly in place.
Another area where this is happening is in helping Iraqis who are displaced or economically harmed by the war. There are funds out there through which ordinary Americans can make loans to Iraqis to help them get started again, and these funds (and other opportunities like them) have been publicized nationally in such places as ABC’s World News Tonight. No small feat.
Yet another — the program whereby U.S. teachers post projects they lack funding for, and citizens can voluntarily fund them, thus providing educational opportunities for children who otherwise wouldn’t get them. Education funding is cut, and the citizens, frustrated by the government’s failure to act on this priority, are taking action themselves.
I guess the silver lining is this: the failure of the GOP to behave in the best interests of Americans, and the failure of the Dems to come up with a solution, has, ultimately, opened the door for citizens to stop relying on government to solve everything and take some accountable, responsible, community-minded action themselves. Our government’s failure is making better citizens out of us, and in ways that I think harken back to the best characteristics of the founding fathers.
Anyway, enjoyed the book!
December 3, 2007
Exciting things are happening with my friend Deb’s blog, BuckNaked Politics. Reuters has picked up some of her posts in toto (even the illustrations!) and she’s even been linked by the Wall Street Journal! She’s meticulous in her research, and it shows — she deserves the notice she’s getting. Check her out!
November 8, 2007
No matter where you sit on the discussion of global warming, watch this video. It won’t change your position — it’s not about that and I’m not trying to do that. It is, however, about how to decide on a course of action in the absence of the ability to be able to predict the future.
The title sounds sensationalist. The video isn’t. Seriously — watch it. It will be nine minutes well spent.