george & me
So my co-workers and I are sitting there in the gymnasium of the Boys & Girls Club. It’s a packed house — everyone’s dressed spiffy and the women are all wearing lip gloss — and waiting for the fateful words from the announcer: “Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome the president of the United States of America.” Every half hour or so, the announcer begins in that mellifluous tone: “Ladies and gentlemen….” and continues: “Please turn your cell phones and pagers to ‘off’ or ‘vibrate.'” It’s a big let-down. We gaze around at the cameras, at the men with earpieces and trenchcoats. We are bored as hell.

More to come about my presidential morning.

cool thing
The organization I work for runs workshops for parents on how to be better educators of their children, and we give each parent a book called Your Home Is A Learning Place. But we have lots of parents whose first language is Spanish. And the book doesn’t come in Spanish. So without any prompting at all, one of our volunteers borrowed the book and said he’d get it translated. Yeah right, I thought. But he found people at his law firm to translate each chapter. One of them quietly handed the finished product to me at a workshop this week. It was a thick stack of about 70 pages, each chapter printed on a slightly different shade of white paper, or typed in a different font size or clipped with a different type of paperclip. You could tell eight people had contributed. How cool is that.

Okay, instead of posting something momentus, I’ll just post something. Today I was walking by the park near my house. I’d just finished talking to my dad. He sounded happy, which may be because he’s started the Atkins diet and has lost ten pounds. I was thinking about parents, and then what it must be like to be a parent, and what it’s like to be a daughter. I really don’t talk to my parents a whole lot. Not as much as I could. Do they want to talk to me more? It seems like everyone’s too busy for that. And I moved away. Was that a bad decision? What if someday I have a family? Won’t I want my mother to see her grandchildren?

And my thoughts spiraled out from there, until I heard a soft music somewhere, like it was coming from the trees. Except when it became clearer, I realized it was the bagpipes. And some man was marching out in the middle of a field playing the bagpipes. How does my life get so surreal sometimes.

I was at a wedding this fall in which a man playing the bagpipes came up the aisle as soon as the ceremony ended. I couldn’t really figure out why that guy was there, at the time. It was almost a little funny. A random guy in a kilt, with a funny-looking instrument belting out that swelling melody. But today it made a little more sense. There’s a lot of life in music like that.

I tried to fall asleep last night but all I could think about was work. And then I realized that I couldn’t fall asleep because i was thinking about work. And I wondered if I would ever dream again.

The elevators in the building where I work are notoriously ancient, noisy, slow and unpredictable. Complete strangers riding in the same elevator routinely remark on the elevator’s temperment. Today, as soon as I pressed the elevator call button to go downstairs, one appeared. An old Indian man boarded it with me. “What luck,” I said, “we got an elevator right away.” The man replied seriously, “We should play Lotto.”

On the way back to my office, I got on an elevator that seemed to be barely eking its way skyward. The other man in the car commented on this. “Are we even moving?” he said. It stopped on random floors where no one was waiting at all. I waited for it to stop on my floor, the 9th. But it didn’t. It paused momentarily, but the doors didn’t open. It eked its way toward floor 10 instead. I got off and took the stairs back down.

The stairs, by the way, are the maintenance stairs. (“You can see the guts of the building,” Maxie once said about them). As I started down, the man called out, “Good luck!”

Keep walking, though there’s no place to get to.
Don’t try to see through the distances. That’s not

   for human beings.
Move within, but don’t move the way fear makes

   you move.
Today, like every other day, we wake up empty and
Don’t open the door to the study
and begin reading. Take down a musical

Let the beauty we love be what we do.
There are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the

Rumi, Persian mystic

jesus would ride a bike
My dad works for General Motors. It’s one of the last big manufacturers left in the Western New York area, and it employs thousands of people. I should have no cause to complain about the company, but yet I do. My family leases an SUV, a GMC Jimmy. And this drives me crazy. I can’t exactly pinpoint why. I’m sure there’s a billion other purchasing or environmental decisions I could pick on. And hey, I’ve been known to leave the water running for five minutes at a time. But the SUV thing. I dunno, there’s just something creepy about it… the invisible hand of marketing has made all these Americans truly believe that they are driving vehicles that are safer in a crash and better in bad weather. But it ain’t true.

So I nicknamed our SUV at home the Rollover Death Machine. You know. For counter-marketing purposes. My parents didn’t take too kindly to that. They just looked sort of quietly stunned/annoyed. Probably because I decided to tell them my new nickname while we were driving in the Jimmy.

And, says Arianna Huffington, there is a creepy conspiracy behind the SUV trend. Ok, so actually it’s just the standard conspiracy: the feds and big business.

to read
Education Week’s in-depth special report on teaching in high-poverty, high-minority schools highlights how the public school system isn’t set up to train and retain great teachers. I’ve talked a lot in the past few months to friends working in schools where they get no support from the administration, no time to collaborate as a faculty, and they feel really isolated in a classroom full of too many kids at all different levels of ability. It’s no wonder that teachers who love to teach often head for the suburbs, or someplace where they’ve got a shot at succeeding.

the big question
“There are far too many smart, educated, talented people operating at quarter speed, unsure of their place in the world, contributing far too little to the productive engine of modern civilization. There are far too many people who look like they have their act together but have yet to make an impact. You know who you are. It comes down to a simple gut check: You either love what you do or you don’t. Period.” — Po Bronson in Fast Company magazine

What should I do with my life? That’s pretty much the universal question for people my age. A lot of bloggers linked to this article. Interesting, eh? So many people thought the ideas in this little business mag article were eye-opening. That’s kinda scary. No one thought of this stuff before? I think it must’ve struck a chord by legitimizing what people intuitively crave in their lives but brush off as irrational, because society says that money and/or power will buy happiness, eventually. People buy into that myth and don’t even stop to listen to their inner voice telling them to slow down and think for a minute about what really matters. Or maybe they just don’t know how to listen.

How can you, I guess, when everyone from your college professors to your mother is saying you’ve gotta climb that ladder? Up up up… We learn how to write a resume and cover letter, but not to question what drives us in the first place.

supervision required
I spent about ten days at home in Buffalo. At the time, I couldn’t understand why I was actually enjoying it. Maybe my family got less annoying, I thought. Maybe I’ve become more patient and laid-back. But today — today I think maybe it was just easier.

Now I’m back here in DC and I can’t help wondering what the hell I’m doing here. I’m sitting here in an empty apartment, it’s raining outside and all the fun holidays are over. Yes, this is a perfect recipe for self-pity. But it’s also making me wonder who I think I’m kidding. Do you ever have those moments, when you’re like, “Wait. Am I actually old enough to live on my own? Don’t I need to pass some sort of test and get a permit to be an independent adult?”

It’s one of those days when I’m expecting someone to show up at my door with a warrant at any moment. He’ll look around my apartment, see that I’ve been wearing pajamas all day and haven’t done any dishes. Then he’ll look through my mail, notice the unopened bank statements and the letters from creditors. And he’ll shake his head. “I’m sorry,” he’ll say. “You’re not ready for this.”

I’ll protest: “I’m capable! I’m competent! I was considering having a box of Junior Mints for breakfast but instead I had a bagel! Doesn’t that count?” And he’ll cluck his tongue and scribble down a note: “Considered having Junior Mints for breakfast.”