Tuesday, November 22, 2005

wind up the skirt

Is not a good thing.
At least not when it's cold and wet.
And you're wearing thigh highs and thong.
But hell.
At least I'm awake now.
I'm in the mood for: cocoa. I need my cocoa and I'm all out. It's gonna be a loooong day.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

a poignant editorial, as Congo elects a woman president

From the NY Times today:
Waiting for Their Moment in the Worst Place on Earth to Be a Woman
Published: November 16, 2005

You can't get to Bukavu, Congo, from Monrovia, Liberia. Like just about everywhere else in Africa, the two places are separated by dense rain forests, interminable wars and impassable dirt roads that don't go anywhere.

Yet they might as well be the same place. "Oh, finally, now I'm home," I thought as I crawled out of the tiny single-engine plane and jumped onto the landing strip of what passes for Bukavu's airport. It was about six months ago, and I was on a reporting trip throughout Africa. It was a weird trip for me because I was there to write about poverty and development, yet everywhere I went, from Accra, Ghana, to Mekele, Ethiopia and Kisumu, Kenya, I kept thinking that none of those places, for all of their endemic poverty or corruption, seemed as bad off as my own home country, Liberia.

Until, that is, I got to Bukavu. After the semidesert of Ethiopia and the savannahs of Kenya, Bukavu was otherworldly lush, with that tropical just-rained smell that often greets me when I go home to Liberia. Leafy, green mountains and valleys surrounded the teeming city, with rich banana trees and tea plantations dotting the countryside: the same luxuriant, verdant landscape we have around Monrovia.

And the same inexplicable sense of abandonment that comes from having a population ravaged by years of pointless civil wars. Thousands upon thousands of young boys troll fetid, trash-strewn streets, with nowhere to go. Downtown buildings, long devoid of any commerce, are marked with holes from rockets, grenades and the various other projectiles common to all of the continent's numerous wars. A few private cars - mufflers dragging, crammed with 10, 15, even 20 people - travel the crater-filled streets, but mostly just the white United Nations SUV's.
What struck me most, though, in Bukavu were the women. As I drove into the city, I passed women I have known all of my life. There were old women - old in Africa means 35 or so - with huge bundles of bamboo sticks on their back. In most cases, the burdens were larger than the backs carrying them as they trudged up one hill after another. There were market women in their colorful dresses - in Liberia we would call them lapas - huddled together on the side of the road selling oranges, hard-boiled eggs and nuts.

There were young women and girls, sitting in front of village huts bathing their sons, daughters, brothers and sisters in rubber buckets. No electricity or running water was anywhere close, but one 10-year old girl had dragged a bucket of dirty creek water up the hill to her house so she could wash her 4-year-old sister.

These were the women I grew up with in Liberia, the women all across Africa - the worst place there is to be a woman - who somehow manage to carry that entire continent on their backs.
In Liberia, when their sons were kidnapped and drugged to fight for rebel factions, and when their husbands came home from brothels and infected them with H.I.V., and when government soldiers invaded their houses and raped them in front of their teenage sons, these were the women who picked themselves up and kept going. They kept selling fish, cassava and kola nuts so they could feed their families. They gave birth to the children of their rapists in the forests and carried the children on their backs as they balanced jugs of water on their heads.
These are the women who went to the polls in Liberia last week. They ignored the threats of the young men who vowed more war if their chosen presidential candidate, a former soccer player named George Weah, didn't win. "No Weah, no peace," the boys yelled, chanting in the streets and around the polling stations.

The women in Liberia, by and large, ignored those boys and made Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, a 67-year-old grandmother, the first woman elected to lead an African country. I wasn't surprised that Mr. Weah immediately said the vote had been rigged, although international observers said it had not been. In the half-century since the Europeans left Africa, its men have proved remarkably adept at self-delusion.

No one can be sure what kind of president Mrs. Johnson-Sirleaf, a Harvard-educated banker who was imprisoned by one of the many men who ran Liberia into the ground over the last few decades, will be. There are plenty of African women who have brought us shame, from Winnie Madikizela-Mandela in South Africa to Janet Museveni in Uganda. But after 25 years of war, genocide and anarchy, it's a good bet that she will smoke the men who preceded her in running the country. It's not going to be that hard to do; Mrs. Johnson-Sirleaf is following Charles Taylor and Samuel Doe, both butchers of the first degree.

Ever since the voting results started coming in a few days ago, showing what the Liberian women had done, I've been unable to get one image from Bukavu out of my mind. It is of an old woman, in her 30's. It was almost twilight when I saw her, walking up the hill out of the city as I drove in. She carried so many logs that her chest almost seemed to touch the ground, so stooped was her back. Still, she trudged on, up the hill toward her home. Her husband was walking just in front of her. He carried nothing. Nothing in his hand, nothing on his shoulder, nothing on his back. He kept looking back at her, telling her to hurry up.

I want to go back to Bukavu to find that woman, and to tell her what just happened in Liberia. I want to tell her this: Your time will come, too.

hats off to illinois

This is the first few paragraphs of an article, from today's NY Times.
Illinois Law Offers Coverage for Uninsured Children
Published: November 16, 2005

CHICAGO, Nov. 15 - Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich signed a measure on Tuesday intended to allow all children in Illinois, including those in working-class and middle-class families, to obtain health insurance.

National experts on health care said the new law, which will offer discounts on premiums for those who qualify, was the broadest plan to insure children by any state.

Political leaders in other states, the experts said, are certain to be watching whether Illinois succeeds in expanding coverage to its 250,000 children who are now uninsured, about half of whom are not from the poorest families but from families earning more than $40,000 a year.
Mr. Blagojevich, a Democrat, said he hoped that the move would lead the way for a nation that needs to face a growing problem of middle-income families who cannot afford insurance premiums.

"It's about time that the middle class get some help and the working class get some help," he said in an interview. "Our kids come first, and what's the most important thing for kids? That they're safe and healthy."

Within hours of the signing on the Southwest Side of Chicago, residents submitted contact information to enroll online, though the benefits do not begin until July. By the end of the day, hundreds of people had written in, Mr. Blagojevich's office said.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005


A recent blog about chicken and dumplings made me think about why it's been so long since I made it. And I think part of it has to do with what I call 'poor food.'

Poor food is the food we used to have to eat when the kids and I were really poor. Things like mac and cheese, and those Ramen noodles. For the most part, I don't cook or eat things anymore that I associate with the poor years. Cause that was when we ate what we had, like it or not, and were grateful to have it.

Chicken and dumplings is one of those poor foods for me. I think I was the queen of making a 2 or 3 pound fryer into meals for two for a work/school week.

Day 1: Roast chicken and potatoes, always a fav
Day 2: A chicken casserole with anything available thrown in
Day 3 and 4: Chicken soup, again with anything available thrown in
Day 5: Boiling the last of the chicken off the bones for chicken and dumplings, cause we saved our second fav for last

So, it's a reminder of rougher, tougher years. And yeah, of course I used to cook--I had to. But even the act of cooking itself became a reminder of those rougher, tougher years. And I walked away from it as soon as I could financially swing it.

But now, here I am. Cooking again. And largely out of necessity. And cooking old favorites, that remind me of the past. Who'd've thought?

Friday, November 11, 2005

shiny happy people holding hands

I like that song. It's been going through my mind all day.

A good day, despite some challenges.

I've turned over a new leaf.

No more moody.

ok, we all know moody ain't going away.

But she's gone today.

I took a vacation day, and went to the library to work on the dissertation.

It's still a challenge. I can't seem to stay focused for more than a few minutes, and I'm constantly trying to bring myself back. I think I'm just too burned out. But there's nothing I can do about that. I just have to keep coming back at it, over and over again, till it's done.

I'm taking care of my food addiction. I went shopping, and I didn't even get a pizza. I bought things to cook, like real food. Tonight I made fettucini, salad, and garlic bread. Ok, I didn't make the bread, I bought it buttered and garlicked. But I put it in the broiler. And I bought the lettuce in a bag already cut up. But I chopped tomatoes to go on top. And I put the butter, cream, and shredded parmesan on the pasta for the fettucini. But I used margarine, skim milk, and grated low fat parmesan instead. But it was good. Even the rugrat raved. Of course, that might have been raving over the novelty of me cooking. And we ate fruit for dessert!

I have no candy, soda, or munchies in the house.

I'm going to cook on weekends from now on.

I have to go back to the library all day tomorrow, too. I'm just too far behind not to.

But I'll be home to cook dinner. The rugrat wants stuffing. Too many thanksgiving tv commercials. So I'll make chicken and stuffing. And she wants mashed potatoes. I told her sure, if she helps chop the papas.

No date this weekend. Which sucks. But I'll live.

Mood: Pretty content for once!

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

whoa baby what a ride

I knew this morning would be rough at our house, cause of the nearly all-nighter homework fiasco. But I didn't know just how hard it would be.

The rugrat doesn't function well with no sleep. So I had a hard time even getting her out of bed. She balked, but eventually got up.

Then she started whining about being so sick, and feeling like she was going throw up. But I still didn't give in. I repeatedly reminded her that she created the situation and now has to deal with it.

Things escalated rapidly, in her attempt to get out of going to school so she could go back to bed and sleep. I told her that if she stayed home, it would be unexcused, and there would be consequences for skipping. Like not seeing her boyfriend for a long time.

In the end, she was sobbing uncontrollably, tears streaming down her face, nearly incoherent as she kept saying she felt like she was going to be sick. I'm not sure I've ever been through such a heavy scene with her.

But I didn't give in. And then she got angry. Said she would walk to school, that she didn't need a ride, I should just leave. And, oh yeah, she hates me. Really, really, really hates me.

Ok, so the comment about walking to school was a give away that she wasn't as sick as she'd said. If she really felt like throwing up, she would've taken the ride, no matter how mad she was.
And the command for me to go ahead and leave was a give away. It meant she intended to wait for me to leave, then go back to bed. So I told her I'd be calling school to be sure she was there for all her classes. Now that really pissed her off.

So, I pretended to leave and waited in the car outside around the corner, to be sure she really left for school. I watched her, following slowly, till she was about halfway there. Yes, she saw me, but she refused to acknowledge me. That's fine. At least I'm fairly certain she made it to school.

So, I may come home today and find she's packed her things and run away.

Or she found a gun and I won't make it through the night.

I have absolutely no idea what I'll find tonight.

I just know I am completely emotionally drained. And I don't know how much longer I can do this.

I'm in the mood for: inner peace.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

I'm trying to remember

what it was like when I was young enough to choose looks over intelligence. And think I'd made the best choice. It's been so long, that it's hard to connect with my rugrat on that. Her choice: dumb guy, good looks. And probably good sex, although I'm trying REALLY hard not to think about that.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

they looked way too young to be there

Popped into the local taco bell at lunch, and the four employees were all clearly teens. As in high school age. And here it was, middle of the day. As in school time.

Could have been in a school-to-work program, working some days and in classes others. Or work during the day, and class at night. But somehow, I did't get that impression. And it saddened me to see kids with so few options. I should note that the local high school is one of the worst academically, and most dangerous, in the city.

Then I walked back onto campus, and wound up strolling behind a group of freshmen girls. god they're young. And childish. And immature. And mean, and cruel, and nasty toward others. I wasn't impressed at all.

And it struck me that those hard working high school kids would be serving these mean spirited, spoiled college kids for the next four years.

And it struck me that a college education is often wasted on the wealthy and unworthy.