Friday, December 30, 2005

Self-inventory

So another year draws to a close. A time where some of us take personal inventory.

I'm one of those who does that and I'm not really sure what to say in "big terms" about 2005 because I think we covered it in the roundtable at The Third Estate Sunday Review.

So here's my own reflecting.

Three years ago, the woman I was engaged to got a job in Europe. Of course the relationship didn't last. Was she the one? Last year dating was a pain in the butt. This year, there were actually a few nice women. So in terms of relationships, where am I?

I'd say I'm finally over what couldn't be and ready to appreciate the right one if she comes along. Now the way life goes, that probably means she won't come along in 2006.

Family wise, everyone still with us is healthy so knock wood that stays the same. My youngest cousin is finally leaving his gangsta rap period and the whole family is breathing a collective sigh of relief. He went from ghetto fabulous to gansta and now he seems to be on an information kick which hopefully means he'll get back in college.

Common Ills members will know that I have huge respect for and enjoyment of rap but I don't listen to gansta rap and doubt I will. Watching my cousin try to imitate the lives of a bunch of men who should have known better, so should my cousin, was enough to turn me off of that crap. He went from being this straight arrow, overachiever to a college drop out who just wanted to grab a 40 and hang with his "posse" that went from slackers to hoods in a matter of months. That caused my grandmother tremendous pain so, whether he goes back to college or not, I hope he's serious about straightening his life out.

Work wise I like my job. I get to help people and that makes me feel good. I've got job security and I can pay my bills, do my church tithes, help out family that's not doing as well, so I have no complaints there.

Soul wise, I think I'm doing okay. Normally, I'd write more than that but, to be honest, seems like there's a lot of pandering to prove the center and the left is religious ("too!"). I saw a bumper sticker on the back of a truck today. I have no idea what the statement was supposed to be but it said "I SUPPORT THE TROOPS MORE THAN YOU DO!" Religion's not a competition and I feel like in 2005 that was a trend we saw as people competed to be more religious than thou. If you are religious, whomever you worship is the one who will determine whether you are religious or not.

Church wise, since Keesha e-mailed wondering how the choir's performance went last Sunday, we did a really good job. We don't have a lot of empty seats on most Sundays to begin with, but we were packed Sunday with a lot of people sitting in folding chairs and some standing. That's because the megachurch in our area felt a day of worship is something you skip on Christmas. That still offends me.

I think my church is doing a great job reaching out to older members in the community and that's what I'm most proud of in 2005. Not just my part in that but everyone's. A place of worship, my opinion, should be a place where people come together and it should be about more than a nod on Sunday or a hello in the church parking lot. I'm really proud of my church's efforts to reach out to members, especially older members who find themselves in the area they grew up in while their children have moved on (usually due to economic reasons).

This summer, I had four really wonderful friends. Now I have three. Vern was a really great man with a lot of wisdom and I'm glad I was able to get to know him and learn from him. I'm really glad that Three Cool Old Guys are my friends.

If you're stumbling upon this entry and wondering what I'm talking about, as part of my church's outreach, I agreed to spend time with four of older members who are in a nursing home. It was the best thing I could have done. Not for them, I hope it's good for them, but for me. It was a real honor to know Vern and I'm really honored to be able to call Three Old Guys my friends. They're a trip and then some. If you know someone in a nursing home and you could be visiting but aren't because you're thinking "What will we talk about?" take a chance and visit because I bet you'll find that the problem is not having enough time to talk instead of having nothing to talk about.

I want to thank Rebecca, Kat, C.I., Elaine, Ty, Mike, Betty and Jess for helping me deal with Vern's death. And Kat and C.I. for listening, at all hours, when I called to read them what I was reading at Vern's funeral. I rewrote that thing over and over and everytime they were willing to listen. The day of the funeral, at two in the morning, I woke up C.I. with one phone call and then Kat with another asking them for one more listen. They'd told me beforehand to call when I got the final draft done and read it. That was nice of them and if I hadn't felt that I really needed to say something worthy of him, I would have just thanked them for their offer. Instead, I took them up on it.

Again, if you're stumbling in blind, Vern was pretty much alone except for his friends at the nursing home. His kids didn't come by, his grandkids didn't. (He had one granddaughter who called.) I wanted to talk about how he was still this incredible guy worth spending time with even at the end because he was. But a lot of time, people end up in a nursing home and end up being forgotten. I'll save the speech there for another time.

So what does that leave?

I guess that leaves politics. 2005? It was a big change for me. I voted in elections and sometimes I donated some money to a candidate but that was really it. In March, I went to my first protest rally. It was against the war. In September, I went to D.C. for the big anti-war protest there. I'm proud of taking part in The Third Estate Sunday Review's "'Why Are You Here' and 'What's Changed'" which is us sharing the voice of a hundred people present. You didn't get that from the mainstream media. (You did get real coverage from Democracy Now!)
And "us" was:

The Third Estate Sunday Review's Dona, Jess, Ty, Ava and Jim, Rebecca of Sex and Politics and Screeds and Attitude, Betty who was on the verge of starting Thomas Friedman Is a Great Man and C.I. of The Common Ills and The Third Estate Sunday Review. This time we're joined by Kat of Kat's Korner (of The Common Ills), Cedric of Cedric's Big Mix, Mike of Mikey Likes It!, Elaine of Like Maria Said Paz, Ruth of Ruth's Morning Edition Report and her granddaughter Tracey.

That's who worked on the voices feature. And if a hundred voices seems like a lot to anyone, we all interviewed a lot more. We had to narrow down our choices and then explain why we were wanting our final picks highlighted. Also there were Gina and Krista who do the gina & krista round-robin. Seth and Wally weren't blogging then. It's kind of weird to think about that now. Mike interviewed me for his site and we knew that two members were about to start their own site but we couldn't figure out who they were? That seems like a lifetime ago.

So I'm someone who never went to a protest or a march and I took part in three in 2005, in March, in September and the World Can't Wait in November. That's been a big change. I think when you come together with others to stand up and be counted, it changes you in some ways. You really get the sense that you're not alone and that just because the mainstream media wants to act like you're some minor fringe, that's not true.

In 2004, if you'd told me I'd be taking part in protests, I would've rolled my eyes.

The other thing that changes, or changed for me, is that I found when I'd be back at work, people would want to talk about it. They'd bring it up. They'd say, "I saw a few seconds on the news, what was it like?" C.I. said something, in D.C., about how this was important but what I'd see was that I'd be carrying "seeds" back with me and I really didn't get it then but I do now. The youth group at my church wanted a full report and I was happy to give that. But at work, with friends, with family, everyone wanted to know about it.

I feel like I'm more aware of the world around me. I don't feel like I'm an expert on anything but I feel like I'm tremendously more informed. I'll thank The Common Ills for that. This time last year, I was nervously writing an e-mail for the year-in-review at The Common Ills and hoping C.I. would include it but thinking it wouldn't be included. It got included. I was making a music choice and just that made me nervous. C.I. deserves a lot of credit for The Common Ills but it's also true that it's member driven. And I'm really amazed at how large the community has become. Not just in terms of everyone doing their sites and Gina and Krista doing their newsletter, but . . .

I'm really not sure what to say. It's just a really supportive community and we all get to share and learn. Democracy Now! is a must for me now. I didn't even know about it until I saw it highlighted at The Common Ills. And there are writers that I never knew of or, if I had, it was in the dismissive way that the mainstream media treats them.

I don't think I'd be where I am now if it weren't for that community. I might not have met my friends at the nursing home. My outlook used to be, just keep my head down and my nose clean. People like Cokie Roberts never said anything on TV or radio to make me feel like I had a right to say anything about this country. (Especially people like Cokie Roberts who thought the first Gulf War was a benefit for my race since she believes wars always better things for African-Americans.) People like that exist to say, as she did about members in Congress against the war, "none that matter." I knew I mattered in my family. I didn't think anyone else cared or that I could make much difference.

Now I know there are people who think we shouldn't be in Iraq or that we should have universal health care or pick any issue and there are people out there who think the same way but never get on Good Morning America or NPR. That's really powerful, to find brave voices speaking out. I think it gives us all courage.

For the country, I think 2005 was a disaster as Bully Boy got sworn in and things went even further down hill. But for me personally, 2005 was like an awakening and I bet there are other people out there who feel the same way.

About my site, how do I rate it? Well, I think it's better than the old site. This was meant to be a "big mix" and really a blog report for the community originally but that's not the case now. I'll probably pick two days a week in 2006 to blog. I can manage that. I'm pleased with a few things I've done here like this and that.

I'm pleased with a number of things I've gotten to take part in for The Third Estate Sunday Review and along with the voices feature I noted earlier, I'm probably most pleased with the editorial "War Got Your Tongue?" I'll also thank C.I. for pulling a number of us together to work on headlines twice this year.

I think I'm a better blogger than I was when I started. So that's good. And that's come from doing it and from sharing the experience with others.

My goals for 2006 include becoming more informed and becoming more active.

So that ends the self-inventory.
















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