Wednesday, October 29, 2008

My Protestant Work Ethic is Ready to Admit It Has a Problem

Last Saturday a guy who was working for our neighbor came up to ask if he could make a bid on hauling away the pile of kitchen tearout/basement cleanout crap that's been residing against the side of our house, making us look like rednecks. Anyone who wants to make a bid on our unsightly house projects can come over anytime, so I said sure, and he offered to do the job for $80, which sounded pretty good to me. I had him write down his name and number so I could clear it with Jarod and get the money together.

Fast forward to Sunday night at 10:30, when there was a knock at our door, which I thought was the wind, and then the bell rang. Oops! Not the wind! I couldn't see a thing out the peephole, so I took my chances, and there was the guy that had bid on our waste removal. His son had been in a household accident, and he was short money for the prescription he needed. Obviously he could have been lying, but we gave him the benefit of the doubt and coughed up the $24 he requested. He offered to come and get the trash the next day, just for loaning him the $24, but I figure that if he's having to go up to homes of strangers to try to pay for medicine, he probably needs the full amount. So today I gave him another $40 and he hauled it away, which leaves me owing $16, but he'll get it. I've also agreed to hire him to clean up our backyard, and I've got my eye on a few other projects as well.

Now I realize that these are jobs that we could do ourselves, and if we were to work at it steadily we could probably get the backyard done in a single day. But our free days are few and far between, and the list of projects we have that we could do ourselves is long enough that if we were to actually do them ourselves, it would take most of our free time for the better part of at least a year and leave me hating this house. I figure that if we can help someone else out and get some things done that need doing, it's a win-win situation.

This is something I have struggled with a lot in my life: finding balance between being hardworking and working too hard for anyone's good. Everyone needs to rest, and everyone needs good work to pay the bills. While part of me feels guilty for diverting this portion of our income to having someone else do something we could do (if only we worked hard enough!), the rest of me feels relieved, and a little less like a hamster on a wheel, waiting for the next project to appear. And I feel good about giving someone else work when they really need it. I have plenty--of work, of goods, of everything--and there is no reason not to share the wealth.

There's also no reason to not do cartwheels in our backyard when it is all cleaned up, which is what I fully intend to do.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Here I Go Again

Let me start by saying that in today's political climate, I could never be elected president, and not just due to my lack of experience or education. The problem begins with my admiration of other nations. I'd get into some interview and go, "Well, I really like the way [insert nation here] does [insert governmental program of previously mentioned other nation here], and I think we can learn from them and even follow their model," and it would be all over. I would be labeled as anti-American. A European socialist, maybe! To insinuate that another nation does something better than America does it is pretty much a political kiss of death. It's a good thing that I'm normally not really into politics. I am not pro-America enough. The thing is that while I feel very privileged to have been born here, and while I enjoy a great many things about the country of my birth, I don't think America is The Best Nation Ever WOOOOO!!!! I think we can be a good nation; I think we have the potential to be a great nation. But I don't think anyone should lay claim to being the best. It implies that other nations aren't good and can't be great, at least not at our level of goodness or greatness. And that's ridiculous. I've been to a lot of other nations, and I can attest to the fact that many of them are good, even great. They have issues just like we do. No nation is perfect. Some nations have more work to do to get to a level of even sustaining human decency.

In the past several years, we have crossed many lines that never should have been crossed, participated in activities that were unjust at best. We have been greedy (all of us, not just our government) and too proud and unwilling to be the kind of people that make both our nation and the world a better place. It's not just Americans who deserve to have good lives and clean air and water. It's not just our children who deserve a peaceful land and nutritious food to eat. This is why this election is so important to me. Whether we like it or not (and at present, I do not), the actions of our nation and our people affect the rest of the world in significant ways. But to this point, we have been brash, and we have been unwise, and people have died unnecessarily because of us. We have fought wars in places that would benefit us and ignored the oppressed in other nations. By doing this we have not done right by the citizens of the entire world, not to mention the citizens of America. We can do better. We can try harder. We can work together. This is why I am voting for Barack Obama for president. He doesn't say "I," he says "we," acknowledging (and encouraging) that it takes all of us to build something good. We can't just show up at the voting booth. We have to do our part elsewhere, too. His understanding of this was one of the first things that caught my attention.

Like I mentioned above, I'm normally not really into politics. But this year, I believe more hangs in the balance than just what happens to us here at home. We have an opportunity to make our votes count for something not just beyond our front door, as I mentioned in my last post, but even beyond our own borders. I was listening to an interview with Madeleine Albright yesterday, and she talked about how people in other nations have expressed to her how important our election is to them. They want news from the US; they want to know who will be making the decisions here because that person is not just our president. In a way, some of them said, he will be their president, too.

When I think of stepping into the voting booth, I think of all the people I have met all over the world, and I am humbled by how my choice on election day shapes what their world looks like. I am voting for an American president, but I am voting for the good of their nations, too.

We have thirteen days until the election. Do a good job, America. Do a good job for all of us.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Don't Read This, Mom; It's About Politics.

The neighborhood where I work contains a lot of McCain supporters; in fact, the house where I work has not one, but two McCain signs in the yard. I understand that the kids' dad holds a far different opinion than I do regarding who should be our president, and I abstain from discussing the race with him because I know that there's not a shadow of doubt in his mind regarding who he should vote for and why. It would be a waste of time for both of us. I do, however, discuss the election with the kids, who like to say things like, "But, Mary, Obama is going to raise taxes." I openly dispute mistruths ("Only for people who have a lot of money, not for most people. Most people will pay less."), and I am also clear with them that different people think that different things are important when it comes to electing a president. I believe that Senator Obama will serve our nation best, so I am voting for him. They still like to yell out "MCCAIN WOO HOO!!!" when they see a McCain yard sign, so I take the opportunity to yell "Obamaaaaaaaaa!!!!!" when I see one of Obama's. It's become more popular than the punch bug game, and I'm kind of wondering what we'll do for entertainment in the car after the election.

The other day we were participating in what can only be described as a neighborhood street crossing campaign, and I was eavesdropping on a couple of McCain supporters chatting about why they are voting for him. It came down to taxes. Both women are in the tax bracket that would be more heavily taxed under Obama's tax policy. One woman said to the other, "YES. And you keep that wealth you have made for yourself!" Ladies and gentlemen, that is the most selfish reason I have heard about why to vote for someone; congratulations, you win the Asshole of the Election prize. To say that you support someone because you agree with their policies regarding family or education is one thing, but to say that you support that person because they allow you to hoard your abundant dollars for yourself is downright awful, particularly if you were born into a situation in which you did not so much have to pull yourself up by your bootstraps to become wealthy, but simply accept the education that was paid for by your parents and slip into the upper class life that was laid out for generations in advance. It's sickening.

A driver that picked us up from the airport in London summed up the problem quite succinctly, before I even heard that terrible remark. He said that the problem, as he sees it, is that people are no longer willing to look beyond their own front door when it comes to deciding who to vote for. So many of us vote selfishly, and that is true of voters in both parties. If you are still undecided, I urge you to consider the world beyond your own front door. What can the candidates do not only for you, but for everyone? Who will best lead and serve?

Vote according to your conscience, not your pocketbook.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Now With Even More Time Suckage

The photos that were lost were found! Let us all rejoice! I also put all the photos in the set in their correct chronological order for the benefit of those of us who need things to be organized. There are now 156 photos in the set. Click here to waste some time watching the slideshow and here to go to the set.

I highly recommend cleaning the house before traveling. Last year when we went on our honeymoon, the whole house was pretty much a disaster, and it was hard landing back here with so much to do and absolutely no order to anything. We still have plenty to do, of course, what with the kitchen not being finished and the bathroom needing to be remodeled and the backyard being an urban prairie, but everything is pretty much in its place, and it was easy to put everything away and get the laundry started. The trip was fantastic, but I am happy to be home, ready to dive into my many projects, thrilled to have cats vying for my attention. All that's lacking here is the motivation to change out of my pajamas.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

If You've Got Time on Your Hands

Then I have 126 photos I'd like to show you. There were more, and may still be more, but I don't want to talk about it. Well, except to say: ALWAYS have your photos in more than one place. That way if someone accidentally deletes them from one location, you still have them.



Click here for the set or here to jump right into a slideshow. Because of the way I uploaded them, they ended up in reverse chronological order, but if I hadn't said anything, you probably wouldn't know the difference. So pretend I didn't say anything, okay?

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Will the Battery Die Before I'm Done? Let's Find Out!

Ever since the 24-inch iMac came into our lives, I've been noticing all sorts of things about this computer that I hadn't noticed before, or that I'd at least ignored. Even now that Jarod has fixed the space bar so I don't have to pound it just so (and HARD) with my right thumb, it doesn't type as nicely as the iMac. The screen is miniscule. Nothing appears in very sharp focus. I've wanted to post photos for you, but I simply can't bring myself to do it without scrutinizing every single one I've taken on the twenty-four glorious inches of screen available to me at home. So you'll have to wait. And trust me when I tell you that you've likely never seen water this brilliantly blue.

We are having a fantastic time here, still, of course, who is surprised? We are more limited budget-wise this time than last, not being flush with wedding first-dance cash and unwilling to put some things on the credit card, using the excuse that we don't know if we'll be back anytime soon. We know we'll be back, and likely soon, within a year or two. This is our spot. We'd sooner gouge out our left eyes than go without seeing Nice again.

So for now we're just doing our favorite things. If we don't fit something in that sounds interesting, we know there will be more time for it later. This time we did a few new things, and next time we'll do a few more, and maybe someday we'll own a place here and will wake up one morning with our list exhausted. I sincerely hope this is the case.

Tomorrow is Jarod's birthday. We'll have crepes for breakfast and dinner at our favorite place, Chez Memere. Then we'll go back to our apartment and pack; on Monday morning we have to be out by 10:30am. How sad.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

What Was That I Said About Posting in Nice?

Well, I said that before I found out that our iBook battery is pretty much toast and that the network here is slower than molasses on a chilly day. I've gone from 85% battery power to 78% in just three minutes, and it took me that long just to send one two-sentence email and get into blogger. So I'll sum up:

We love Nice!

We love the food in Nice!

We love the pace of life in Nice!

We hope Barack Obama becomes our president so the dollar can bounce back and next time we can have even more fun in Nice!

In the meantime, we are pretty good at going cheap. Our idea of fancy is to order the kebab avec frites et fromage. Also, the beach is free. I know! DELUXE! For those of you who think you cannot do Europe on a tight budget, I would like to mention the cost of dinner for both of us last night, including dessert: six euros. That's about nine dollars. If we hadn't stumbled into H&M, our total expenditures for the day would have been about thirty dollars. Come on over! It's not that bad!

(In the interest of full disclosure, I must admit that tonight's dinner did not cost six euros, but it is the exception, not the rule.)

Oh, dear, 70% battery life! And I still need to twitter.

I'll be back when we hit London again on Monday; photos are forthcoming then as well. Au revoir!