Monday, January 23, 2006
Oh wow, reading about Julia's son Patrick brought up all kinds of stuff for me.
I read very early and was frustrated by some of the constraints I experienced in public school. I know my parents looked at putting me into a private preschool/kindergarten when I was 4 or 5 but they couldn't afford it. So I went to my neighborhood public school from kindergarten through 6th grade, at which point we moved out of state. I was formally identified as gifted and given an IQ test in first grade. The effects of being identified as "gifted" were fairly mixed... on the one hand, I was allowed to study subjects at my own pace rather than being tied down to my grade level, but on the other hand, I think I was WAY too focused on how smart I allegedly was and I'm still dealing with the psychological impact of that at 30.
In the positive camp, I know I learned a lot of stuff at a time in my childhood when I was very curious and open to new ideas, which was great fun and great for me. My parents were extremely supportive and constantly supported me with books, magazines, educational programming on TV, field trips to do science-y things, volunteer experiences at the local zoo, etc etc etc. I think I would've gone bonkers if my parents had been indifferent. The payoff from all the academic stimulation was that I did extremely well on the PSAT and won a National Merit scholarship, which allowed me to go to college for virtually free.
On the negative side - I did have friends when I was a kid, but honestly, I considered myself superior to them because all the adults in my life treated me like I was special because I was brainy. And that probably wasn't so good for my social development. I had a hard time making and connecting with friends up until I went to college, actually. Not that I was a complete outcast or anything, but I always felt different in some way from my peers. Oh, and there was that ridiculous episode when I was 16 where I tried to have a fling with a guy in his 20s - I was sure that he was interested in me because I was so mature and intelligent, not because I was 16 and he was creepy. Sigh.
And most negatively, I have struggled since I graduated from high school with the fact that I am not Doing Something Important. I have felt anxious or guilty nearly every day since 1993 because I am not studying something important, leading the free world, getting multiple graduate degrees, writing the great American novel, saving lives, teaching impoverished children, or whatever. The bar was set so high for me - "Emily, you are so smart, you can do anything you want when you grow up!" - that I feel like a failure because my life is normal. I am trying very hard to get past this. The career change into nursing is partly motivated by my efforts to listen to my heart about what I want to do with my life, and not listen to my ego which tells me I should be an overachiever or else I'm a failure. There are a lot of positives in my life (I'm happily married, I'm close to my parents, I'm not drowning in debt, I am competent in many areas of life [cooking, cleaning, managing a budget, using a computer, driving a car, problem-solving, caring for people and animals, and so on], I've acquired lots of useful skills, I am not lonely)... but I still sometimes worry that I'm not good enough. Not good enough for what? I don't even know anymore!
Julia, if you read this, I'm probably no help to you regarding Patrick. Knowing that was I gifted as a kid put a lot of burdens on me that I still carry today - but it also gave me a lot of confidence in myself that I might not have had otherwise.
Saturday, January 21, 2006
Kadydid "Little Bit"
Born ca. 1990 in Virginia
Died January 19, 2006
Kadydid passed away Thursday in the loving company of her number-one person (R*) and her emergency backup person (me) through the compassionate ministrations of her veterinarian. Her passing was peaceful and painless.
Kadydid was a well-known patron of the neighborhood hangouts of Under The Bed, Under The Dresser, and Behind The Curtains On The Windowsill. However, she was best known for being the Mysterious Lump In The Bed. When disturbed, she would vociferously defend her right to sleep under the blankets in her customary high-pitched voice, summarizing her position with a grunt of "enh!"
While Little Bit could be contentious, she also loved her people with an unmatched intensity. Her highest mark of favor was to sit on the favored person's chest, with the left side of her head pressed against the person's left ear. Only the left ear was acceptable - any attempt to move her to the person's right ear was met with "enh!" and immediate rearrangment. Once firmly installed on the designated ear, she would purr rapidly ("purr! purr! purr!" rather than "purrrrrrrrrrr") and turn her head slowly back and forth against the person's ear and cheek. When she felt especially emphatic, she would chat away in her Siamese tones: "Mrrrr. Mrrrip! Mrrow. Hrrrrm. Mrrrroooo." If patted and spoken to, she would continue chatting for ages. She liked to be scritched under the chin and patted on the sides, but cursed at anyone who touched her tail.
Kadydid is survived by her number-one person R*, her emergency backup person Emily, and her feline companion Booshka the Black Cat. She will be dearly missed.
Monday, January 16, 2006
She has inflammatory bowel disease and it seems like her intestines are just not absorbing nutrition anymore. She's lost tons of weight and is getting wobbly on her feet. And she has started to refuse food. I spoke to the vet today about measures we can take to keep her comfortable. He recommend continuing prednisone and giving her Pepcid to keep her stomach comfortable. And emphasized that we should continue to get some kind of nutrition in her so her intestines don't just shut down. I offered her a little dish of milk tonight and she drank some. I'll try chicken broth and yogurt tomorrow.
Please think good thoughts for our Little Bit as she moves towards the end.
Sunday, January 15, 2006
book report: A Confederacy of Dunces
by John Kennedy Toole
Okay, so this book won a Pulitzer Prize and has been mentioned to me over and over as a classic of comedic literature, not to mention as THE book about New Orleans. Perhaps my expectations were too high, or perhaps my sense of humor is broken, because I did not like it very much.
Ignatius J. Reilly is the protagonist, an overeducated, overweight, overwhelming figure. He is 30 years old and lives with his mother in a tiny house in New Orleans, where he spends his time writing dense works of comparative history on Big Chief tablets and bellowing at his neurotic mother. After she has a driving accident, she forces Ignatius to look for a job to help pay the bills. Ignatius is clearly not cut out for the working world, and bumbles from job to job, growing fatter and more troublesome as time passes.
I was actually more interested in the secondary characters than our anti-hero Ignatius - each one seemed like an offbeat character study. Lana Lee, the proprietress of the Night of Joy bar & cabaret, who poses for pornographic photos as a schoolteacher.... Myra Minkhoff, Ignatius' college girlfriend who believes society's problems could be solved if everyone had more sex... Patrolman Mancuso, who tried to arrest Ignatius and is punished by the police captain by being forced to wear bizarre costumes and go undercover to find and arrest "a character"... Mancuso's crazy aunt Santa, who talks to her dead mother and drags Ignatius' mother Irene to the bowling alley at every opportunity... You get the idea.
I think the reason that I did not connect with this novel the way that some people do is because people like Ignatius make me cringe. I feel a mixture of pity and revulsion for people who are both intellectually brilliant and socially inept to the point of being offensive, and so I can't bring myself to laugh at him. I've certainly known some Ignatiuses in my life, and I just hope that they are not being similarly ridiculed. Yeah, I'm a softie, what can I say?
One other thing you should know about this book is that it was published posthumously. Toole's mother found the manuscript in her son's belongings after he committed suicide, and brought it to the attention of a publisher, who reluctantly agreed to read it (who wants to tell a grieving mother that her son's life's work is crappy?) and then was amazed to find that he loved it. I do have to admit that the writing is brilliant - Toole captured so many different character's voices with perfect pitch. His word choices were just offbeat enough to show his mastery of the language, without making the writing seem stuffy or artificial. It's a pity that Toole died so young.
Labels: book reports
Thursday, January 12, 2006
book report: Adulthood Rites
by Octavia Butler
This is book 2 of the Xenogenesis series. I wrote about book 1 here.
In book 2, we follow events in the life of Akin, one of Lilith's alien/human hybrid children. Akin is quite human in outward appearance, but has several Oankali "upgrades", like the ability to sense chemical changes, poisons, and so forth with his sensory tentacles (conveniently located in his tongue). When Akin is still quite small, he is kidnapped by renegade humans who have rejected interbreeding with the Oankali. As a result, they cannot bear human children of their own, and are desparate to build their families by any means possible. Akin meets other hybrid children who have been kidnapped by the renegades on his journey... which is a dark and sad one.
Butler seems to make a pretty grim statement about human motivations. While Lilith and some of her human companions have accepted their symbiosis with their Oankali partners, they are not especially happy about the compromise they have made. And the renegades seem downright vicious in their pursuit of "pure" human existence... which I guess is probably quite realistic. Humans often do turn ugly when faced with something unfamiliar.
Wednesday, January 11, 2006
today was better
1. I didn't have to work. Not that I don't like my job - but I certainly don't like getting up at 5:30 in the morning.
2. I went to see J* and baby Fish today. J* has started working from home part-time, but she doesn't have any respite childcare until her fiance gets home from work between 4:00 and 5:00, so I took her some takeout lunch and then hung out with Fish for an hour or so while she got some work done. He slept on me in the Baby Bjorn the whole time - sweet as can be.
3. I wore a pair of size 10 jeans, which are admittedly a little tight, but not so tight that I can't breathe/eat/bend over. That's the first time I've fit into size 10 jeans in over 4 years, I believe. I know I was in a 14 when I got married in 2002, and I was starting to buy 16s when we started the weight loss program.
4. I got the ingredients to make homemade chai tomorrow. If it turns out, I'll post the recipe.
Monday, January 09, 2006
night of the living dead
On my way home, I stopped to pick up a cheapo comforter and mattress protector due to the elderly incontinent kitty. When I got home, the smoke detector was chirping as though its batteries were dead... so I went back out and bought the weird batteries it takes, replaced them, and the chirping did not stop. Geniuses may have already guessed that the chirping wasn't from the smoke detector at all, but from the carbon monoxide detector, which is actually wired into the AC current and yet requires as 9 volt battery as well. By the time I figured that out, I was ready to relax and change out of my work clothes. But I went to the bedroom to change and discovered that I was a day late on buying the bed-protecting items, as the cat had peed copiously, soaking all the sheets/blankets/comforter and even a pillow. So, I stripped the bed and hosed down the mattress with enzyme cleaner and flipped it over to dry, then remade the bed with all the new protective gear I'd gotten on my way home.
Now, I'm drinking a pumpkin beer and waiting for my sweet R* to bring me chicken teriyaki for dinner, thank god. Something is a little out of whack when the most relaxing part of my day (apart from the beer) is going to work at 6:30 a.m.
Sunday, January 08, 2006
I cooked a soup to use up leftover turkey that had been hiding in the freezer since Christmas dinner... it was a Greek-style soup with lemon, eggs, dill, rice, green onions, and shredded romaine lettuce (in addition to turkey, of course). It was good, better than most turkey-using-up recipes I've had in the past. Also, it was really nice to make a meal from scratch and have both R* and I enjoy it, since we're feeling better.
The only good thing I can say about being sick is that I've read a lot of books. I suppose that means I should write some book reports.