Thursday, December 24, 2009

Merry Christmas

This December has been busier and more wonderful than expected so far... which means I've been short on blogging.

So I just wanted to take a moment to say Merry Christmas to all you readers who are celebrating it. The next week, like the past few days, is full of family gatherings for me, so I may not post again until at least the 29th.

In the meantime, I'm wishing you all a warm, healthy, happy holiday.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Another OPB

Things are far enough along that I can write about this in my semi-anonymous blog: my older sister is expecting her first child in April.

This has been a strange and interesting journey for me so far, as the auntie-to-be: my sister is my only sister, and we look and sound similar enough, despite our seven-year age difference, to have been confused for twins in the past. Seeing the changes she's going through in her pregnancy make me wonder how similar my experience might be someday in the future.

My big sister has been very generous with information about the process of pregnancy, which I'm grateful for - there are so many things a woman just doesn't think to ask about these things, so many changes that make some sense, but that I could see not considering until it's my own body surprising me. Like with many things in life, my elder sister is learning from experience and then handing me the cheat sheet, telling me to file these things away until I need to know them. This is definitely the advantage of being the youngest sibling.

While I continue to appreciate the top-notch job my sister does of being a good sister, I am also - like always, when encountered with a pregnant woman - in awe of what she's doing right now. She is growing a person. And she is doing this while going about her days: walking the dog, going to work, taking a swim. She's been growing a person for 22 weeks now, every hour of every day. Women really are incredible in this way, and sometimes the sheer wonder of this capacity we have is a little overwhelming.

My sister was staying at our apartment a few weeks ago when she felt the baby move for the first time in a way that she could definitively tell (she had been feeling "gas" before, but she confessed that the whole pregnancy made her so gassy she wasn't sure what she was feeling! Another note for my future files). When she described the little "dum-da-dump" tapping feeling she felt, right at the front of her belly, I envisioned the tiny hand that played this rhythm, and was amazed. She's growing a person. As I type, even, she's still growing that person. That's... pretty cool.

Over this past weekend we spent a good deal of time with my husband's two new cousins. One is 6 months old, the other 5 weeks. When I was holding the 6-month-old and gazing at sparkling Christmas tree ornaments with him, I realized I had some trouble imagining a time when he didn't exist. I've heard people say this about children before, but this little trailblazer of a cousin might just be the first tyke who made me feel it: there was a whole family, a whole world before him, but now that concept doesn't make sense, because he's here.

I understand that the Mormons believe we all have "eternal" souls, that is, our souls were hanging around waiting to be embodied before we were born - it's part of the reason they have large families. It's not a belief I necessarily share with them, but when a 6-month old baby makes you confused about what life was like before him, it makes one understand where they're coming from.

It's a bit intimidating to think that, this time next year, I'll feel the same way - though surely with more intensity - about my new niece or nephew. Right now it's still hard to imagine my sister and brother-in-law with a child of their own, and myself as an aunt. Soon, we won't remember anything but that.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Good Causes for the Holidays: Greater Chicago Food Depository

I've long been a fan of the Greater Chicago Food Depository, since I first learned about them in 2004. They support a host of housing programs in the city, including the agency where I used to work. I have, in fact, directly benefited from the Food Depository: free lunch was one of the benefits of my former job, and it helped out the staff of a non-profit that really couldn't afford to distribute large paychecks.

When this report came out about American "food insecurity", and this article was posted in the New York Times about the spike in food stamp use, I realized this group has even more work to do this winter... even after the need for food pantries had already increased the last couple of years.

From the report: "This is the highest recorded prevalence rate of food insecurity since 1995 when the first national food security survey was conducted."

This, in the United States, still one of the wealthiest countries on the planet.

Locally, I like to support the Greater Chicago Food Depository, a group that not only assists individuals and families, but supplements all kinds of local charitable organizations - including the program where I used to work. Without food support, I know that many non-profits in the city would have difficulty making ends meet while they are trying to provide services for people who need it most.

After Thanksgiving, which is a holiday of Too Much Food, and in the midst of the baking and overeating that is common during December, it's especially jarring to consider our neighbors who are having trouble putting enough food on the table to meet their nutritional needs.

Of course, this group is location-specific, but I'm sure if you aren't in Chicago there's a similar group fighting hunger. Feeding America (Formerly known as America's Second Harvest) hosts a handy food-bank locator for groups all over the country.

My current workplace is having a Chrismukkah party next week, and we're collecting donations for the Greater Chicago Food Depository as part of the celebration. I've heard of several places doing things like this: hosting parties with a "cover charge" of nonperishable food. It's an easy way to do a little good.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

A quick note

Well, it's December already, so I wanted to do a quick little rundown of November and think about what I'd like to do here this month.

* NaBloPoMo was a moderate success for me - I posted 11 times, which fell short of my 15-post goal, but is still the most I've ever posted in a month. (You know, in my long blogging career.) At the moment I'm thinking roughly 10 posts a month is a good average to shoot for while I continue to get my blogging bearings.

* My busy quarter is finished, so I have no classwork to worry about this month... except perhaps some work on my thesis proposal, but I'm giving myself a couple of weeks of not-school thinking.

* I've thought of a few fun stories I'd like to recount here, but I'm still mulling over the multi-part post vs. one huge post format. Readers, which do you prefer? Shorter, episodic storytelling? Or one big blast of reading? If they're shorter posts do you find it annoying if an unrelated post goes up between episodes?

That reminds me, have you read The Pioneer Woman's love story? That was episodic and took her like two years to finish (if it's finished now... I keep hoping she'll pick it up again where she left off, after the wedding). Good reading. I want to be like her when I grow up.

*I'm planning a few more good causes posts. If y'all have suggestions for causes you'd like to hear about, let me know!

It just started snowing outside, so I think this counts as the first day of real live wintertime for Chicago. I love this time of year, when snow is still exciting for everyone, we're all decorating and baking and plotting gifts, school years are winding down and family plans are getting firmed up.

Happy December!