Friday, November 2, 2012

1 November: A Day in the Life of the US of A

In case you missed it… All across Ukraine, people are about to sit down and do exactly what I’m about to do: describe what happened on November 1. This is part of a project called A Day in the Life of Ukraine, and while it’s the third of such cooperative writing events, it’s the first for which I am neither in charge nor in Ukraine. So, here I am, writing about my own day in the United States of America! If you spent November 1 in Ukraine, I strongly encourage you to participate in ADITLOU3 (you can find out all about how to get involved HERE), but if you spent the day in the US, I invite you to share your day as a response to my post below, and we’ll celebrate ADITLOUSA together! :)

The start of November 1, according to the clock, found me on the couch with my netbook perched on my lap. Was I completing some important piece of work? No, I was finishing reading last year’s book. Arrow key down, down, down, and an hour later, I rolled into the dark and wrapped myself in the hope of sleep.

For those who know me well, the pairing of ‘November 1’ and ‘last year’s book’ leads to a simple conclusion: NaNoWriMo. National Novel Writing Month is an annual contest to write a 50,000-word novella within the month of November, and I’ve successfully ‘won’ this contest for the past five years. Somehow, however, I hadn’t managed to read last year’s text the whole way through since completing it. There were plenty of reasons why I’d been busy—extending my Peace Corps service in Ukraine, returning home to the US, catching up with friends and family, job hunting—but now there was simply no excuse: I had to read through the old book before starting the new one.

Sleep did not come easily, however. The anxiety of preparing to write a new extended piece of writing, the added pressure of advertising it as the sixth such venture, and the realization that being unemployed may offer the most perfect opportunity I’ll ever have for such an undertaking… Just unnecessary.

Morning came when the doorbell rang and my dad let in the guy who was collecting the radon detector test. Speaking of anxiety—do you know what radon is, and would you know it if you saw it, or smelled it? Let’s not even think about it. Instead, I laid in bed and picked up my phone to read emails—some of which were from friends in Ukraine. Since Ukraine is ahead of the US in time zones, it’s nice to get notes from friends who are already in the middle of their day while I’m just getting up.

Just as I finished my morning yoga, my dad was calling through my door that he was on his way into town and would see me later. This left me time for a leisurely bowl of cereal and milk, coffee from our espresso machine, and planning for the day.

Part of my idea for my NaNo novel involves writing (well, yeah…)—the concept of being a writer, and I think I’m going to try to use this month to focus more than I normally do on thinking about and actually doing something about being a writer. So, I decided that I’d do a little work on some past writing today, in finishing up part of a past project—scanning the originals of a few zines that my friends and I collaborated on over the past year in order to be able to share and archive them more cooperatively.

As I did this, I thought about the wonders of having an easily accessible scanner/ printer/ copier, multiple computers, wireless internet… so many things I hope I’ve never taken for granted, but I know I appreciate even more now—knowing that I don’t have to run out in the rain to reload internet at a kiosk or head to an internet café to try to print something at an unreasonable hour, surrounded by boys playing Counter-Strike…

No Counter-Strike for me today, but an hour of Wii Fitness in the basement. When combined with Netflix and the Blu-ray player, this means that I magically ran for about ten miles in a small space, my distance was unexplainably calculated, and I simultaneously watched an episode of Sherlock Holmes—played by Jeremy Brett, my favorite—on the same screen.

After a quick shower, I drove the five or so miles into downtown Gettysburg to meet with Mary, who’s the co-chair at the InterfaithCenter for Peace and Justice. I volunteered to help them with anything they might need, and at the moment, this means making a short promotional video for an upcoming community fundraising event—sort of a version of Heifer International for local nonprofits.

Mary liked the script, liked the video I’ve put together, hooray. The only problem is that all of the suggestions that have been sent in have made it too long, so we need to trim it down. The final product can only be one minute and fifty seconds long! Think about how much you could say about your favorite organization in such little time, then add pictures and video that may or may not be available, and wrap it all up in HD, and you’re done!

romanesco broccoli
Back home, I heated up some leftover macaroni and cheese and romanesco broccoli (it’s amazing looking!) for dinner and chatted with my dad, who had just come back from his day of errands and exploits. He’s retired, but he always has something to do or somewhere to be. Today’s highlight was seeing a movie with two other retired friends, generally a weekly outing that involves films that other family members might not always appreciate. This time, though, the wife of one of his friends came along, and she had a great time, too.

Before I left the house again, I prepared for my next adventure: kids’ club at Manos Unidas. Basically, about a month ago, I made the same offer to the Literacy Council that I made to the Interfaith Center for Peace and Justice—I volunteered to help with anything they might need. For the last month, this has mainly meant spending quality, hopefully language-useful time with kids whose parents are taking ESL classes two evenings per week at a center downtown. I caught up with the ‘diary’ we keep for our sessions, made some lovely alphabet pages for an upcoming project, and headed out the door.

J is for jumping, which makes fuzzy photos
At Manos Unidas, my two regular attendees, who are brother and sister, showed up just late enough for me to wonder if they were coming. After a quick discussion about the seriousness of Hurricane Sandy, which caused us to miss our normal Monday evening session, we made a plan for an alphabet scavenger hunt. First, we made a list of all of the letters of the alphabet. Then, we divided responsibilities: Little brother, who is in kindergarten, would carry the notebook, and big sister, who is in third grade, would write, and all three of us would look for things that stared with each letter of the alphabet. Off we headed, two blocks down to the middle of town, around the ‘square’ (actually a circle) (yes, Ukraine, it is ‘the center!’), and back to our ultimate destination: the library. Along the way, we laughed quite a bit and saw plenty of possible letters, such as ‘adult’ and ‘jumping’ and even a toy ‘zebra’ in a store window. We got stuck on K, but when we mentioned this to a man and his wife who were strolling by, they pointed out ‘kids’! We even met a big dog, but though his owner assured us that he was very friendly and big sister and I were happy to pet him, little brother was still pretty overwhelmed by the sheer size of the dog—and his teeth! The extended nature of our walk left us only a short time in the library, which was a little disappointing, but so it goes. We hurried back to Manos Unidas and left in good spirits. In departing, their father told me that they might not be there on Monday, due to parent-teacher conferences. Big sister called out, “So, come if we come, okay? Bye!”

Back home, I gave my mom the lovely book I picked out for her from the children’s section of the library—A Zeal of Zebras­—and she revealed that she’d gotten me frozen soft pretzels from the grocery store. Wonderful. She often asks what I might want from the grocery store, and it’s sometimes hard to think of something. When she sent a text earlier today, though, I was specific, and my specificity had been rewarded! So, I heated up a soft pretzel for my dad, who was downstairs watching a show, and one for myself. While I was microwaving these delicacies just right, my mom’s mom called, too, just to check in and make sure all was well, post-Hurricane Sandy—there are many such calls these days, with so many family members around the New York/ New Jersey area. Then, I sat down to talk to my mom about my day and her day.  Since she leaves early in the morning to go to work and I stay up late at night to look for work, we have different schedules, but it’s nice to catch up and hear the stories floating around in our different environments and experiences.

A little later, it was time to troll through the regular job sites I normally check for updates. I know I should have just started writing this sooner, but it’s routine. Who knows when I’ll find that amazing job? Better keep looking. Plus, once I finish writing this, it’ll be time to start writing this year’s novel! So, maybe I should tell you more about my day…  Ah, and it’s already tomorrow.

Thanks for reading—and remember, you’re welcome to share your November 1 experiences!  Let me know, or post below!


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