Yeah, so I haven't written in a while. Work has been... insane. I thought it was insane prior to three weeks ago, but that was nothing compared to now. Before this 3-day weekend, I worked 14 days in a row (ie, no weekends) for a total of about 160 hours. There was one stretch where I worked 38 hours over a three-day period. Yeah. Add in at least two hours per day in transit (it takes a lot longer to get home at night when you can't catch the express train during rush hour), and I haven't been spending much time at home. (Although, despite what I thought last time I wrote, I only ended up spending two days in the field and the rest in the office.)
But this past weekend, I finally got to spend a few days away from work-- yay!-- and to see family and friends-- double yay!
I flew into DC late Thursday night, and on Friday we drove up to the house in New Jersey, working on preparing it for another renter-- which means trying to sort through the incredible amount of stuff we have in boxes. We came across all sorts of things. One was a notepad my mom kept around the time I was born, including writing about staring into my eyes and thinking how beautiful I was, and also a list of potential baby names. Now, I don't want to give you the wrong impression about my parents' taste, because there were a good 50-60 names on the pad, and most of them were absolutely beautiful. But the list included the names Pinky and Princess. Wow.
Anyway, there was much more. There was a journal entry I wrote in January 1991-- when I was just turning 9-- opposing the Gulf War. There were tons of photos from the 1970s, including from my parents' wedding and from summer 1970 when my then 17-year-old mom volunteered with Cesar Chavez and the United Farm Workers. There was, of course, all sorts of stuff from my grandfather. There was... far too much to try to list it all.
So we spent Friday night and most of Saturday cleaning and sorting, with a brief time-out for me to decorate the cookies you see above (which I baked on Friday before we left). They came out pretty well for a first try, but I definitely want to practice a lot more until I get really good at it-- it seems like such a fun hobby!
Then, on Saturday night, I got to see Rich and Morgan again. It was really nice, and I kept thinking how much I wished we lived nearer to eachother. Rich and I... there are a lot of ways we're quite different, certainly, but on some level we really are kindred spirits, I think. It's a good feeling, and a good friendship. (And I just get good vibes from Morgan, even though she's been pretty quiet the two times I've seen her so I can't say I know her very well yet.)
And then Sunday was the family day-- we stopped in to visit my mom's parents for breakfast, before heading over for Easter with my dad's side of the family. The cousins were adorable as ever, with Katie in particular adding a bit more pretty red hair and a ton of new words since I saw her last. Then a six-hour drive to Maryland, arriving past 1am, and getting up before 6am to catch a plane back to Chicago, and you have one very tired Britt back at work who wonders when she gets a lie-around-and-do-nothing weekend. (Answer: not very soon; I'll be out of town again next weekend, and then the following weekend Meredith
will be visiting, which will be wonderful but not particularly conducive to unstructured laziness and sloth.) But that's okay. I've been running in crazy stressful mode for almost two months now; I can make it another three weeks.
Just checking in for a bit. Springfield went pretty well, but I came back with a nasty cold, and starting yesterday, I'm out in the field indefinitely for work instead of in my usual comfortable place behind a desk. It pushes me out of my element and my comfort zone, which is probably a good thing, but yesterday it was just lousy-- between it being new and me feeling awkward, the biting cold and wind and the wet snow/rain/sleet, the long hours, and losing my cell phone (which was found on the El and returned by a good samaritan, thank goodness).
Anyway, the stress and the weather made my already-bad cold worse, and so today I stayed home. It was a welcome rest, and I think I'm feeling better, so that's good. I have to go back in and work long hours tomorrow and Sunday, so hopefully taking today off will be enough to get me through.
I'd been planning to go to Louisville tomorrow for the Taco Bell protest, but lo and behold, this week the workers won! It's such excellent news-- those workers have been fighting for so long, and this is a big victory, a 60-80% raise. And it's even more than that, because it's about forcing the corporations at one end of the production/consumption chains to take responsibility for the effects they have on the people at the other end-- a victory over the ceaseless attempts to weasel out of things when the relationship is not perfectly direct. So yay for them! And I'd love to go to the protest-turned-celebration, but between a) being sick and b) having to work, it's not going to happen.
(And now I can finally eat Taco Bell again after boycotting it for a whole three years; I've had intermittent cravings for it all that time, which is probably because I no longer remember how bad it is, but there's only one way to find out!)
I had deeper thoughts I was hoping to articulate, but then again, I thought that with today off, I'd start writing earlier than 10:45pm. I've got to be out the door at 8am tomorrow, and I still need some extra sleep to keep me healthy, so I'll put that off until tomorrow or the next day.
Ask and ye shall receive, apparently. Today was absolutely gorgeous, and Alex and I took a wonderful walk, marred only slightly by the fact that on the first day the temperature would allow me to wear sandals I couldn't find them anywhere. It was the first day of spring, despite what the calendar says, and though I've no doubt that we'll soon be plunged back into the cold, long Chicago winter, you've got to take these days when you can find them.
I'm all packed up to hit the road to Springfield tomorrow morning. I have about five changes of clothes in my bag, because I'm not sure what will look best/be more appropriate, so naturally I'll put off the final decision until Tuesday morning. Geez, I'm nervous. As much as it sometimes seems like the government in Springfield is just like ASG, and the Tribune and Sun-Times like the Daily, it's really a much bigger deal. But, enough dwelling. Just wish me luck.
So what's new with me?
On the stressful-crazy-overwhelmed scale from 1 to 10, I'm down to about a 6, from a 9.5 earlier in the week. But work is going to stay intense and demanding for the next month or two at least. This Monday and Tuesday, I'll be down in Springfield (the state capital), and on Tuesday, I'll be one of the people fielding questions from journalists at a press conference. This scares the crap out of me, because even in small and silly situations, I'm constantly worried that I'm going to say something wrong which will have dire consequences; now that the situation actually is a Big Deal, I'm rather petrified. I know intellectually that it will likely all be fine, but still, nervous nervous nervous. I really need to develop some self-confidence sooner or later, because I can tell that in life I'm going to need more of it than I've got.
It's really odd how much it varies whether the Peace Project stuff I do feels like work or like fun, and the distinction is much more evident when I'm already in a high-stress, overwhelmed state. The week before last, I came home from a long hard day at work and went straight to a SEJ meeting, and I was practically hopeless by the end of it. My mind was shot, and I was feeling emotionally panicky, and it was just awful. And last Tuesday, when I came home from work (after working for about 25 of the previous 32 hours, plus two or more hours lying in bed trying and failing to sleep because I'd had too much caffeine), I just collapsed and could not bring myself to go to SEJ-- my body and my brain couldn't handle it, I desperately needed to relax. But the other day at the Protest meeting, it was more like a bunch of people hanging out and laughing and enjoying eachother's company, and the "working on the Protest" part just happened to be why we were there. Even though it theoretically should've been a stressful thing since we were aiming to get the whole issue finished that night, it felt much more like a social, fun time-- a break and a relief from the stresses of life-- than more work. And that happens often at SEJ meetings, too. So, I don't know. Sometimes it just seems pretty random. I feel like this is something I need to think more about as I decide how involved I'm going to be next year.
I've been reading Howard Zinn's A People's History of the United States
on the El for the last week, a heavy, fat book that is broad but not deep. It's great, because almost every chapter brings up one or more events or stories that I want to learn more about; this one book will probably prompt me to find and read at least a dozen more. I do really love history, and I'm glad to be digging into it again.
I want to go out and take some more pictures, now that I know that I can share them. More of the traditional "pretty ones" (like most of what I've done so far), but also trying to take interesting and unique photos, taking advantage of my unlimited "film" and seeing what happens. I'm tired of winter, I hope it warms up soon.