rockinlibrarian: (christmas)
I like doing this every year, it gives me a nice reference, particularly as I'm getting older and all the years start blending together. Was that THIS year? No, it was three years ago. But this OTHER thing was this year, except I nearly forgot about it... well anyway.

THE STUFF THAT ACTUALLY HAPPENED LISTS

Top 5 Biggest Life Events of 2018

  1. That would be the sudden— well, hinted at for a long time, and then suddenly going into action—remodeling of our kitchen. More on that in my last post.
  2. Oh, I also painted the living room and added some Ikea shelves and made that room look totally new, too. Home improvement definitely became my new favorite hobby of the year, if only it wasn’t so expensive a hobby!
  3. Driving home from the library in late May, I got T-boned in the intersection of Pike and Jefferson. No one was hurt, but my car bit the dust. Lucky for us, a friend of Jason’s had a car he was willing to sell us for just about what the insurance gave us. The only problem was getting the cigarette smell out of it, which eventually, we did.
  4. While I wasn’t hurt then, I DID have surgery later that summer, because round about where my gall bladder had been removed last summer, I now had a hernia that needed repaired. THIS HURT A LOT. I’m better now though.
  5. In happier news, in September I saw Paul Simon in his next-to-last concert with my best friend and our parents. I really wanted to write about this at the time, but I didn’t have time. Angie is the biggest Paul Simon fan I know, but she lives in Colorado, so I half-jokingly asked if she’d happen to be back east about the time of this concert, and she was like, “actually, yeah, I was thinking of coming out and taking my dad to it for his birthday.” “That is a great idea, I should see if my dad wants to go, too!” He DID, and we got tickets for all six of us (us, my parents, her dad and his girlfriend) together, which was the best, because half of my joy was watching the joy on MY dad’s face at that concert! Simon started out seeming kind of old and tired, but he gained energy as the concert went on, as if the music itself was fueling him, and after awhile it was pretty much a spiritual experience— Angie looked like she was having a spiritual experience for most of it, and I’m pretty sure I hit spiritual experience during “Graceland” at least.

The Top 5 Biggest New or Unusual Library Programs I was Involved In
  1. Yoga Storytime: I once or twice ran into my library director at yoga class, so when she got it into her head that we needed to offer Yoga Storytime weekly, she hoisted it upon me! But the program has proved to be both a hit and even a lot of fun for me, and it’s surprising both how MANY yoga-themed story books are out there, and how NOT ENOUGH there are when you’re doing them in storytime every week.
  2. A One Book visit from Zach OHora. Look, I may still be a little bitter about getting unceremoniously dumped from the One Book Every Young Child project, but I’m not going to back out of the chance to actually help host one of the library-festivals-with-visit-from-the-author that I used to write about theoretically each year. OHora is a repeat One Book author, so I’d gotten to talk with him a lot when writing the activities for Stop Snoring, Bernard! So it was fun to talk with him again for My Cousin Momo. But it was even more fun because I got it into my head that, if we were having a huge event after all, I needed to construct a five-headed library monster (as seen in The Not-so-Quiet Library). And everybody LOVED my five-headed library monster, including Zach OHora, and it stayed up most of the year.
  3. Hogwarts Party Mach 2! It wasn’t called that. But being that it was the 20th anniversary of Harry Potter showing up on this side of the Atlantic, and so many people wanted a repeat of the Hogwarts Party from a couple years ago that wasn’t while they were away on vacation, we did it again this September, with experience on our side— the experience that taught me, most notably, that I can only set up and clean up for Potions Class ONCE during the party, even if I could easily split the people who CAME into two classes. And even with only one Potions Class, I STILL didn’t get to wander around looking at other stuff much! This year the teen advisory board hosted an escape room and baked Sorting Cupcakes, so a bit of the workload was off my shoulders, anyway.
  4. Happy Monday: This is one of the director’s brainchilds (brainchildren?) that came out with the Yoga Storytime plan. I guess she thought our storytime advertising wasn’t specific enough? And so she wanted a "Happy Monday" storytime to counteract the Monday Morning Blues. Except the people coming to it either have no concept of Mondays yet or they currently don’t have to deal with Monday Morning Blues because they spend EVERY day of the week with people who have no concept of Mondays yet, so whatever. It’s fun to do storytimes with no other theme than Something Happy, though, and having the excuse to play upbeat music and do the Chicken Dance.
       187 or something. Saturday Baby/Toddler Storytimes: We needed to offer something for working parents to bring their babies to on the weekend! our director said. We’ve tried Saturday storytimes, but no one ever comes, Barb and I responded. Maybe they’ll come THIS time! You two switch off every other Saturday! our director said. Guess what. No one ever came. So anyway Saturday Baby/Toddler Storytimes are back off the schedule again come January.

Top 5 Family Night Themes of 2018:
  1. Cardboard Construction: I actually got in trouble for this one, because there was SO much cardboard I didn’t get cleaned up in time. But it was so awesome, and I didn’t lose Family Night after all, that the pain of that scolding has faded and the awesomeness remains.
  2. Magical Journeys: In fact, it seemed THIS would be my Last Family Night Ever, because maybe I was too ADHD to handle programming and I should concentrate on collection development and learning to catalog and posting on Facebook or some junk. Of course, by August suddenly I was not only going to resume Family Night in September, but I was also starting Yoga Storytime and Happy Monday and Saturday storytime and special events like the Hogwarts Party and… WELL ANYWAY, so Magical Journeys would have been a good high note to end on, nonetheless. We did “magic” white crayon watercolor paintings, and since one of the main stories we read was Mem Fox’s Possum Magic, I found some recipes for some of the unique Australian foods in the book and served them. DUDES, WHY HASN’T AUSTRALIA BEEN SHARING THEIR YUMMY DESSERTS MORE WITH THE REST OF THE WORLD? Click the link and make them, you won’t regret it.
  3. It’s a Mystery! Mysteries were always my favorite genre as a child, so I liked finding mystery picture books for this program, see below. Then I made a treasure hunt type puzzle, where they had to look for clues—pieces of a picture that fit together like a puzzle— that led them to another place in the library, where they had to find MORE clues to piece together, and so forth. Only one family came, but they had a great time!
  4. Korea: for the two weeks of the Winter Olympics I had thematic Family Nights, including one week where we explored the culture of the host country. This included the book No Kimchi For Me! (by Aram Kim), about a young apparently Korean-American girl, I mean cat, who can’t stand the spicy-sour pickled relish salad her Korean grandmother serves with everything, so her grandmother makes it into a pancake instead which makes it finally palatable to the girl. So we tried this ourselves, and her grandmother was totally on to something. The batch of kimchi I made was, WHEW, strong— no one, not even the grownups, could do more than smell it, let alone eat it. But when I put it in the pancake recipe from the back of the book, it was pretty tasty, even by the standards of (some of) the kids! One mom pointed out that it reminded her of some spring rolls she’d had, so I took home the leftovers and made fried wontons with it. There’s still a couple in the freezer I keep forgetting about. They do make my breath pretty scary. Anyhoo.
  5. Winter Olympics: speaking of which, was a fun topic on its own, as I tried to make versions of winter sports that could be played inside. So we had Lego Bobsled races, a marble slalom run, and rug hockey, naturally. I had some really cute pictures but can't seem to find them now.
THE MEDIA REVIEW LISTS!

In Which I Apparently Didn’t Actually Read Very Many 2018 Picture Books This Year
I did a search of all the 2018 picture books the library got this year, and there were so many I was like, “Oh yeah, I wanted to read that, but I didn’t,” or “I know I MUST have read that, but I can’t remember a single image from inside it.” Here’s the ones I DO remember actually reading, though:
  1. The Day You Begin, by Jacqueline Woodson. One of those “I’m just going to flip through this one real fast before I put it on the shelves oh my all of a sudden I’m crying in the stacks” situations. Just a lovely story of having the courage to be yourself and learning to accept others and everybody’s got their own stories and so on and so on…
  2. and
  3. 2 1/2? Animal Colors and Animal Shapes, by Christopher Silas Neal. I buy a lot of board books for the library because they get worn out easily, and they’re relatively cheap so I don’t put TOO much thought into them, and for these two I was like “animals, colors, and shapes, perennial board book topics, made a list of recommended new board books, okay sold.” But then I actually read them in preparation for one of those baby/toddler story times no one showed up to. These books are so fun! Neal merges the animals and shapes and/or colors together in both words and pictures, making up funny new portmanteaus (and there’s color mixing in the color one, too). The baby/toddler storytimes may have bombed, but they did alert me to all the wonderful things being done in the board book genre…
  4. A Parade of Elephants, by Kevin Henkes. I had a Kevin Henkes-themed Family Night this fall on his birthday (which happens to be the day after my dad's), and we’d just gotten this book in, so…. I found this very hypnotic. “Round and round and round they are. Round and round and round they go,” is just sticking with me forever now.
  5. They Say Blue, by Jilllian Tamaki. Very dreamy. I know this is making a lot of Mock Caldecott lists this year so maybe I won't be too far behind. But the truth is, I'm going to cram a whole bunch of 2018 picture books in a few weeks right before MY Mock Caldecott, which reminds me:
Top 5 2017 books I read in a hurry in January when prepping for my Mock Caldecott/Mock Geisel:
  1. Dazzle ships: World War I and the art of confusion, by Chris Barton and more notably in this case illustrated by Victo Ngai. This ended up being my top vote in our Mock Caldecott because this wacky psychedelic camouflage was worked into the backgrounds of every page, and it was pretty mindblowingly trippy for nonfiction…!
  2. Claymates, by Dev Petty and again most notably in this case illustrated by Lauren Eldridge. This won our Mock Caldecott so overwhelmingly that no books came close enough to win an honor! I knew it didn’t have the Distinguished-ness to win the real Caldecott, but I adored this basically stop-motion-cartoon-on-paper so much I wished it did.
  3. Snail and Worm Again, by Tina Kugler. I can’t remember if I had this up for the Geisel or the Caldecott or both, but it's a definite winner on the Geisel front— there's so much delight in such simple language!
  4. Frankie, by Mary Sullivan. But this won our Mock Geisel, a sweet little story of canine sibling rivalry told in a few simple but effective words.
  5. After the Fall, by Dan Santat. Such a heart-rending tale of perseverance!

Top 5 Other Picture Books I read for the first time this year, some of which are also from 2017 but I didn’t read them during the Mock Caldecott cram session:
  1. Dot and Jabber (series), by Ellen Stoll Walsh. Oh my, who knew such books existed! I found them while prepping for the Mystery Family Night, see above, and was so thrilled to find stories simple enough for storytime that are yet classic genre mysteries, with clues to follow and solve, and they’re nature stories, too! Good on so many levels.
  2. Raindrops Roll, by April Pulley Sayre. Nonfiction, we have it in, a factual book about rain, except it’s also poetry and the words roll like the raindrops. And the photographs are fascinating, too.
  3. Grandma’s Tiny House: a Counting Story, by JaNay Brown-Wood. I read this to several different storytimes right before Thanksgiving— while it’s not overtly a Thanksgiving story (and if it is, it’s in a climate a bit warmer than Western PA), it reminded me so much of when my extended family used to have big Thanksgiving parties at Aunt Peggy’s or, long ago, indeed in Grandma’s Tiny Duplex, with more and more people coming and everyone being totally welcome but it all getting out of hand. It amazed me how much FEELING could come across in, as the subtitle says, a simple counting story.
  4. Maybe Something Beautiful, by F. Isabel Campoy. I needed something beautiful that day— it was right after the synagogue shooting in Squirrel Hill, and I even had a friend who knew a couple of the victims, and I was just so sick of all the hatred and ugliness, then here was this book about sharing your own beautiful visions and art to brighten up your world, and it was something I could do. I had everyone in Happy Monday make a beautiful picture (of their own definition of “beautiful”) and make a gift of it to someone else. I drew a butterfly for the downstairs circ desk. ;)
  5. The Babies and Doggies Book, by John and Molly. You know how I said I tend to buy board books for the library without too much deliberation? This was totally the case here. “Babies and Doggies? Sickeningly adorable, totally buying it.” When I finally actually read it, it proved to be even more sickeningly adorable than advertised. I bought it for Jason’s baby nephews for Christmas and then made everyone else in the family read it before I wrapped it, too. BABIES. DOGGIES. WHAT MORE DO YOU WANT.
The Exactly 5 2018 Longer-than-Picture-Books I Read:
  1. Unbeatable Squirrel Girl: 2 Fuzzy 2 Furious, by Shannon Hale. Because Squirrel Girl is the greatest, as we discovered this year.
  2. Whiskerella and
  3. Little Red Rodent Hood, by Ursula Vernon, because hyperactive rodent-girl superheroes are the theme of this list apparently. Yes, the Hamster Princess series continues to be a delight.
  4. Dog Man: Lord of the Fleas, by Dav Pilkey. Okay, rodent-girls and dog-men. People/animal hybrids fighting crime with wackiness.
  5. The Princess in Black and the Science Fair Scare, by Shannon and Dean Hale. Not a person-animal hybrid, but still fighting crime with wackiness. Yes, basically the only new novel-length books I read this year were continuations of series my kids have been following for at least two other years, not counting Squirrel Girl.
The Top 5 Older-than-2018 Longer-than-Picture-Books I Read for the first time this year:
  1. Unbeatable Squirrel Girl, by Shannon Hale, and even a few of the comic books by Ryan North, because even though comics make me mildly dizzy, I loved Squirrel Girl so much I needed more of her, so I made it work. The Squirrel Girl doll Maddie got for Christmas is sitting in our Christmas tree now, by the way.
  2. All the Wrong Questions (series), by Lemony Snicket. I may have enjoyed this series even more than the Series of Unfortunate Events, being that it’s slightly less unfortunate, and slightly more straightforward-mystery. I loved getting to know Lemony Snicket more as a character, too. I’ve got a crush on him now, actually (in his adult form— he’s a kid in these books), because he’s obviously a sensitive, intelligent book lover. Shame that the actual Daniel Handler was being an ass again while we were reading this, because Lemony Snicket the character is something else all together.
  3. The Lie Tree, by Frances Hardinge. I can always count on Hardinge to give me a unique reading experience, which is why her books seem to be the only ones I ever pick up to read on my own nowadays.
  4. Greenglass House, by Kate Milford. Took me a few chapters to really get into this one, but it was perfect for us once we did, because it takes place at Christmastime and we READ it at Christmastime (well, a couple weeks ago), and it turns out a D&D-like game is a major plot point, which this family can really appreciate. Also, the main character likes to sit in the nook behind the Christmas tree and Maddie has been totally doing that, too, and I can’t stop thinking about that now.
  5. The Purloining of Prince Oleomargarine, by Mark Twain and Philip Stead. I think I enjoyed this more than anyone else in the family— I brought it on one of our camping trips, and Jason was just like, “what,” and the kids were slightly more open to it than he was, but also a little confused, but I thought it was wonderfully weird and full of character. I loved the way Stead framed it as a sort of conversation between Twain and himself, and I loved getting to share Twain’s VOICE with my kids without having to worry about problematic racial issues and the like.

Top 5 Rereading Experiences of This Year:
Having a hard time ranking these, but I’m pretty sure the first will have to be:
  1. Howl's Moving Castle. There was a read-along on Tumblr the other month, and I was like, Oooo, let’s see what they’re discussing! And then I was like, ooo, must butt in with my own long rambling observations! And then I was like, Okay, I can’t just participate in the discussions, I need to reread it again MYSELF! And then I was like, Okay, it was too much fun rereading this, now I’m going to foist it on my children whether they like it or not! (they liked it). It’s like I forget how much I love that book, it only gets better with each reread.
  2. The Percy Jackson series. Maddie claims she likes these better than Harry Potter now. They are super-fun. And I seem to get more of a crush on dorky-dad-Poseidon more every time I read it, too.
  3. The Young Wizards series up through Wizard Abroad. Wizard’s Dilemma is next and even though it’s my favorite, it’s also dang heartbreaking, and I’m not sure I’m up for that with the kids just yet. Anyway, they were ready for a change after four books, anyway, but they really enjoyed it, and I was again struck by how utterly MADELEINE L’ENGLE-LIKE these books are! Speaking of which:
  4. A Wrinkle in Time and When You Reach Me: Sam was reading the latter in school about the time we were reading Young Wizards, and he wanted us to read it at home, but I was like, “I’m not reading that to you until AFTER we read A Wrinkle In Time,” so we did. Both. See GeekMom article about it.
  5. The Best Christmas Pageant Ever and A Christmas Carol. We finished Greenglass House a little more than a week before Christmas, and I wasn’t in the mood to read a NON Christmas-set book NOW. So I was like, “I read this to you a couple years ago but I don’t think you appreciated it enough,” and read the Best Christmas Pageant Ever to the kids. I still don’t think they appreciated it enough. But it’s short, so we were done in three days, and I still wasn’t ready for a non-Christmasy book, so I was like “Hahhah, time to introduce you to Dickens!” And it’s been a long while since I read A Christmas Carol and I was struck by how relevant and timely it felt (except maybe the Tiny Tim bits). Also how close the Muppets’ version keeps to it, which Sam had just watched in school so he was extra excited about that.
Currently we’re in the middle of The Hobbit, which is full of interest, first of all in the way Maddie said “Hey, this is like D&D!” fairly early on. EXACTLY. Welcome to Middle-Earth, the original D&D world! And eventually I look forward to foisting Lord of the Rings on them. I mean Maddie got to experience her literary namesake this year, Samwise will need his soon enough. Also I have found that rereading the Hobbit right now has given me the added side effect of more frequent dreams about Martin Freeman, nightly. Quite nice really. Speaking of movie stars,let's move out of print media and into visual:

Top 5 Movies I Watched For The First Time This Year
  1. Thor Ragnarok: Of all the MCU movies, I’d never gotten much into the Thor ones, but this one was just sheer delight from start to finish. I like a superhero movie that makes me laugh as much as thrill. I looked at my list— I actually saw more than 5 movies this year (not in the theater), there were nine or ten or something— and was a little surprised when I went to rank them, but this one probably did make me happiest of all of them.
  2. A Wrinkle In Time: Though in retrospect, the more disappointed I become in the way Camazotz was handled (what? Were there people there or not?), it was still a thrill at the time and had a big influence on me this year, what with my first three months of GeekMom articles (a quarter of all articles I wrote this year!), and my reading to the kids later on. Also Meg in my head actually does look more like Storm Reid than myself now, this last time we read it. Movie Mrs Whatsit, never, but Movie Meg, yes.
  3. Black Panther: Finally my favorite actor gets a major role in an MCU movie, but you know, the rest of it was so cool I really didn’t think about him much. It just LOOKED cool. And Shuri is the best.
  4. Coco: I was only half-watching this while it was on at my parents’ at first, but was so quickly sucked in and teary-eyed. It was a lovely movie, and I hope it becomes all the more beloved over time in the ranks of Pixar.
  5. Cargo: While I was recovering from surgery (see above) I had a “Let’s watch everything Martin Freeman was ever in on Netflix” day— I didn’t quite get to everything, but I never would have suspected that my favorite (Black Panther wasn’t on Netflix until, like, a week later, so it’s not included in this particular binge) would be a zombie movie. But it’s lovely and heartrending and deep and you get to see Martin interact mostly with kids which is the most adorable. Also it was kind of frightening and gross, but besides that stuff it was quite sweet.

Top 5 TV Shows and Other Things With Episodes I Watched This Year
  1. The Good Place: Holy motherforking shirtballs, this probably tops the list of Top New Things I Discovered This Year Across the Board. It filled a hole in my heart Community left behind for unorthodox sitcoms that respect the intelligence of their audience. I love that every episode is a genuine lesson in moral philosophy while at the same time being abso-forkin’-lutely hilarious, AND the characters also regularly make you cry. I love that it’s a show about GOODNESS, because there’s far too much negativity in the world and it’s so great that something so positive is also just so much fun. I love every time I have to log into Wordpress now by clicking the box that says “I’m not a robot.” I love that my sister-in-law is moving to Jacksonville next year and every time I hear about it I snort-laugh to myself and try to avoid explaining why.
  2. Series of Unfortunate Events: Is this really all the way up at number 2? I docked my other returning favorites for not being AS good as usual, whereas this year’s installment of SoUE had me even more enthusiastic and interested in what’s coming up and how the background mechanics of the VFD are going to be explored further, and laughing out loud, than the first season did. So it’s got a bump up that way. Can’t wait for the last installment.
  3. Jessica Jones: This was the only Netflix Marvel series I finally got around to watching this year after watching The Defenders last year. I watched it during the first part of my surgical recuperation, when laughing hurt the most, because it is DARK. SO DARK AND HORRIBLE. You’d think I wouldn’t care much for that, but what saved it was the characters, particularly Jessica herself. I just LIKE her SO MUCH, which is funny because her biggest character trait is that she’s a complete misanthrope. She should not be likable, but I love her!
  4. Agents of SHIELD: While the half-a-season that was on this year wasn’t the most outstanding thing the show has ever done— kind of run-of-the-mill— it’s still everything I like about television in one place, and I still wish the MCU would give it more credit. I mean Agent May OUGHT to show up in the next Avengers movie, if the rumors are true that Captain Marvel’s going to come looking for Coulson, because who was Coulson last with? AGENT MAY. She and Captain Marvel would totally dig each other.
  5. Legion: You weird, weird show. I love you for your weirdness, but at the same time I think you got a little lost up your own butt this season. The middle of the season seriously suffered from a lack of direction and an even more serious lack of Loudermilks. Loudermilk twins make everything good, and they were all but forgotten for about three episodes in the middle there, darn you. But on the other hand, there were still so many moments of brilliant weirdness, and the beginning of the last episode, a massive psychic sky-battle-slash-musical-number, was possibly the most amazing thing I have ever seen on TV. So get yourself together for season 3, that’s all I ask of you. Bring me weirdness with an at least marginally arching plot. Oh, in related news, I spontaneously joined a Legion-related fanfic exchange the other month, for which I made certain there would be no lack of Loudermilks. I wrote two stories for it. All the stories in the exchange are here… mine are the ones marked “Rockinlibrarian” obviously. The one that was written FOR me is also quite lovely (there are Loudermilks and dream logic and music so yay!).

CHRISTMAS GIFT ROUNDUP

Top 5 Presents I received:
  1. This experience of Christmas Miracles I wrote about last week. Relatedly:
  2. The new kitchen. This was technically like a birthday/Christmas/Mother’s Day/Everything present.
  3. A pair of squishy “pain relief” shoe insoles. You know you’re old, I tweeted, when your favorite gift Christmas Morning is a pair of pain relief insoles. Really, though, I have been enjoying them thoroughly all week.
  4. Also relatedly, two squishy mats for standing on in the kitchen.
  5. An old file cabinet, which I plan to use to deal with the pile of papers I have all around this room just as soon as we can get it shipped out here from my inlaws'.
Top 5 Presents I gave:
  1. Laptop &
  2. tablet, ie Electronic devices for my kids. Notice, I didn’t have to fight anyone to get to my own computer and type on it just now. So there! Hah!
  3. A personalized jigsaw puzzle for my parents. Made a collage of pictures of them and the kids together and uploaded it to the Ravensburger page, where they turn it into an awesome Ravensburger quality (because it is) puzzle for you. Utterly perfect for my parents, who are big jigsaw puzzlers and who have been sharing that love with my kids lately.
  4. Pajamas for the kids! Snuggly jammies! For Maddie I found a flannel fabric that was RAINBOWS AND DONUTS. AND DONUT BUTTONS. She was dumbstruck.
  5. I mentioned above getting the Babies and Doggies board book for Jason’s nephews. I got a few others, too, notably a couple Dinosaur vs. books for the 2yo who is definitely in a roaring a lot phase. But I had bought some snuggly fleece with doggies that look like his dog to make a yearly sweatshirt for my brother, and it was the end of the bolt so I got some extra half-price, and as I cut out the sweatshirt Jason said, “is that a baby blanket for Max [the 5 month old]?” and I was like, “not at the moment, but there’s going to be a lot of leftover and that’s a great idea!” I combined the leftover snuggly fleece with some other leftover fleeces and a velvety stretch fabric and some matching blanket edging I happened to have and voila. I wrapped Babies and Doggies in a Doggy Baby blanket! And Christmas evening as my sister-in-law held the baby after a feeding in the blanket, she said, “I think he already loves it.”
One Notable Gift Someone Else Gave Someone Else:
Maddie got a lava lamp in the pile from the school. Lava lamps are really kind of awesome, aren't they.

OTHER STUFF I WROTE THIS YEAR FOR YOU TO REVISIT

The Exactly 5 Other Things I Posted Here:
Okay, actually there were six. But I've already linked to "Christmas Miracles and Gifts of Grace" twice, even though that should really be number 1.
  1. And then I already linked "My Personal Wrinkle In Time Movie Review" too, but we'll make that the new number one.
  2. "Thoughts on the Autistic Spectrum part One" and "...part Two" ...are technically two separate ones, fine. Actually three separate ones, since apparently I accidentally posted part one twice. BUT ANYHOO this is me comparing myself to what people describe as "mild" female autism, not so much trying to decide if it describes me but more exploring HOW it describes me, if that makes sense. Weirdly, the other month I listened to a podcast on how to tell the difference between ADHD and ASD when there are overlapping symptoms, and was shocked to discover most of my autistic symptoms DO seem to be caused more by ADHD than indicative of a true ASD. NOTHING I KNOW ABOUT MYSELF IS TRUE!
  3. "Pro-Life Revisited" and
  4. "Thoughts on the State of the World" are mostly me complaining about current events and people and stuff, still, but I'm SMART and RIGHT, dangit.
  5. "Missing Viewpoints" explores how I didn't have anything like a "typical" adolescence and how that is a total bafflement to me. Incidentally, To All the Boys... just missed making BOTH the book AND movie lists this year, so this is the only mention you get of it.

The Top 5ish Articles I Wrote for GeekMom:
  1. Well let's cheat and sum up everything from the first quarter of the year with "In Anticipation of the Wrinkle In Time Movie," which acts as a master list for all L'Engle content I wrote this year. Long-time readers of my personal blog will recognize much of the material freshened up from my original Year of the Tesseract series, but better, so I'll just highlight a couple that did not appear in that first series in any form, such as "Judging A Wrinkle in Time by Its Cover," "Mrs Who and Verbalizing through Quotes" and "What to Read After A Wrinkle In Time."
  2. "Self-Medicating Through Music," on how my favorite things affect my brain, and speaking of my brain
  3. "Emotional Labor and the Executive Dysfunctional Mom" sums up a lot of the things I'd learned about how ADHD manifests in adult women over the past couple years.
  4. "Mental Health Awareness Through Fiction" was an interesting evaluation of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, among other things
  5. "Perils of Gardening While Imaginative" explains what goes through my head while I'm working outside.
  6.  
  7.  
Happy new year! Please leave me comments if you want to discuss any of these items further! Or even if you just want to say "me too"!
rockinlibrarian: (christmas)
It all started with a gift.

Round abouts my birthday, my mom said, “We’re going to do your kitchen cabinets for you.” Now, I had pull-out cabinet organizers on my wishlist, specifically inspired by the ones my parents had in their kitchen, so I figured that was what she was talking about. But as I met them in Ikea and we looked around the kitchen center, it became clear that wasn’t what she’d been talking about: they were completely replacing our kitchen cabinets, including countertop. This is a HUGE gift and it’s beautiful and I love it, let’s make that clear before we go on here. Now, my dad was diagnosed with Parkinson’s this year, so they had enough on their plates to deal with, so I wasn’t sure whether it would actually happen or not; but Ikea was having a kitchen sale this fall that would end on November 11, so November 8 we placed the order and all of a sudden it was official.

And then we realized what we’d gotten into.

The new cabinets would not fit exactly where the old cabinets were, so the walls would have to be repainted. I figured I could just retouch, because the kitchen walls were sponge-painted and were close in color to the new living room paint, which we still had leftover, but after we took the cabinets out and I tested a bit on a definitely-will-have-cabinet section, it was clear our leftover paint was NOT close enough, so I had to buy all new paint, and ended up refreshing what was already there, anyway. But that was nothing compared to the floor. It turned out the floor only went so far under the old cabinets, and would ALSO have to be replaced before the new cabinets could be installed. We went through several iterations of what the new floor could be— first thought, self-stick tiles right over the old floor, easy-peasy and only $130. But the old floor was too uneven. Then Jason was like, hey, there’s hardwood under here, we just have to pull up all this other crap, including a layer that is most likely asbestos, rent a sander, stain and seal it… and I was like, I do not want a hardwood floor in my kitchen, but I’ll take it if it’s the cheapest and easiest option, which it was CLEARLY NOT, and finally Jason had to admit that, with the amount of staples the subsequent layers of flooring had used, the hardwood would be in no shape to refinish after all; so we had to relevel certain sections of the floor (Jason mixed the first batch of releveler wrong and we had to buy a second batch), and then install a “floating” lock-tile laminate floor over top.

On the whole we ended up spending at least $800 out of pocket unexpectedly just to get the kitchen in shape for the new cabinets— and we had $1,600 due in real estate taxes by November 30. That’s a tax that normally people get escrowed into their monthly mortgage payment, but when we’d refinanced a few years ago, we’d taken that out of the mortgage so we had more usable money each month— at the time I was still writing One Book, and I got paid a lump sum of about that amount about that time of year, so it made sense at the time. NOW, not so much. Especially this year. I worked out that we had to pay the real estate tax exactly on the due date, which happened to be payday for both Jason and I; I paid the December mortgage; I worked out the timing of bills and paydays and figured out which bills could possibly be pushed off; and we were Broke. Flat broke. Could barely afford groceries, let alone extras… it just happened that THIS month was the one month of the year we most WANTED (needed, even) to buy extras.

Sam had been bugging us to buy something at the time, and it took a bit to explain to him that NO, we have NO MONEY NOTHING ZIP, even if he wanted to sacrifice eating for his game upgrade (I think it was). And of course we his parents were still conversing quietly and seriously about which parts of the budget we could squeeze here or there, and he couldn’t help overhearing, and he’s an anxious kid by nature. Our worries became his worries and magnified. Thankfully he’s in an emotional support program at school, which includes weekly counseling sessions. He poured out all these worries to his counselor, who then, quickly, emailed me.

She could help us get into the free-or-reduced lunch program, medical assistance, help Sam deal with changes if we would have to move suddenly…. Oh no! I responded. I’d tried to be clear to him that we were NOT in danger of losing the house, and this would only be a problem for the next month or so (if only it wasn’t THIS month of all months). We can still help, she responded: her agency was supplying grocery gift cards “for Christmas dinner,” and she’d put our kids on a few Angel Trees; and she gave us the numbers from some Toy Banks and a Shop with a Cop program and I was still like No no we don’t need THAT much, but here’s a few of their wish list items and their clothing sizes, a little help from an Angel Tree is more than enough….

Since both Jason and I had to replace computers this year, we have a line of credit open with Dell, and when Dell had Black Friday sales we had decided if we got the kids their own Devices, that would be a Christmas gift that would blow them away that we wouldn’t actually have to pay for in the next month. I also put a few items on Jenny Lawson’s James Garfield Christmas Miracle exchange list, which I have often purchased from in past years so I guess it couldn’t hurt to be on the receiving end this year. And when my dad transferred the money for the last installment of the kitchen payment, he rounded it up, giving me enough on hand to make a trip to Jo-Ann’s for handmade gift materials and to Five Below for awesome stocking stuffers and cheap gifts. We’d make Christmas work.

Then Sam’s counselor wrote me again a week before Christmas, the psychiatrist would be in Wednesday to refill prescriptions and also by the way the gifts for the kids were in, if I wanted to come pick them up sometime this week.

I arrived at the school coincidentally just as said counselor was checking in, and the school nurse—who administers Sammy’s meds so has grown quite fond of him as well— was poking out from her office to the general office as well, and when I told the secretary why I was there and she asked, “Last name?” the counselor and nurse kind of winked at each other and said “we got this,” and disappeared into the back.

And then they brought out two large boxes and three garbage bags of presents.

I was gobsmacked. This looked like a bigger pile than they got, total, on years with plenty. We didn’t need all this! This had come from Angel Trees?! Weren’t there needier kids in the school who could have used more of this stuff?

I took the pile home and sorted through it. Surely some of this stuff could be given to others. The presents were wrapped, but I peeked in each. There were a few things that were not quite perfect matches for my kids, and I started a pile— but most of the toys were exactly what they had asked for, and most of the gifts, period, were actually clothes—and clothes that were just my picky dressers’ styles (neither of them can stand pants with zippers, for example— these were ALL elastic banded). The kids had both hit growth spurts and all their clothes were too short for them, and they both basically needed entire new wardrobes. So… they DID need all this. But it seemed so silly. We should have been able to get them new clothes ourselves. We weren’t poor, we were just poor time-and-money managers who hadn’t had the chance to get them to the store for new things. We weren’t needy, we were A-deeaichdy. We didn’t deserve all this, did we?

I had culled the pile down by one bag. But I did have that one bag to pass on to someone needier than us, and wondered who would take it at this point in the season. It was too late for Angel Trees and Toys for Tots and most of those programs. I asked online and got suggestions for shelters and hospitals, but one person suggested asking a pastor or teacher or the like if there were any specific families they knew of who were “quietly struggling,” and this felt most right to me. This bag of random things my kids wouldn’t use didn’t seem so appropriate to give to a bigger organization after all. I’m a crappy religious practitioner, so I don’t remember to pray all that frequently, but I prayed on this: I opened my mind and heart quietly for the right answer to where this bag should go, and suddenly the answer was so obvious it felt like cheating. I didn’t even have to go out of my way.

The next morning I had an outreach storytime at the Headstart in the local housing project. I’d done outreaches for the housing project itself before so I knew there was an office where everyone went to to pay their bills and whatnot— surely the lady in the office would be aware if someone there was struggling more than usual this month. And indeed, when I showed up at that office before heading to the Headstart and explained why I was there, I hadn’t even finished speaking before her face lit up and she said, “Yes, I know exactly who could use that, thank you!”

I was gobsmacked again. This felt magical, like I had actually answered someone else’s actual prayer. Instead of feeling self-righteous, though, I just felt guilty and undeserving some more. My kids were STILL getting a completely ridiculous Christmas bounty, and maybe these cast-offs of ours were all this other family or families were getting. I should be giving more. But the truth was, my kids DID need a completely new wardrobe, and someone else was seizing the Spirit by giving to US.

I had written about the importance of Santa Claus before, and it hit me again now, hard. “Santa is not concerned that you reciprocate with a gift of your own of approximately equal monetary value. Santa does not demand your gratitude. Santa doesn’t even particularly care if you don’t have any cookies to leave. Santa just gives because it’s the giving that is so nice….What you get has nothing to do with what you’ve done. Santa, after all, is about giving out of grace, not because the beneficiary earned it. … grace, to get slightly religious on you for a moment, is given to the undeserving in the hopes that they will come to deserve it. In other words, having more doesn’t make you better, it just gives you more responsibility to help those who have less (or in geekier terms, with Great Power comes Great Responsibility).”

Santa is frickin’ real, y’all. I’ve been Santa in the past. And this year, others were being Santa for me. Some stranger, somewhere in the world, had purchased our James Garfield Christmas Miracle gifts, and they arrived that same day. Anonymously. From someone who would never hear Maddie’s shriek of joy when she opened that Squirrel Girl doll Christmas morning. That really is a Christmas miracle! Think of all that GRACE being traded back and forth over the internet each year!

And as for the huge pile from school, I quickly realized it had not all come from Angel Tree donations. The toys that had been on the kids’ wish lists didn’t just happen to be on those wish lists, but they’d been purchased directly OFF their Amazon wish lists, which means whoever purchased them had the actual links to those wish lists, which I’d sent to Sam’s counselor. And she hadn’t done it alone. I saw hallmarks of Sam’s classroom aide in some of the clothing purchases. The principal had said something to Sam indicating he knew the sort of things on his wishlist. The look on the nurse’s face when she helped bring the gifts out that day made it pretty clear she was in on it, too. Sam’s entire Emotional Support Team at school had gotten together to give Sam and his sister this amazing gift, just because, as Jason put it when I emailed him to tell him what had happened that day, "I think people really like Sam. Or they just think we're terrible parents. Probably both."

I read A Christmas Carol to the kids this past weekend, and I was really struck by the Ghost of Christmas Present passing though all sorts of little vignettes, sprinkling the Christmas Spirit into each one, bewildering Scrooge who couldn’t figure out why poor people could ever be so happy. But that’s what it is, isn’t it? Little bits here and there—someone giving some little thing out of grace, someone next door doing something else out of the same—there’s no need for anyone to do anything more than they’re able to do, but when everyone gives just a little, Christmas Miracles happen.

So pass it on.

This may be a little belated this year, but it's still only the third day of Christmas, so here it is again:

rockinlibrarian: (love)
 "In Life's name, and for Life's sake, I will use the Art for nothing but the service of that Life. I will guard growth and ease pain. I will fight to preserve what grows and lives well in its own way; and I will change no object or creature unless its growth and life, or that of the system of which it is part, are threatened. To these ends, in the practice of my Art, I will put aside fear for courage, and death for life, when it is right to do so, till Universe's end." --The Wizard's Oath, Diane Duane

Kids and I are reading the Young Wizards series now. Such a powerful statement, the Wizard's Oath, and when I'm reading it out loud to the kids it's like, watch it, those are words of power, a serious prayer, a vow before God, or, in this series' terminology, The Powers That Be. But I answer myself, That's only a problem if I don't mean it. And I mean this. I believe in the Wizard's Oath. I will do my best to live it even if I don't have literal magic powers. Whatever human powers I do have must be used in the service of Life.

I've discussed this before, in earlier posts I don't feel like looking up to link to, but I was raised Pro-Life, in every sense of the word. Anti-abortion, yes, but also pro-environmentalist, pacifist, anti-death-penalty, guarding growth and easing pain, as the wizards say. I believe in the Positive, as I've said in another earlier post somewhere, I believe in What Is. 

Now when I was younger, and a bit sheltered and naïve, I had no problem embracing the Pro-Life Movement as it was defined by my Church, with my grandma and aunts and cousins who were all deeply involved in it. Then I got older and began to notice problems, most importantly that laws against abortion didn't actually prevent abortions, they just made abortions more dangerous. It seemed to me (and still does seem to me) that more abortions could be prevented not by changing the laws, but by changing people's minds about having them. And that involves giving them options, giving them the means to raise their babies safely or finding other trustworthy people to do so. It means giving mothers the actual means to survive in this unfair world.

There was a bit of a hiccup in the Church's Pro-Life stand, that I didn't fully appreciate until I was married, in that the Church's multi-part issues of Pro-Lifeness included a stand against birth control, and you know what? PREVENTING pregnancy is an awfully good way to prevent UNWANTED pregnancies, and therefore abortions. I can see how the birth-control prohibition fits in the Pro-Life philosophy, because let's make all the life we can, yay, except that it's not practical, and the implication that maybe you shouldn't have so much sex then is unfair, particularly when your partner wants it more than you, and darn it, at least you're not KILLING anything! But this is just the start.

Because, apart from that hiccup, there were other prohibitions in the Church's Pro-Life stand that seemed to be curiously forgotten by the Republican lawmakers who claimed to be Pro-Life, like the prohibition against capital punishment. I'd hear political ads that contradicted themselves in the same sentence: "I'm Pro-Life, and I support the death penalty for violent offenders!" Dude, you're not Pro-Life, you're anti-abortion. It's different. That's not even mentioning the people who bomb abortion clinics, which is nearly ironic as you can get.

But currently the discord between Pro-Life-as-in-believing-the-Wizard's-Oath vs. Pro-Life-the-Political-Movement-to-Overturn-Roe-vs-Wade has reached levels so painful I am screaming inside, screaming that my loving, genuinely good-hearted relatives still support the most anti-Christian politicians possible just because said politicians have so twisted the Pro-Life movement with propaganda, just because said politicians give so much lip service to their own "Christianity." They've come to trust Fox News because it tells them what they want to hear, and not the truth that exposes the hypocrisy of the Pharisees of the Christian Right.

And even when faced with the truth? That these so-called "Christian" politicians are adulterers and rape-apologists, that they applaud the accumulation of wealth before the safety and well-being of the huddled masses, that they're applauded by and often are themselves white supremacists and neo-Nazis, that they separate families and hold children custody, that they tell bald-faced, easily-disprovable lies and commit treason? Well, those are just downsides we'll have to accept, as long as that anti-abortion legislation goes through!

NO. NO NO NO. THIS IS NOT WHAT JESUS WANTS FROM YOU. THIS IS NOT WHAT JESUS WOULD DO.

These politicians are now trying to convince us that a mass migration of poor and desperate souls fleeing danger in their homeland for a slightly more hopeful chance in our country are a dangerous invasion that must be stopped with military force. WHAAAAAAT? It's stupid, bewilderingly stupid, for one thing, but for another thing where do you honestly believe Jesus would stand on this matter, were He here to remark upon it?  He doesn't NEED to be here, we already HAVE His words on the subject. "For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me."

BASIC CHRISTIANITY, here. Basic Christianity calls us to stand up to the Pharisees who are quickly turning our country into a Fascist state. 

Basic Christianity calls me to type this. It's kind of a scary thing. I've been working on it for over a week, and I keep running away from it-- "What if people argue with me, and I can't get my words out? What if people decide they won't listen to me anymore? What if people question my own sources of information as if I don't have a FRIGGIN' MASTERS DEGREE IN INFORMATION SCIENCE? What if...?" But I can't keep watching good people who call themselves Christian aiding and abetting --and voting for, next week-- these literal anti-Christs! So it's All Saints Day. A good day to hunker down and do it. The Christian Right has been gravely misled and is deep in crisis, because they've forgotten who Christ really is. You know, the guy who gave the Sermon on the Mount.

I'm not asking anybody to go out and encourage people to have abortions, for gosh sakes! Stay Pro-Life! But think about what Pro-Life MEANS when you take your political stands, and pay attention to what's going on, and what people who've been manipulating you for political ends have actually been saying! Look objectively at these people and see the truth before it's too late. 
rockinlibrarian: (rebecca)
 So.

Got stuff on my mind that I want to get out but having trouble getting started here. Going to do chronological train-of-thought, so bear with me while I get to the point.

Recovering from abdominal surgery again this week. This time I needed to get a little hernia fixed that popped out months after/but in relation to last summer's gall bladder surgery. On one hand, it's a simpler and less pervasive surgery, so it required less anathesia and is all focused in one place, so I felt BETTER much sooner than last year. On the other hand, it's a DEEPER surgery,  so it FRIGGIN' HURTS more afterward. So most of my body is all, "Oh, I'm fine, let's go do stuff!" but then my abdomen screams, "BUT NOT THAT!" so it's kind of awkward.

But beforehand I was like, "so, recovery time means I'll get to watch a lot of TV!" Though of course I'm not quite as immobile as I thought I'd be. I did binge the rest of Jessica Jones during my first day or two. It's a very dark show but I like Jessica so much as a character it was worth watching, and anyway, the darkness came in handy because LAUGHING FRIGGIN' HURTS, and since I tend toward funny shows I didn't have a lot of other choices on my want-to-watch list. Yesterday I felt like watching SOMETHING but was tired of not-funny, so I put on MST3K, AND THIS WAS A MISTAKE. It still hurts to laugh.

That SAID, Saturday night I risked something light but not ROFL-hilarious instead, which worked out nicely, more of that, please. Teen Rom-Com. To All the Boys I Loved Before, based on the book by Jenny Han.  I read the book a couple months ago, to be honest, BECAUSE I saw the trailer for the movie and it was frickin adorable. I had bought and recommended the book in the library of course, but I hadn't bothered to read it because it's not my genre. 

And after I read it, having quite enjoyed it, I was still left with this feeling of it's not my genre. It's not-- me. It's describing this world I don't understand. Somehow I have no trouble understanding dystopias and fantasy kingdoms, but a realistic high school setting? I felt...strangely lost.

And the sad thing is that Lara Jean and I have a lot in common. We're both dreamy romantics, who work out our PASSIONATE crushes by writing letters to our beloveds, though I wisely only addressed mine when I actually INTENDED to mail them, and THEN only when I was certain I'd NEVER ACTUALLY HAVE TO SEE THE GUY AGAIN, which was incredibly NOT so wise because I was utterly wrong about that, and, yeah, I could be the main character of a teen rom-com, too.

...Except I couldn't. That was the thing that was nagging me. Like, the whole point of the story is that Lara Jean went from imaginary relationships to figuring out how relationships with ACTUAL PEOPLE work. And I mean, yeah, maybe I got there eventually in my life. Emphasis on the "maybe." Because I've noticed that lately I've completely closed myself off to the idea of New Relationships. I don't mean romantic relationships. I mean relationships AT ALL. If I should lose my husband, I don't ever want to date again, yes, but I don't want to make friends, either. I don't want to deal with it, how much effort it takes to be social. 

And so anyway, I was thinking, even Lara Jean, who in some ways is so much like me, had more of a social life than me. And I started thinking, "You know what that means, don't you? You just wrote about this. If you feel excluded from stories, it just means your story is missing. YOUR story needs to be written." Now, the irony of that is that article is about the need for Representation in Stories as explained by a relatively Default person to other Default people. One reason "To All The Boys..." is getting a lot of attention is it's one of the first teen rom-coms-- or THE first-- only counting American shows-- with an Asian-American protagonist, so... REPRESENTATION IS AWESOME. And I noted that in the article. If you are a relatively Default person, and you still feel excluded by stories, it's not because stories have excluded your DEFAULTNESS. It means there's something NON-Default about you that you're hungering to see.

I'm missing from Realistic Teen Fiction. That's why it's not my genre. I can't see myself in it.

But you know why I got into writing as a child? Well, because I had crazy dreams, actually. But the ONE RECURRING THEME that has always, ALWAYS shown up in my work is "People have adventures together and become friends." I couldn't make friends in the realistic fiction way. So I wrote about it. I wrote fantasies, mysteries, science fiction adventures for characters based on real people because an out-of-the-ordinary adventure was the only way I figured I could break past the awkward social mores that existed in real life. I never wrote realistic fiction. It wouldn't be realistic. I couldn't make it work.

My story needs to be told in Realistic Fiction, because that's where MY story is missing.  That's what they say, right? We need the missing voices. But I want to tell stories with happy endings, and I don't know what that ending could be. The happy ending of your lonely adolescence is COLLEGE, when you finally get away from the shallow-minded casual bullies you grew up with and meet people who are open to meeting YOU, but you're still carrying around repressed wounds from when you were 9 and your two "best" friends were not only always fighting with each other, but didn't even want to be friends with YOU if other people were around, the weight of countless microaggressions from all those kids, very few of whom meet the stereotype of "bully," but who made you feel so much lesser and excluded anyway, so now you have social anxiety for the rest of your life, and... see I'm not sure where I was going with this paragraph, which is my point. What's the ending? What's the moral? How does this story wrap up? Lara Jean's moral is she STOPS living in her fantasy world, and so grows. I started writing SO I could live in my fantasy world. It makes me feel like a fraud, like I've spent my life writing lies, even though I'm firm defender of SPECULATIVE FICTION AS SUPER-TRUTH. 

But, like, apparently the story that's actually missing from the world is not the story I want to write, and that's what's got me hung up this morning. 

Just... felt like sharing.
rockinlibrarian: (eggman)
 So when I posted "Thoughts on the Autistic Spectrum" now-part-one, a lot of my friends perhaps misinterpreted the reasoning behind my post-- "You're not weird! Lots of people do those things!" Really I was just explaining my odd emotional state, not asking for reassurances that I'm normal. I know I'm not NORMAL, and I don't need reassurances that I AM. Whatever else I am, I AM neurodivergent. It's that labels are so weird, and there's so much overlap between conditions, and I sometimes am not sure how to refer to myself? And at that moment I was feeling bad about my differences precisely BECAUSE they were the differences that have brought me the most grief over the course of my life. That's not an "everybody feels that way" sort of thing, that's a specific "bad things happened to me in relation to these things and I still have scars" thing.

I said then that I didn't feel relief like I felt like when I found out I had ADHD, because the scars were too deep, but now that I'm not feeling quite so raw, I admit a lot of it is in fact a relief. I wasn't a party-pooper baby, I had noise-induced meltdowns. Okay then! Let's take care of that little girl, then, not tell her to just suck it up. So on and so forth.

Last week I pulled a Temple Grandin book off the return shelf-- a relatively recent one. The Autistic Brain.  She wrote it soon after the DSM-V came out, and she expresses some reservations about the way "Autism Spectrum Disorders" is now one big category instead of having more specifics-- only because it lumps so many different issues together. In fact, she goes into a lot of the "labels vs. symptoms" issues I've gone through time and again in my writing on these topics. We need to stop thinking of "Autism" as a specific something that can be cured, and focus more on a symptom-by-symptom basis-- after all, it's not "autism" that's a problem, it's specific symptoms in specific situations. And "autism" isn't an identical condition in everyone it appears in, anyway!

Also, there was an "Autism Quotient" self-assessment in the back. "It's not an official diagnostic tool," but the average score is 16, and people who score 32 and higher tend to have been diagnosed with what was once called Aspergers. I took it and got 31. *headdesk* The story of me being right there on the edge but not exactly continues!

But again, these things were codified based primarily on male data. Female autistic experiences line up far better with mine-- though again, not exactly. BECAUSE EVERYONE IS DIFFERENT. Anyway, I found a "Females With Aspergers Syndrome Checklist" here the week I was talking about in the last post, and copied it into a Word doc so I could highlight everything that applied to me. Then the other day I started typing directly into the document, responding to each (or many) points with either specifics of how yes this is my story, or why no this isn't me at all, or why, uh, maybe something like that, or.... ANYWAY.

Basically it's just a process of stating This is Who I Am. This is Who I Am In Relation To This Particular Issue. It's a process not of trying to convince anyone that I am or am not a label, but a process of simply describing what I am and have been like, if that make sense. So I want to post it here for the record. The stuff in big old Times New Roman is what's copied directly from the above link. Things I identify with are highlighted. My notes are in a curly font that I'm not entirely sure will carry over to other people's computers, but anyhoo. Here's how I fit Samantha Craft's Females With Aspergers Syndrome Checklist:

 

Section A: Deep Thinkers

  • 1.     A deep thinker
  • 2.     A prolific writer drawn to poetry
  • 3.     *Highly intelligent
  • 4.     Sees things at multiple levels, including her own thinking processes
  • 5.     Analyzes existence, the meaning of life, and everything, continually
  • 6.     Serious and matter-of-fact in nature
  • 7.     Doesn’t take things for granted
  • 8.     Doesn’t simplify
  • 9.     Everything is complex
  • 10.                   Often gets lost in own thoughts and “checks out” (blank stare)

Well, this goes without saying. This is pretty much the story of my life. Except for poetry. I do like poetry at times, but its not MINE the way prose is.

Section B: Innocent

  • 1.     Naïve
  • 2.     Honest
  • 3.     Experiences trouble with lying
  • 4.     Finds it difficult to understand manipulation and disloyalty
  • 5.     Finds it difficult to understand vindictive behavior and retaliation
  • 6.     Easily fooled and conned
  • 7.     Feelings of confusion and being overwhelmed
  • 8.     Feelings of being misplaced and/or from another planet
  • 9.     Feelings of isolation
  • 10.                   Abused or taken advantage of as a child but didn’t think to tell anyone

As much as I hate to admit it, I do have a sort of naïve streak. A lot of these ones Ive highlightedits like I always feel ButWHY? when other people engage in such things. I dont like lying, but I cant claim that Im a fully honest personI do a lot of half-truth, just-not-saying-anything kinds of obscuring of the truth. As for being fooled or taken advantage of, I suppose I was more gullible when I was very young, but I got to be pretty skeptical pretty quickly. But as for number 8yeah, pretty much dead on.

Setion C: Escape and Friendship

  • 1.     Survives overwhelming emotions and senses by escaping in thought or action
  • 2.     Escapes regularly through fixations, obsessions, and over-interest in subjects
  • 3.     Escapes routinely through imagination, fantasy, and daydreaming
  • 4.     Escapes through mental processing –Im not sure what escapes through mental processing means if not another way to say daydreaming. Maybe its daydreaming for the more literal types, who might, like, solve complex math problems in their head to relax, like Meg Murry does or something. Me, my mental escapism is pretty well summed up with daydreaming.
  • 5.     Escapes through the rhythm of words this seems more for the poets, too. I dont really see it except if you consider music, but thats really just music, not necessarily words.
  • 6.     Philosophizes, continually Um, see the Deep Thinker section?
  • 7.     Had imaginary friends in youth   
  • 8.     Imitates people on television or in movies
  • 9.     Treated friends as “pawns” in youth, e.g., friends were “students” “consumers” “members”
  • 10.                   Makes friends with older or younger females more so than friends her age (often in young adulthood) I always made friends with people younger than me. Occasionally older people would claim me, too. But I felt more comfortable with younger ones.
  • 11.                   Imitates friends or peers in style, dress, attitude, interests, and manner (sometimes speech) Ive picked up turns of phrase from my friends, but who doesnt?
  • 12.                   Obsessively collects and organizes objects –Less collectingunless you mean hoardingand more organizing, but the organizing has never been obsessive as much as thorough and methodical.
  • 13.                   Mastered imitation –I wish. Im decent at voices, but could be so much better!
  • 14.                   Escapes by playing the same music over and over
  • 15.                   Escapes through a relationship (imagined or real)think this is a reference to my obsessing over crushes? I dont think Ive done the same with real relationships, though: those are too nervewracking.
  • 16.                   Numbers bring ease (could be numbers associated with patterns, calculations, lists, time and/or personification)unless THIS is the Meg Murry trait. I tell you, Meg was on the edge of the spectrum. Charles Wallace was quite thoroughly on the spectrum, but thats neither here nor there.
  • 17.                   Escapes through counting, categorizing, organizing, rearrangingah, this would be where my style of organizing comes in.  Not obsessive, but still soothing.
  • 18.                   Escapes into other rooms at parties
  • 19.                   Cannot relax or rest without many thoughts
  • 20.                   Everything has a purpose

Section D: Comorbid Attributes

  • 1.     OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder)
  • 2.     Sensory Issues (sight, sound, texture, smells, taste) (might have synesthesia) Sound sensitivity is the most pervasive. I dont have any caveats on thatif you can think of a particular sensitivity someone could have toward sound, its me. In fact I was looking at a list of visual sensory issues and I did start nodding when I got to fluorescent lights, but then I realized its the SOUND of fluorescent lights that bothers me, not the light itself. Although I am sensitive to dark. I find myself trying to turn on lights that are already on sometimes just because I need more, and I will only willingly wake up AFTER sunrise. Okay, and anyway, texture is not as badI dont have to cut the tags out of my clothes, and I LOVE jeansbut I have some weird quirks that only late in life have I realized are sensory-related. Like I could never stand face paint, and I still dont wear makeup. Same with jewelry. It doesnt matter what its made of, it still tickles in a way I dont like. I used to always need to button button-down shirts all the way up, but Ive gotten over that in recent years, as well as V-neck shirtsI think that must have been the same sensory thing, because they both involve exposure of the front of the neck and I got over both pretty much at the same time (during breastfeeding, when I was pretty much running around topless, so I guess its a matter of extremes). Yeah, some fabrics I just dont like, either. Lace is pretty but it doesnt feel good. And lenticular paper. Is not clothing, but I am SO repulsed by touching it, its weird.  I dont have any out of the ordinary issues with smell or taste, much to my familys despairor is my FAMILYS many issues with taste to MY despair? The latter.
  • 3.     Generalized Anxiety aside from side effects from stimulants, Im not really prone to clinical anxiety, but I was scared of everything as a child, and I always have a nagging What am I forgetting NOW in the back of my head. The former seems autism-related, but the latter more ADHD. But in general demeanor, I tend to have an annoying LACK of anxiety to other people who feel I should be CARING more than I seem to be.
  • 4.     Sense of pending danger or doom
  • 5.     Feelings of polar extremes (depressed/over-joyed; inconsiderate/over-sensitive)
  • 6.     Poor muscle tone, double-jointed, and/or lack in coordination (may have Ehlers Danlos Syndrome and/or Hypotonia and/or POTS syndrome) –uh, I AM a complete klutz, but I dont think its a quantifiable physical condition. No muscle tone or joint excuses.
  • 7.     Eating disorders, food obsessions, and/or worry about what is eaten—I do stress eat, but apparently not to the extent that psychologists consider a disorder
  • 8.     Irritable bowel and/or intestinal issuesa more recent development, so probably more related to middle age than autistic tendencies
  • 9.     Chronic fatigue and/or immune challenges uh, maybe with the chronic fatigue? Im always tired, but its not, like, OFFICIAL Chronic Fatigue.
  • 10.                   Misdiagnosed or diagnosed with a mental illnessI most definitely do have chronic depression. Of course, its based in my deep-seeded self-esteem issues from always feeling different and never understanding why.
  • 11.                   Experiences multiple physical symptoms, perhaps labeled “hypochondriac” –This is tricky, because I FEEL like Im being a hypochondriac a lot. What does THAT mean?
  • 12.                   Questions place in the world again, see Deep Thinker
  • 13.                   Often drops small objects straightforward non-quantifiable-conditional klutz
  • 14.                   Wonders who she is and what is expected of her
  • 15.                   Searches for right and wrong for both, yeah, again, Deep Thinker
  • 16.                   Since puberty has had bouts of depression (may have PMDD)
  • 17.                   Flicks/rubs fingernails, picks scalp/skin, flaps hands, rubs hands together, tucks hands under or between legs, keeps closed fists, paces in circles, and/or clears throat often I dont stim or have any other obvious tics, but I AM a habitual picker. Who often sits on her hands.

Section E: Social Interaction

  • 1.     Friends have ended friendship suddenly (without female with AS understanding why) and/or difficult time making friends I had friends who were fickle about our friendship in elementary school, but from high school on my friends have been relatively loyal. I do have trouble opening up to making new friends, though. Its always been a sensitive issue for me.
  • 2.     Tendency to overshare –Or, the exact opposite. Unless you mean in blog posts.
  • 3.     Spills intimate details to strangers as I said. On the internet, who needs privacy?
  • 4.     Raised hand too much in class or didn’t participate in class –I was absolutely a Hermione in this case.
  • 5.      Little impulse control with speaking when younger --NOT
  • 6.     Monopolizes conversation at times --NOT
  • 7.     Brings subject back to self –I can kind of see this. I have a hard time actually HAVING a conversation if I dont have a heres what *I* know about that foothold to stand on
  • 8.     Comes across at times as narcissistic and controlling (is not narcissistic)
  • 9.     Shares in order to reach out see thats what I mean, I talk about myself, but its in an effort to be like Does anybody else feel this way, too?
  • 10.                   Often sounds eager and over-zealous or apathetic and disinterested both. Sometimes Im afraid Im going to be the first, so I counterbalance it with the latter. When I write, though, I tend toward the first part. When I talk, the latter.
  • 11.                   Holds a lot of thoughts, ideas, and feelings inside only comes out in writing. And even then, theres still a lot inside that just doesnt seem worth putting into words.
  • 12.                   Feels as if she is attempting to communicate “correctly”
  • 13.                   Obsesses about the potentiality of a relationship with someone, particularly a love interest or feasible new friendship always. At least when I was younger. Im kind of avoiding new relationships (friendships) these days.
  • 14.                   Confused by the rules of accurate eye contact, tone of voice, proximity of body, body stance, and posture in conversation I dont know if this is it? I dont think much about the rules, its just whats comfortable to me. And not much is comfortable to me.
  • 15.                   Conversation are often exhausting
  • 16.                   Questions the actions and behaviors of self and others, continually
  • 17.                   Feels as if missing a conversation “gene” or thought-filter
  • 18.                   Trained self in social interactions through readings and studying of other people I know my addiction to fiction pretty much thoroughly shapes my understanding of social interactions. Which, you know: small talk isnt usually bothered with in fiction, because it doesnt forward the plot. Which might be part of why I always thought being in an adventure together is a sure-fire way to make friends. It makes people REALLY talk, instead of noise-talk.
  • 19.                   Visualizes and practices how she will act around others
  • 20.                   Practices/rehearses in mind what she will say to another before entering the room
  • 21.                   Difficulty filtering out background noise when talking to othersfor someone with such a sensitivity to sound, I dont really have any problem with background noise. I mean, in listening to people. Some background noises drive me crazy emotionally, but they dont make listening difficult.
  • 22.                   Has a continuous dialogue in mind that tells her what to say and how to act when in a social situationhas a continuous dialogue in mind period. My brain is always rehearsing thoughts and words, spinning a narrative out of whatever.
  • 23.                   Sense of humor sometimes seems quirky, odd, inappropriate, or different from others
  • 24.                   As a child it was hard to know when it was her turn to talkas a CHILD? Its funny this is often used to describe interrupting, but it also describes NOT talking because you cant figure out when its okay for you to speak. And then the conversation changes and what you had to say doesnt relate anymore, anyway. Yes, this is an ongoing thing for me.
  • 25.                   Finds norms of conversation confusing
  • 26.                   Finds unwritten and unspoken rules difficult to grasp, remember, and apply

Section F: Finds Refuge when Alone

  • 1.     Feels extreme relief when she doesn’t have to go anywhere, talk to anyone, answer calls, or leave the house but at the same time will often harbor guilt for “hibernating” and not doing “what everyone else is doing
  • 2.     One visitor at the home may be perceived as a threat (this can even be a familiar family member)
  • 3.     Knowing logically a house visitor is not a threat, doesn’t relieve the anxiety see, I never feel threatened by visitors, usually Im happy about them, but I get anxious about what I should be doing. Do I need to try to engage them in conversation CONSTANTLY? Is it okay for me to go read or check twitter while theyre here, even if theyre occupied with the kids or something? Im awkward about it.
  • 4.     Feelings of dread about upcoming events and appointments on the calendar
  • 5.     Knowing she has to leave the house causes anxiety from the moment she wakes up
  • 6.     All the steps involved in leaving the house are overwhelming and exhausting to think aboutno. But its amazing how consistently I cant find my keys, even when I make an effort to keep them in one placethats the ADHD.
  • 7.     She prepares herself mentally for outings, excursions, meetings, and appointments, often days before a scheduled event
  • 8.     OCD tendencies when it comes to concepts of time, being on time, tracking time, recording time, and managing time (could be carried over to money, as well) HAHAHAHAHAH no. How about No concept of time whatsoever? This is the ADHD again.
  • 9.     Questions next steps and movements, continually
  • 10.                   Sometimes feels as if she is on stage being watched and/or a sense of always having to act out the “right” steps, even when she is home alone OMG OTHER PEOPLE DO THIS. I often have internal conversations with imaginary observers, explaining why Im doing what Im doing. Often I go off on imaginary tangents about the music Im listening to, but thats beside the point.
  • 11.                   Telling self the “right” words and/or positive self-talk (CBT) doesn’t typically alleviate anxiety. CBT may cause increased feelings of inadequacy. Ive gotten pretty good at identifying irrational thoughts and explaining why theyre such, but, yeah, doesnt really change the situation.
  • 12.                   Knowing she is staying home all day brings great peace of mind
  • 13.                   Requires a large amount of down time or alone time
  • 14.                   Feels guilty after spending a lot of time on a special interest
  • 15.                   Uncomfortable in public locker rooms, bathrooms, and/or dressing rooms yo, I was a band and musical theater kid. No shame.
  • 16.                   Dislikes being in a crowded mall, crowded gym, and/or crowded theater how about in a crowd period? Its not so bad if I can stay in one place doing my own thingif the place doesnt have other unpleasantnesses, like smoke or noise or air conditioning ventsI mean, nothing wrong with sitting in ones seat at a crowded theater-- but navigating the crowd is the hard part.

Section G: Sensitive

1.     Sensitive to sounds, textures, temperature, and/or smells when trying to sleep
2.     Adjusts bedclothes, bedding, and/or environment in an attempt to find comfort
3.     Dreams are anxiety-ridden, vivid, complex, and/or precognitive in nature
4.     Highly intuitive to others’ feelings
5.     Highly empathetic, sometimes to the point of confusion
6.     Takes criticism to heart
7.     Longs to be seen, heard, and understood
8.     Questions if she is a “normal” person
9.     Highly susceptible to outsiders’ viewpoints and opinions
10.                   At times adapts her view of life or actions based on others’ opinions or words
11.                   Recognizes own limitations in many areas daily, if not hourly
12.                   Becomes hurt when others question or doubt her work
13.                   Views many things as an extension of self
14.                   Fears others opinions, criticism, and judgment
15.                   Dislikes words and events that hurt animals and people
16.                   Collects or rescues animals (often in childhood)
17.                   Huge compassion for suffering (sometimes for inanimate objects/personification)
18.                   Sensitive to substances (environmental toxins, foods, alcohol, medication, hormones, etc.)
19.                   Tries to help, offers unsolicited advice, or formalizes plans of action
20.                   Questions life purpose and how to be a “better” person
21.                   Seeks to understand abilities, skills, and/or gifts

--this whole section just screams out me, doesnt it. ME. THOROUGHLY ME. The exceptions? Ive never really been an animal personWHICH FOR CRYING OUT LOUD doesnt mean I DISLIKE animals or arent sensitive to their feelings, I just dont have any undue ATTRACTION to them, either. And I dont know if the environment is just SO FULL of contaminants that subtle changes dont make much of a difference or what. There are some medications that dont seem to do anything AT ALL, though otherslike stimulants give me anxiety, and alcohol puts me to sleep. I dont know. And 19 just seems way too extroverted to me.

Section H: Sense of Self

  • 1.     Feels trapped between wanting to be herself and wanting to fit in
  • 2.     Imitates others without realizing it
  • 3.     Suppresses true wishes (often in young adulthood)
  • 4.     Exhibits codependent behaviors (often in young adulthood)
  • 5.     Adapts self in order to avoid ridiculeI mean, this is the crux of number 1, too. I refused to not be me. But at the same time I felt very conscious of how me wasnt normal. So I guess I did adapt myself in the sense that I withdrew a lot. Instead of speaking up and getting laughed at, I just stopped trying.
  • 6.     Rejects social norms and/or questions social normsand I felt like such a rebel
  • 7.     Feelings of extreme isolation
  • 8.     Feeling good about self takes a lot of effort and work
  • 9.     Switches preferences based on environment and other people
  • 10.                   Switches behavior based on environment and other people
  • 11.                   Didn’t care about her hygiene, clothes, and appearance before teenage years and/or before someone else pointed these out to herit is nice to know that this is actually linked to my autistic tendencies, somehow. I dont know why thats a relief and other things arent, but, who knows.
  • 12.                   “Freaks out” but doesn’t know why until laterno, if I freak out, Im pretty sure why.
  • 13.                   Young sounding voice this is a thing? I mean its not just me? Cool!
  • 14.                   Trouble recognizing what she looks like and/or has occurrences of slight prosopagnosia (difficulty recognizing or remembering faces) I often have trouble linking NAMES and faces, but I can usually tell a familiar face.
  • 15.                   Feels significantly younger on the inside than on the outside (perpetually twelve) I love that twelve is the age mentioned here, because thats it. TWELVE. I mean, obviously Im an adult, I know Im not twelve, but. I was going to write about turning 40, because I still dont FEEL middle aged. I know I AM, and my body sure acts it, but its like, Oh yeah, 40, whatever, well, when I grow UP Ill…”

Section I: Confusion

  • 1.     Had a hard time learning that others are not always honest
  • 2.     Feelings seem confusing, illogical, and unpredictable (self’s and others’) I like to think I have a pretty good understanding of how feelings work, actually.
  • 3.     Confuses appointment times, numbers, and/or dates yeah, gotta love those executive function disorders. This is ADHD, too. WHICH DO YOU HAVE? Both, already, just both. It doesnt matter what the label is!
  • 4.     Expects that by acting a certain way certain results can be achieved, but realizes in dealing with emotions, those results don’t always manifest I dont really understand this one, so Im going with no.
  • 5.     Spoke frankly and literally in youth frankly, yes, literally, not so much.
  • 6.     Jokes go over the head I mean not CONSISTENTLY, but I wrote a whole article about this once.
  • 7.     Confused when others ostracize, shun, belittle, trick, and betrayagain, Im just like, WHY? Why not be nice? Isnt that better for everybody?
  • 8.     Trouble identifying feelings unless they are extreme I know I just said I like to think I understand feelings pretty well, and I do, but it IS hard to determine how I feel about something if the feeling isnt SCREAMING at me.
  • 9.     Trouble with emotions of hate and dislike
  • 10.                   Feels sorry for someone who has persecuted or hurt her
  • 11.                   Personal feelings of anger, outrage, deep love, fear, giddiness, and anticipation seem to be easier to identify than emotions of joy, satisfaction, calmness, and serenity nah, Id say the opposite, actually. Pairs up with 9 and 10. And 7. Negativity in general, Im uncomfortable with, and so theyre HARDER to admit to by identifying.
  • 12.                   Difficulty recognizing how extreme emotions (outrage, deep love) will affect her and challenges transferring what has been learned about emotions from one situation to the nextI dont understand this one either. I do have trouble learning from mistakes, if thats related.
  • 13.                   Situations and conversations sometimes perceived as black or white
  • 14.                   The middle spectrum of outcomes, events, and emotions is sometimes overlooked or misunderstood (all or nothing mentality) nah, Im all about shades of gray, 13 and 14. This one is clearly  Sammy, though.
  • 15.                   A small fight might signal the end of a relationship or collapse of world
  • 16.                   A small compliment might boost her into a state of blissI wish! To balance out 15! But thats normal, it always seems like, for anybody, one bad review will cancel out 20 good ones, and so forth.

Section J: Words, Numbers, and Patterns

  • 1.     Likes to know word origins and/or origin of historical facts/root cause and foundation like, who doesnt? (Kidding. I know theres lots of boring people in the world).
  • 2.     Confused when there is more than one meaning (or spelling) to a word uh no, thats what makes it fun.
  • 3.     High interest in songs and song lyrics
  • 4.     Notices patterns frequently
  • 5.     Remembers things in visual pictures
  • 6.     Remembers exact details about someone’s life I mean, it depends on the person, and the details. How many details are we talking about, anyway?
  • 7.     Has a remarkable memory for certain details
  • 8.     Writes or creates to relieve anxietyHEY LOOK, ITS ME AGAIN
  • 9.      Has certain “feelings” or emotions towards words and/or numbers
  • 10.                   Words and/or numbers bring a sense of comfort and peace, akin to a friendship
  • (Optional) Executive Functioning & Motor Skills  This area isn’t always as evident as other areas
  • 1.     Simple tasks can cause extreme hardship
  • 2.     Learning to drive a car or rounding the corner in a hallway can be troublesome Id say no, but it did take me three tries to pass my drivers test, and, um, yes, I do walk into walls frequently.
  • 3.     New places offer their own set of challengeswhat does this mean?
  • 4.     Anything that requires a reasonable amount of steps, dexterity, or know-how can rouse a sense of panicnot panic. Lack of ability, definitely. But little anxiety attached.
  • 5.     The thought of repairing, fixing, or locating something can cause anxiety no I like repairing things, I dont know what youre talking about.
  • 6.     Mundane tasks are avoided
  • 7.     Cleaning self and home may seem insurmountable
  • 8.     Many questions come to mind when setting about to do a task um, yes?
  • 9.     Might leave the house with mismatched socks, shirt buttoned incorrectly, and/or have dyslexia and/or dysgraphia the latter is J and M, not me, but I am scatterbrained and may miss things like the first part.
  • 10.                   A trip to the grocery store can be overwhelming When Im in a really crowded grocery store, I notice I shrink into myself. I focus on getting what I need to get and try to block everything else around me out. So, maybe it is overwhelming, but Ive learned to deal with it?
  • 11.                   Trouble copying dance steps, aerobic moves, or direction in a sports gym class
  • 12.                   Has a hard time finding certain objects in the house but remembers with exact clarity where other objects are;/ not being able to locate something or thinking about locating something can cause feelings of intense anxiety (object permanence challenges) (even with something as simple as opening an envelope) again with the anxiety, list maker! I feel you may be conflating your anxiety problems with your autistic tendencies. But the first part? Clearly me. Thats an ADHD thing, too. The overlap between ADHD and autism could be another conflationor it could just be Dont Try So Hard to Label Things -itis.
rockinlibrarian: (eggman)
 I've been thinking about my place on the Autistic Spectrum a lot this week for some reason, and I've found it's made me suddenly really self-conscious. The problem is that my autistic traits ARE the traits I've always most struggled with, when it comes to self-acceptance-- these are the traits I've always hated myself over. When I got diagnosed with ADHD, it was a relief to my sense of self-acceptance, because look, those traits have a CAUSE! But while I may have been FRUSTRATED with my scatterbrained tendencies, those weren't the traits that made me HATE myself. They just made (and continue to make) me frustrated. See, I guess it's that nobody ever picked on me for those things-- except maybe that I'm late all the time, but that only became a problem in adulthood, and it's easier to not take being picked on to heart when you're an adult.

Whereas it's my struggles to get words out of my mouth, particularly when I really have something to say, that has historically always led to my breakdowns, and to this day the term "crybaby" is one of my worst triggers.

 So okay, right, shouldn't it be a relief to know that this is caused by a genuine disability and not just me being stupid? Just like it was a relief to find out that my scatterbrained tendencies are a genuine disability?

 Apparently not. Maybe it's because I've internalized all the myths and misunderstandings about autism over the years. When my brother was diagnosed with what is now called a spectrum disorder but was then called Pervasive Developmental Disorder-- Not Otherwise Specified, it was all about checklists of symptoms. Since he didn't exactly fit the checklists for Classical Autism or Asperger's Syndrome, but still obviously had a Disorder, they gave him all those letters, PDD-NOS, which totally seemed like a cop-out diagnosis to me. The way they do it nowadays makes so much more sense. Anyway, so back in the 90s when this was the way these things were diagnosed, the literature spoke of "shadow symptoms." It was common for family members especially to share SOME of the symptoms, but not enough to have a "disorder." "This is YOU," my dad pointed out to me, perceptively.

 But, like, I didn't have a DISORDER. I could pass as NORMAL.

 Except that I DID have a disorder, it was called Clinical Depression, and it was caused by the unshakeable sense that I was NOT and never COULD be Normal and I hated myself for it.

 But all those symptom checklists. They just camouflaged that autism is, at its heart, a Communication Disorder. Period. I was always tickled by this thing in one of Jason's favorite animes, Ghost in the Shell--  when these cyborg crimefighters would go off-line so other cyborgs and computer systems couldn't communicate with them through internettish means, they'd call it "going into Autistic Mode." I liked that. Of course! Because it's a communication thing! I mean, these cyborgs didn't go into Autistic Mode so they could start stimming and taking everything literally, it was strictly a term for a communication mode.

 And that's what the autistic Spectrum actually IS. At one end you have people who are completely non-communicative. At the other you have people who can get through life passing as "normal" despite the fact that communication, for them, can be a serious struggle.

All the other stuff is just extra. Things that are COMMON among people with autism, but they don't DEFINE autism. So, like, I don't stim or make random noises. I can in fact carry on a conversation, though I might struggle for words, and not look at the people I'm talking to much, and it's not apparent how much WORK I'm putting into the process at the time. Basically all my social anxieties stem from my trouble verbalizing-- I've noticed this. It's not about being afraid of an audience or of sharing my real thoughts, it just all comes down to the process of TALKING. It's difficult. I hate having to deal with it. If it's a topic I'm interested in, YAY! I can do it, but if it's, God forbid, SMALL TALK?! I just smile, make noncommittal responses, and think "GO AWAY, PLEASE GO AWAY, YOU CAN STOP TRYING TO TALK TO ME ANY TIME NOW, GO AWAY" at the very nice person I am on the surface being very nice to.*

So what I'm saying is, YES, I by most basic definition have an Autistic Spectrum Disorder, even if I'm better off at passing than a lot of people are.

But, in the first place, the pervasiveness of the myths and misunderstandings make it hard to claim, to identify with. "Autistic people lack a sense of humor," is one very clear myth. We may have QUIRKY senses of humor. We may not react to jokes in totally expected ways, and we may suck at delivery of jokes (eh, communication disorder, remember?), but dang if most of the people I know on the high-functioning end of the spectrum at least don't regularly crack me up. In this family we even have a phrase: "That was an Uncle Danny joke." My brother's sense of humor is just THAT APPARENT.

"Autistic people don't understand metaphor." True, MANY autistic people don't understand metaphor. But it's not an integral part of the concept of autism. I am very INTO metaphor, myself, thank you very much. I tend to look at EVERYTHING metaphorically, sometimes.

"Autistic people lack empathy." No. Straight up myth. That is in fact the definition of a sociopath, not of an autistic person (not that that's mutually exclusive). An autistic person may have (and probably DOES have) trouble EXPRESSING empathy, or behaving tactfully in situations other people expect empathy to have some control over, like expressing sympathy when someone else is hurting. I for one have entirely too MUCH empathy. There's that part in Meet the Austins when Vicky's feeling awkward about the right way to behave about all the funeral stuff going on in the house and she's like "Does this mean I don't care, I'm unloving?" and her uncle's like, "No, actually, I think you have too MUCH empathy. You don't need to show sympathy, you're just EXPERIENCING it." Or something like that. At any rate I identified with it. Madeleine L'Engle has more than a few major characters who might in fact be on the spectrum, if you think about it. I wonder if she was.

 When I was looking up "autism in girls" the other day, just because I was thinking about it so much and wanted to see what the latest thinking was, Google gives "related searches" suggestions and one of them was even, "Can people with Asperger's feel love?" OH MY GOSH, SERIOUSLY. Again this is pervasive myth, related to the one about empathy I suppose. Just because we might be bad about EXPRESSING it. Just because we do have higher instances of asexuality and demisexuality (me!) than the average population and people often confuse that sort of thing with "love"! IT'S A COMMUNICATION DISORDER. FULL STOP. Being unable to COMMUNICATE the extent of ones full inner life does not mean that the full inner life doesn't EXIST.

 But in the SECOND place, I DO have certain secondary symptoms, myself. And thinking about them reminds me of the SHAME they've always brought me. Very very sensitive to noise. When I was a kid I FREQUENTLY had episodes where I'd cover my ears and scream because of prolonged loud noise that was usually caused by other kids and they'd all give me that "what is YOUR problem?" look and I'd feel like a total party-pooper and nobody could ever like me again. Nowadays when you see a kid do that, and you're a grownup, you're just like, "ah, that kid is having a bit of an autistic meltdown!" but back in the day I think the adults just thought I was overreacting, too, and anyway, it was the kids' reactions that bothered me most. Because I WANTED to have friends. I WANTED to fit in. And I kept doing idiotic things like having meltdowns and ruining it.

This is the picture Maddie has set as my computer log-in screen background right now (she has a thing for changing the backgrounds on all my electronics on whims). It's a fairly recent picture, and to Maddie I'm sure it's just a super-cute picture of her parents. Probably is to you, too. But I keep looking at my eyes and mouth and feeling hyper-aware of their BLANKNESS. It's a...totally autistic expression, to be perfectly frank. When I look at myself in the mirror, I usually make a face. Not in an, "ew, look at that ugly thing," way, I mean I turn on an expression.** I do a little act for myself. I mean, I'm good at making expressions. But I do them on PURPOSE. I'm used to seeing myself, in the mirror, doing one of these acts. But in real life, when I'm just caught candidly-- or I'm not really FEELING a photo shoot and try to fake a "nice smile"-- you can see my typical expression is just this...blankness. And I hate it. "I look like a weirdo," I think. Stupid thoughts like "Martin Freeman could NEVER fall in love with someone who looks like that" flit through my head. Even though it's not like people HAVEN'T fallen in love with me before, "weird" lack-of-expressions and all. But I have a deep-seeded self-consciousness over it. I look at myself surrounded by pictures of other people and just think "Why don't I look like everybody else? I just DON'T FIT." Maddie looks exactly like me and I think she's one of the most beautiful people in the world, but (on one hand) I'm incredibly biased, and (on the other hand) SHE'S NEVER expressionless.

So anyway, all the thinking I've been doing on this this week keeps reminding me of all these things about myself I've always been REALLY SENSITIVE about. So they're all just typical autistic things? So what. That just means they're even more PART of me, out of my control. I can't pretend they don't actually exist, that I really am "normal."

And yet on the other hand... kids and I just finished reading Order of the Phoenix. A few months ago on Twitter I saw someone thank J.K. Rowling for giving autistic girls some positive representation through Luna Lovegood. I have always identified with Luna. When I first read Order of the Phoenix I was all "OMG I HAVE FINALLY ARRIVED AT HOGWARTS." I mean I'd identified with Hermione before, to an extent, but this was DIFFERENT. This was seeing myself from the OUTSIDE, in a book. Someone NOT QUITE THERE, like me, in a fantasy adventure story. I'd never thought of Luna as autistic, but this time through, with the idea planted in my head from that tweet, it was OBVIOUS. The way she looked past people instead of at them when she talked. Her unexpected emotional (or lack thereof) reactions. The way she always looked like she just wandered into wherever she was accidentally.

 But I LOVE Luna. She is one of my favorite fictional characters of ALL TIME. I love her FOR her weirdness. So if I can love her for the very things I hate about myself-- why can't I return myself the favor?

 

 *Side note: this just reminds me of how many book vendors that call me at the library apparently have this script they use that begins with small talk, "So, what are your plans for the weekend?" "So, what's the weather like in [sound of rustling paper] Western Pennsylvania today!" Uh...um, let's talk about books, that IS why you called me, isn't it? Also, I don't have any budget to buy from you at this time, but at least can we at least skip ahead to the important stuff?

**I read oh what was it called, a Frances Hardinge book last year-- OH A Face Like Glass obviously. Everyone in that society LEARNED their expressions, used them purposely, which is why the main character whose expressions came naturally shocked everyone there. It struck me as very metaphoric for this autistic symptom. Eventually it turns out (minor thematic spoiler) that this society IS what people aboveground call fairy land, AND in actual history it's suspected that many of the children people suspected of being fairy changelings were in fact autistic, SO.... Yeah, I don't know what, so. But I have always felt like a changeling, too, for that matter. 

rockinlibrarian: (Default)
I've been thinking about my place on the Autistic Spectrum a lot this week for some reason, and I've found it's made me suddenly really self-conscious. The problem is that my autistic traits ARE the traits I've always most struggled with, when it comes to self-acceptance-- these are the traits I've always hated myself over. When I got diagnosed with ADHD, it was a relief to my sense of self-acceptance, because look, those traits have a CAUSE! But while I may have been FRUSTRATED with my scatterbrained tendencies, those weren't the traits that made me HATE myself. They just made (and continue to make) me frustrated. See, I guess it's that nobody ever picked on me for those things-- except maybe that I'm late all the time, but that only became a problem in adulthood, and it's easier to not take being picked on to heart when you're an adult.

Whereas it's my struggles to get words out of my mouth, particularly when I really have something to say, that has historically always led to my breakdowns, and to this day the term "crybaby" is one of my worst triggers.

So okay, right, shouldn't it be a relief to know that this is caused by a genuine disability and not just me being stupid? Just like it was a relief to find out that my scatterbrained tendencies are a genuine disability?

Apparently not. Maybe it's because I've internalized all the myths and misunderstandings about autism over the years. When my brother was diagnosed with what is now called a spectrum disorder but was then called Pervasive Developmental Disorder-- Not Otherwise Specified, it was all about checklists of symptoms. Since he didn't exactly fit the checklists for Classical Autism or Asperger's Syndrome, but still obviously had a Disorder, they gave him all those letters, PDD-NOS, which totally seemed like a cop-out diagnosis to me. The way they do it nowadays makes so much more sense. Anyway, so back in the 90s when this was the way these things were diagnosed, the literature spoke of "shadow symptoms." It was common for family members especially to share SOME of the symptoms, but not enough to have a "disorder." "This is YOU," my dad pointed out to me, perceptively.

But, like, I didn't have a DISORDER. I could pass as NORMAL.

Except that I DID have a disorder, it was called Clinical Depression, and it was caused by the unshakeable sense that I was NOT and never COULD be Normal and I hated myself for it.

But all those symptom checklists. They just camouflaged that autism is, at its heart, a Communication Disorder. Period. I was always tickled by this thing in one of Jason's favorite animes, Ghost in the Shell-- when these cyborg crimefighters would go off-line so other cyborgs and computer systems couldn't communicate with them through internettish means, they'd call it "going into Autistic Mode." I liked that. Of course! Because it's a communication thing! I mean, these cyborgs didn't go into Autistic Mode so they could start stimming and taking everything literally, it was strictly a term for a communication mode.

And that's what the autistic Spectrum actually IS. At one end you have people who are completely non-communicative. At the other you have people who can get through life passing as "normal" despite the fact that communication, for them, can be a serious struggle.

All the other stuff is just extra. Things that are COMMON among people with autism, but they don't DEFINE autism. So, like, I don't stim or make random noises. I can in fact carry on a conversation, though I might struggle for words, and not look at the people I'm talking to much, and it's not apparent how much WORK I'm putting into the process at the time. Basically all my social anxieties stem from my trouble verbalizing-- I've noticed this. It's not about being afraid of an audience or of sharing my real thoughts, it just all comes down to the process of TALKING. It's difficult. I hate having to deal with it. If it's a topic I'm interested in, YAY! I can do it, but if it's, God forbid, SMALL TALK?! I just smile, make noncommittal responses, and think "GO AWAY, PLEASE GO AWAY, YOU CAN STOP TRYING TO TALK TO ME ANY TIME NOW, GO AWAY" at the very nice person I am on the surface being very nice to.*

So what I'm saying is, YES, I by most basic definition have an Autistic Spectrum Disorder.

But, in the first place, the pervasiveness of the myths and misunderstandings make it hard to claim, to identify with. "Autistic people lack a sense of humor," is one very clear myth. We may have QUIRKY senses of humor. We may not react to jokes in totally expected ways, and we may suck at delivery of jokes (eh, communication disorder, remember?), but dang if most of the people I know on the high-functioning end of the spectrum at least don't regularly crack me up. In this family we even have a phrase: "That was an Uncle Danny joke." My brother's sense of humor is just THAT APPARENT.
"Autistic people don't understand metaphor." True, MANY autistic people don't understand metaphor. But it's not an integral part of the concept of autism. I am very INTO metaphor, myself, thank you very much. I tend to look at EVERYTHING metaphorically, sometimes.
"Autistic people lack empathy." No. Straight up myth. That is in fact the definition of a sociopath, not of an autistic person (not that that's mutually exclusive). An autistic person may have (and probably DOES have) trouble EXPRESSING empathy, or behaving tactfully in situations other people expect empathy to have some control over, like expressing sympathy when someone else is hurting. I for one have entirely too MUCH empathy. There's that part in Meet the Austins when Vicky's feeling awkward about the right way to behave about all the funeral stuff going on in the house and she's like "Does this mean I don't care, I'm unloving?" and her uncle's like, "No, actually, I think you have too MUCH empathy. You don't need to show sympathy, you're just EXPERIENCING it." Or something like that. At any rate I identified with it. Madeleine L'Engle has more than a few major characters who might in fact be on the spectrum, if you think about it. I wonder if she was.

When I was looking up "autism in girls" the other day, just because I was thinking about it so much and wanted to see what the latest thinking was (I'll go into this more in a minute), Google gives "related searches" suggestions and one of them was even, "Can people with Asperger's feel love?" OH MY GOSH, SERIOUSLY. Again this is pervasive myth, related to the one about empathy I suppose. Just because we might be bad about EXPRESSING it. Just because we do have higher instances of asexuality and demisexuality (me!) than the average population and people often confuse that sort of thing with "love"! IT'S A COMMUNICATION DISORDER. FULL STOP. Being unable to COMMUNICATE the extent of ones full inner life does not mean that the full inner life doesn't EXIST.

But in the SECOND place, I DO have certain secondary symptoms, myself. And thinking about them reminds me of the SHAME they've always brought me. Very very sensitive to noise. When I was a kid I FREQUENTLY had episodes where I'd cover my ears and scream because of prolonged loud noise that was usually caused by other kids and they'd all give me that "what is YOUR problem?" look and I'd feel like a total party-pooper and nobody could ever like me again. Nowadays when you see a kid do that, and you're a grownup, you're just like, "ah, that kid is having a bit of an autistic meltdown!" but back in the day I think the adults just thought I was overreacting, too, and anyway, it was the kids' reactions that bothered me most. Because I WANTED to have friends. I WANTED to fit in. And I kept doing idiotic things like having meltdowns and ruining it.
This is the picture Maddie has set as my computer log-in screen background right now (she has a thing for changing the backgrounds on all my electronics on whims). It's a fairly recent picture, and to Maddie I'm sure it's just a super-cute picture of her parents. Probably is to you, too. But I keep looking at my eyes and mouth and feeling hyper-aware of their BLANKNESS. It's a...totally autistic expression, to be perfectly frank. When I look at myself in the mirror, I usually make a face. Not in an, "ew, look at that ugly thing," way, I mean I turn on an expression. I do a little act for myself. I mean, I'm good at making expressions. But I do them on PURPOSE. I'm used to seeing myself, in the mirror, doing one of these acts. But in real life, when I'm just caught candidly-- or I'm not really FEELING a photo shoot and try to fake a "nice smile"-- you can see my typical expression is just this...blankness. And I hate it. "I look like a weirdo," I think. Stupid thoughts like "Martin Freeman could NEVER fall in love with someone who looks like that" flit through my head. Even though it's not like people HAVEN'T fallen in love with me before, "weird" lack-of-expressions and all. But I have a deep-seeded self-consciousness over it. I look at myself surrounded by pictures of other people and just think "Why don't I look like everybody else? I just DON'T FIT." Maddie looks exactly like me and I think she's one of the most beautiful people in the world, but (on one hand) I'm incredibly biased, and (on the other hand) SHE'S NEVER expressionless.

So anyway, all the thinking I've been doing on this this week keeps reminding me of all these things about myself I've always been REALLY SENSITIVE about. So they're all just typical autistic things? So what. That just means they're even more PART of me, out of my control. I can't pretend they don't actually exist, that I really am "normal."

And yet on the other hand... kids and I just finished reading Order of the Phoenix. A few months ago on Twitter I saw someone thank J.K. Rowling for giving autistic girls some positive representation through Luna Lovegood. I have always identified with Luna. When I first read Order of the Phoenix I was all "OMG I HAVE FINALLY ARRIVED AT HOGWARTS." I mean I'd identified with Hermione before, to an extent, but this was DIFFERENT. This was seeing myself from the OUTSIDE, in a book. Someone NOT QUITE THERE, like me, in a fantasy adventure story. I'd never thought of Luna as autistic, but this time through, with the idea planted in my head from that tweet, it was OBVIOUS. The way she looked past people instead of at them when she talked. Her unexpected emotional (or lack thereof) reactions. The way she always looked like she just wandered into wherever she was accidentally.

But I LOVE Luna. She is one of my favorite fictional characters of ALL TIME. I love her FOR her weirdness. So if I can love her for the very things I hate about myself-- why can't I return myself the favor?


*Side note: this just reminds me of how many book vendors that call me at the library apparently have this script they use that begins with small talk, "So, what are your plans for the weekend?" "So, what's the weather like in [sound of rustling paper] Western Pennsylvania today!" Uh...um, let's talk about books, that IS why you called me, isn't it? Also, I don't have any budget to buy from you at this time, but at least can we at least skip ahead to the important stuff?
rockinlibrarian: (tesseract)
 I'm going to write up something more universal--and less of a specific review, because there's already a review there-- for GeekMom, but I want to share my Individual Fan perspective with other Individual Fans, ie Emily, and probably other people but Emily's the first person I'm thinking of because I know she's going in from a similar mindset, even though I liked the made-for-TV movie more than she did.

First of all, the previews were liars-- I was worried they seemed to be ignoring the book, but no, it was definitely My Book alright. I think it definitely did justice to all the book stands for. And yes, thank goodness, they do use the term "tesser" frequently. The previews were also liars because there were a lot of things in them that ended up not showing in the final movie, which is sad, I hope there are LOTS of deleted scenes in the future DVD release (and please let them release it on DVD, we don't have Blu-ray). The previews were also liars because-- well, I don't think they marketed it correctly, but I'll go into more detail on GeekMom. 

I sat in the theater in a fairly perpetual state of joy, though. That's speaking as a superfan of the book. I think a lot of details weren't quite explained or explored fully (for example, scene in previews that wasn't in the movie? The String-and-bug tesseract explanation), but it's hard for me to say, because I KNOW the book so well that my own brain filled in those details. Yeah, non-book-readers may not have been getting the full effect. 

But I didn't ever feel like, "No, you're not getting it right." It felt like My Book. I actually laughed out loud at a completely non-funny moment just because it so completely captured the image in my head that I almost swore I'd seen it before-- and the image in my head looks like an abandoned school room with a mysterious column in the middle, not like the Sea of Holes in Yellow Submarine, but EVIL CHARLES WALLACE was so exactly channeling my interior Charles Wallace at that point that after laughing out loud I actually SAID out loud, "That's Charles Wallace," which is kind of ironic because the point was he WASN'T really Charles Wallace, but, you get my drift.

Charles Wallace, incidentally-- whew, they did a good job finding that kid. I've always said he'd be a hard character to cast, because you need to find a kid who can be a supergenius without being intolerable, and he pulled that off. Meg, also, was SO VERY MEG-- I already said that from the previews alone-- those lying previews-- she was already starting to paste her looks onto the Meg in my head, so that I see Storm Reid now even when I'm thinking of something non-movie related. 

It fixed both the Major Issues I had with the TV movie-- like I said from the previews, they got that street in Camazotz right, although with the other changes they made to Camazotz the issue is a little more confusing-- it's really hard to say what's real and what isn't. So maybe they didn't quite get Camazotz right? They just got THAT part of Camazotz right. And the big issue of Meg not single-handedly saving the universe, but merely winning a major victory in her own way, and having the Mrses show her that she's a fighter for Good who will keep doing so-- that actually happened just right, and I was worried about that going in.

I do have one new Major Issue with this version, though: Mrs Whatsit is WRONG. I was going to say ALL WRONG but there's a lot about her that IS right-- her curiosity and eccentricities. But she is not full of love as she should be, and her wisdom seems to have been all given to Mrs Which. But luckily this did not interfere with my feeling that the movie got the book Right-- in fact I had to think about it to figure out what I didn't like. I was like, "Well, this version fixed the things I didn't like in the TV Movie, so do I have any issues with it? I could have used more Mrs Who, but that's not a bad thing, that just means I loved Mrs Who-- OH BUT MRS WHATSIT WAS WRONG." It wasn't like Studio Ghibli getting Howl Jenkins-Pendragon wrong (speaking of Jenkinses, we have another perfect Mr. Jenkins with this movie, we can go ahead and shoot Wind in the Door now), because the whole story hinged on that character change, and that's why that ruined that movie for me. In this case, the necessary parts of Mrs Whatsit seemed to be carried all right by Mrs Which, so the story remained intact. But the Mrs Whatsit in my head is still an old wise LOVING woman in too many coats and scarves-- movie Whatsit can't make a dent in it.

Although personally I do like "flying lettuce" (as Maddie described it) Uriel-Whatsit better than centaur Uriel Whatsit. That's more of a visual preference than a heart-of-the-story difference, though. 

DAAAAANG the visuals are trippy and therefore wonderful. Who knew my love of psychedelia and my love of Wrinkle In Time were so closely linked? Maddie was all like, "Okay the movie's over, time to go," when the credits started, but I was like, "But they're PRETTY! They're PRETTY credits! I want to watch the pretty credits!" (and Sammy for some reason just wanted to wait until the lights came back up in the theater). I wanted more. My brain kept making up new scenes or, you know, scenes from the book that weren't in the movie, in this trippy visual palate. My visual imagination just did not REALIZE it hadn't been imagining wildly enough before. 

There are other issues I have when I think about it-- like, they cut out the escape to Ixchel for movie-making time/pacing reasons (though at least they nod to its existence), but this means that we don't get the power of Meg CHOOSING to go back to Camazotz because she realizes she's the only one who can do it. She did choose to STAY and save Charles Wallace, so she's not without agency in that decision entirely, but it's not quite as powerful. This also reminds me that Mrs Who doesn't get to quote Corinthians. They did seem to cut all overt references to Christianity in the movie, although it's still spiritual in general-- and she quotes Buddha, so she COULD'VE quoted Corinthians, and it's such a meaningful quote-- "to make me not hate me for being only me," as book-Meg says.

But the other, surface changes to the book read as just fine by me. I didn't miss the twins, or even the New England setting (I mean, it's ANNOYING that Hollywood is so Hollywood-centric, but it probably did save money for trippy visuals instead so why argue?). The Happy Medium was even more masculine than the androgynous one in the TV-movie, and I like both those changes-- he's still on the androgynous side and that just makes SENSE for someone who is all about balance, I dig that. Uriel on the other hand was more FEMININE than in the book-- not that it was masculine in the book, but, you know, centaurs are pretty masculine-- and I loved that, too. Camazotz I'm mixed on, because I liked the additional settings there, and the mindbendingness of that Sea of Holes room, but like I said, it was never clear what was real or not, so you could never tell if there are actually PEOPLE there being oppressed or if it's all just illusions. I mean, the whole everyone-there-gave-into-IT-because-IT-offered-them-security-and-"peace" is a pretty powerful theme, and I think it got lost in the trippiness. I loved how Mrs Who almost spoke ENTIRELY in quotations and I loved that she pulled quotations from such a wide variety of sources (a few of which didn't even exist when the book was written!), which is part of why I wanted more of her-- I just wanted to see the variety of quotations she could come up with and incorporate into any situation! And I was kind of worried about Mrs Oprah Which, because she is so very Oprah, and not so very incorporeal, but she didn't bother me in context of the movie. I liked that they acknowledged her sometimes getting physically-manifesting "wrong," -- and I also liked her retort of (something to the effect of) "what is 'wrong' anyway?" 

So as a book fan, I am satisfied, though I don't know how it will work for non-book-fans. My kids enjoyed it, but didn't say anything like "BEST MOVIE EVER," so I'm not sure how to measure it: Maddie named as her favorite scene the one scene that wasn't remotely in the book, so that was kind of awkward (I did also like that scene, it gave Meg the opportunity to use her brains), but Sammy's response to what his favorite part was, was kind of complicated: "The thing about Love being stronger than darkness"-- ah, he got the point, yay!-- "...that's the same thing My Little Pony is about!" Okay, so maybe it wasn't quite a life-changing experience for them. I do hope they'll let me finish reading the book to them someday (we got a couple chapters in once, last year, but I don't think they were ready for it, and then we got distracted by Harry Potter). 

I do have a couple more things to write up before I end my series on GeekMom-- a more universal response to the movie, as I said, and a what-to-read-next article-- you can catch up on everything Wrinkle I have written there through this post here. See you around!
rockinlibrarian: (Default)

 Hi there. I know I don't type all that much over here anymore because I'm always trying to get in a weekly GeekMom article instead, and those take priority, and are sometimes hard enough to squeeze out of my brain (I'm reworking Ye Olde Year of the Tesseract series over there now, in anticipation of the upcoming movie,* if you haven't noticed-- and even with those first drafts written over here still sometimes I TAKE FOREVER). Have I mentioned I've had "This person has ADHD--Inattentive Type" officially on my official medical records for exactly one year and one week now? Yeah. Interesting how long it has permeated my life without me realizing what was going on. But anyway. A month ago my computer died. I had wanted a new computer for a long time anyway and was kind of disappointed I didn't get one for Christmas, to be honest. It was like my old computer felt sorry for me and decided to force us to make it happen. I luckily had almost everything backed up in THE CLOUD (pictures in Snapfish and Shutterfly, music in Google Play, non-article-writing, which I haven't exactly done anything with in the past few years, anyway, on Dropbox). Anyway, my point is, also, that I got a laptop this time, which means I'll be able to do work in the summertime when the kids want me to take them to the pool, and so on, and at the moment I am on the "desk"-equipped exercise bike, trying to counteract my recent bate of sedentariness. Spellcheck says that word should be "absentmindedness," which no, is not what I meant to say, but is equally true. Exercise helps my brain focus, I just don't like to admit that or more accurately ACT on that. This is a bit awkward on my wrists, though.

Anyway, I'm mainly here to get the whole world off my chest.

Just before I woke up this morning, I dreamed I was giving a bunch of my relatives a spontaneous lecture about information literacy, because I'd seen they'd "Liked" an article that led with a Pro-Life stance, but ended up also jamming into it a bunch of slightly related points that were NOT very Christian if they'd JUST TAKEN A MOMENT TO THINK ABOUT IT-- I mean, in the dream this was all very literal, my conservative and I should also add GOOD relatives had Liked an article and I cautioned them about reading their sources more acutely, but in real life this is a thing that has happened across the board-- lots of "good" people following biased news sources and suddenly finding themselves believing things they wouldn't at all believe if they stopped and thought about it.

Then I wake up and my clock radio is like, "...the latest school shooting has prompted more people to put more pressure on Congress to do something about mass shootings," and I actually went, "HAH, THIS Congress?!" out loud. THIS Congress won't even face up to the MASS TREASON happening all around them! THIS Congress won't even throw out the Madman In Chief who keeps trying to provoke a nuclear war! THIS Congress is ripping up every social support institution in the government calling it a waste of money, and yet accepting GENUINE wastes of money like border walls and deporting law-abiding members of society and Military Parades! and THEIR OVERBLOWN SALARIES. 

I'm AGOG. I'm agog that we as a society haven't been able to do anything with these hypocrites yet.

And I'm sad, because while there are lots of conservatives who've backed away from this mess, who actually see what's going on, there are STILL PEOPLE whose indoctrination by Fox News et al has been SO DEEP that they will do and say anything to deny the hypocrisy, the DEEP LEVELS OF HYPOCRISY involved in trying to defend any of this. "Democrats do bad things, too!" is about the best they can come up with, and it never looked like a worse excuse. 

And I'm scared, because I have a feeling it's only going to get worse until it gets better. People who are really scared to admit when they've been wrong just get more and more zealous about insisting they're right. A lot of people will be hurt in the process, whether emotionally, through losing access to resources or livelihoods, or outright physical violence. These issues cannot just go silently into that good night. This is civil war. I'm not CALLING for war by saying these things, mind you. I'm identifying it. It's on our doorsteps whether we want it or not.

But I'm hopeful, because whether it seems like it or not, we have made some progress as a society over the past year or so. GOOD has become more vocal, too, and though that means often exposing terrible things, which shakes up the status quo, forces us to admit how Problematic our Faves can be (though I still hate that concept). and causes the bad guys being exposed to do MORE terrible things... small changes are happening.  People are waking up. People are taking action in small everyday ways and in big institutional ways, if not quite national government ways. 

This past week there's been a lot of dirty laundry being aired in the Kid Lit world, many writers joining the #MeToo movement by calling out fellow authors for sexual harrassment. It's especially rough because we're all in KID lit, you know, we're supposed to be better role models? Though a lot of the names coming up (especially the worst offenders) I've not been particularly fans of, there are a couple of my faves getting called out, but even them I'm not entirely surprised by, and I find it even hasn't stopped me enjoying their work...mostly I guess because my faves have been called out for being creeps but not outright predators. And that's an important distinction, because that's where the most change can come into play-- like this:

I saw this on Twitter this morning. I admit-- call me a terrible librarian, I'm sorry-- to not being familiar with this guy or his work, but he wrote a response to being called out in this conversation, in which he didn't try to defend himself, make excuses, or say "I'm sorry I'm a jerk but I guess you'll just have to live with it because that's who I am," but actually owns up, says I WAS WRONG AND I AM GOING TO TRY TO BE BETTER. Now, when a guy apologizes for being a jerk, there's a risk of "praising him for doing what a decent person would have done anyway." It reinforces the whole patriarchal men-get-more-leeway-to-mess-up thing. I'm not trying to do that. I'm trying to point out that there's HOPE. People CAN own up to their mistakes and work to do better. I definitely hope all my Faves take this same, introspective route instead of doubling down on their innocence or making excuses or complaining how people can't take a joke. 

And maybe, the more crap that comes to light—in every discipline, in every problem area— the more of these people who have done wrong will step up to make it right, even if it seems the majority of them fight against it all the more savagely. Maybe they can't DO much to fix damage too long done, but they can help stop future damage from occurring. And maybe then more and more problem-people will follow their example, leaving behind the Dark Side and standing with the Light. And maybe, MAYBE, humanity has a chance to get better, after all.

---
*Which I'm STARTING to get a little worried about, to be honest? It's just that, so far, in any of the trailers or TV spots, I haven't heard an ACTUAL LINE from the BOOK. The closest is in how the tesseract is illustrated with a string and a toy bug-- but am I hearing correctly? Have they actually replaced the word "tesseract" with "wrinkle"? Yeeeah. I can deal with poor adaptations existing, but this one is just so BUZZED and people are so EXCITED about it, that it would be a real disappointment if it's just a really pretty movie that has nothing to do with the book (particularly when the much-reviled TV movie WAS relatively true to the book, it just wasn't a great movie). Especially because I'm already starting to like Storm Reid so much as Meg that, after 30 years of INTENSE fandom, she's even managing to creep into my head and replace my old looking-a-lot-like-ME mental picture of Meg. And this Calvin is a cutie: I just love the LEETLE perking up of his eyes in this gif, I think he IS going to be perfect. The Mrs Ws, I just don't know about, I think they could win me over as long as Mrs Whatsit comes INTO the Murry house looking more like a tramp than an angel princess--it doesn't look like she stays that way long if she does. I guess you can't have someone bundled up that way in southern California, which is why they shouldn't have changed the setting. :P  
rockinlibrarian: (christmas)
I am going to add a cut here for archival-scrolling purposes, but I do want to encourage you not only to click through and read, but also to comment, because there are lots of fun things to comment on! Let's trade opinions and junk!
Read more... )
 
  • I got actually, officially, medically diagnosed with ADHD-Inattentive Type, which in retrospect is so obvious I keep being amazed no one thought of it years ago. Indeed, it's been sort of comforting to realize how many weird and/or stupid things I do are actually extremely common among women with ADD. I have noticed I've been a lot less depressed this year, too, and I suspect a lot of it is that the voices in my head who used to put me down all the time, "You never learn from your mistakes, you're a wash-up, how can you be so smart and fail so bad at life?"-- well, now there's a voice going, "oh, that's totally ADHD, there. You know what you're doing."
  • I took the plunge and did Weight Watchers, and annoyingly enough I totally felt better. Turns out this may only partially have to do with the loss of excess weight, but as an added bonus, cutting simple carbs back is, it turns out, really important for making an ADHD brain work better, too. So I'm not on Weight Watchers anymore, but I've been trying to keep in mind many of the things I learned through the experience. Also I lost about 35 pounds.
  • ...which has its drawbacks. Apparently being overweight and then suddenly losing a lot of weight can make ones gallbladder FREAK OUT. So round about June I got violently ill and it turned out to be a wonky gallbladder. So in July I had surgery-- my first major surgery ever-- to get the nasty thing removed. The doctors messed up my expectations by calling the outpatient procedure a "band-aid surgery," because it then took a lot longer for me to recover than I expected it to. Like, a month. At least. But by now, I am indeed feeling much better all around. Thank you for leaving, gallbladder.


  • In September the kids and I went to see Dav Pilkey at the Carnegie Library, which is officially the first time I've ever met one of my "celebrity" crushes in person, and got to shake his hand. He was so sweet and awesome, and is also a huge spokesperson for ADHD so the year has a theme, here.
  • In the fall we made a new furry friend. A Neighborhood Cat, who we took to calling Marshmallow, adopted us. We are at this point 99.9% sure that Marshmallow has an actual home with someone else in the neighborhood, but when she goes out roaming, it's us she visits right away. After I wrote this follow-up piece, mourning that we hadn't seen her for a month, she showed up again! Looking even fatter and healthier than usual, so, yeah, definitely not a stray.


 
Top Five Library Programs I Ran This Year:
  1. Messy Art: I made this the last Family Night of Spring, in late May when it was not likely to be raining, because we HAD to do it outside. We had Alka-Seltzer paint bombs, watercolor-filled squirt gun target practice, turkey baster Jackson-Pollock-esque painting, and the cross between the three that happens when small children get paint everywhere and just try to take advantage of it. To make the evening even more nuts, about three times my usual crowd turned up for it. It was chaos, and it was fun. I read Edward Gets Messy by Rita "Screwy Decimal" Meade, and probably something else but I can't remember what.
  2. Visual Music: More controlled, indoor fun with paint. I made a playlist of a variety of instrumental pieces-- one of the moms there knew all of them except my cousin Ian's acid-rock guitar ramble, which I would have been super impressed if she did-- there was John Williams, Scott Joplin, the Beatles and Pink Floyd, Mozart and some Romantic-era composer I can't remember now because it was kind of boring but made for variety. Anyway, I put it on and we painted to it and it was a delight. I read The Noisy Paintbox, which I loved, see review below, and also probably something else I can't remember. Oh, Say Zoop! by Herve Tullet. That was fun.
  3. Underpants: I was kind of excited about our Dav Pilkey visit (see above), so I threw this topic in, even though I didn't actually read any Captain Underpants. We read Creepy Pair of Underwear! by Aaron Reynolds-- which to be honest, actually is pretty creepy-- and The Underwear Book by Todd Parr, which is always a hit at Outreach. Our project was simple-- they just designed a pair of underwear on a plain line drawing of a pair-- but they were so pleased with it, they unanimously demanded I display their designs on the front desk. So I did, to the additional delight of everyone who came up to the desk for the next couple of weeks. That little program brought a lot of smiles!
  4. Solar Power: It was the Build a Better World Collaborative Summer Reading Theme and a couple weeks before the solar eclipse, so here we go. I read Sun Bread by Elisa Kleven and The Day My Dogs Became Guys by Merrill Markoe (which is about the WEIRD POWERS of a solar eclipse). I had built some pizza box solar ovens, but it was too cloudy for them to work, but luckily that's why I'd decided to make s'mores in them-- so the results were still edible. There WAS just the right amount of sun for photo-sensitive paper art with found objects, though, and the gasps when we rinsed the paper in cold water were totally worth the failed solar ovens.
  5. See The World: I set up stations around the room for each continent (actually I split Asia into West and East and combined Australia/Oceania and Antarctica into one), with books and flags for each. I WAS going to set up a laptop at each station with bookmarks on various interesting sites on Google Streetview, but it turned out most of the library's laptop collection had vanished. So I had to improvise: West and East Asia had to share a computer after all, and I used my Nook and the library's iPad, but the latter two were annoying because it turns out the mobile versions of Google Maps don't HAVE Streetview, so I kept having to "request desktop site." BUT I saw so many awesome places on Streetview while prepping for this program that I wrote this article. I can't remotely remember what I read for it, though.
 
THE MEDIA REVIEWS (which also include Real Life Moments):
 
Top 5 2017 Picture Books:
  1. 50 Cities of the U.S.A, by Gabrielle Balkan: This is more of a thin coffee table book than a proper picture book, to be honest, but it's so awesome I have to put it here. Two different GeekMoms had reviewed it favorably, and I saw it had Pittsburgh and I'm always looking for more local history for the library's children's collection, so I put it on the library's Amazon wishlist. Yes, I gave the library its own Amazon wishlist. A few weeks ago I looked at the list and noticed the book had gone on deep discount, like 5 dollars (while MSRP is 30?), and I have Prime, so I was like, hey, Merry Christmas, library, I'm getting this for you. When it came I turned right to the Pittsburgh page so I could give it a knowledgeable evaluation, and was totally impressed at the variety of cool trivia they included. I especially loved how, for each city, they also spotlighted several contemporary children's authors (not even superstar names!) from the area. For Pittsburgh they picked Megan McDonald ("got her start at the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh" AHEM she spent most of her library career at Adams Memorial in Latrobe, thanks!) and Sharon G. Flake!
  2. The Wolf, the Duck, and the Mouse, by Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen. What, I can't possibly put one of these lists together without it including at LEAST one Barnett and/or Klassen, and this year gave me two. I will rank this one first because I can really see reading it at a story time, once I find a good excuse to.
  3. Triangle: As much as I adore Mac Barnett, I have to admit Klassen's brilliance impresses me the most. The things he can do with simple eye position! Mac's work is a little more the highlight of the first book, but Jon's work is definitely the highlight of this one. I'm apparently on first name bases with them now.
  4. Hilda and the Runaway Baby, by Daisy Hirst: In the "notes" column of my possible-books-to-get list spreadsheet I just wrote "the pictures are hilarious." Indeed, when this eventually came through Junior Library Guild, I just sat there beaming at each page. It's not so much laugh-out-loud funny as just delightful-funny.
  5. Accident! by Andrea Tsurumi: I already know I do not yet appreciate this book enough. These pictures require extended study, which I have not partaken of yet. But already it's fun and everyone wants to go to the library in it, so good.
 
 
Top 5 2017 Longer-than-Picture Books:
  1. A Face Like Glass, Frances Hardinge: Technically this book came out something like five years ago in the UK, but only made it across the pond this year, and it's just so...creative? I'm not sure of a better word to describe reading Frances Hardinge. She's a word-weaver, threading her books with magic like the craftspeople in this book thread magic into their wares. This is the only book in this list I did not get out to read to my kids-- it's just good enough to motivate me to read it anyway. When I was writing it up for GeekMom, one of the GeekDads spotted the cover in the image library and started freaking out with excitement that someone else was reading it!
  2. Princess Cora and the Crocodile, by Laura Amy Schlitz: (That's a Betsy Bird review there. It was just one of the first results of the search, and I was probably highly influenced by this review when I put it on the library's to-buy list, so hey, it'll be my link)...But it had actually been in the library several months before I was like, "Oh wait, that's a perfect Maddie book [humorous fantasy, strong-willed princess, third-grade reading level], I need to bring it home." Then we fought over who actually got to read it first.
  3. Real Friends, by Shannon Hale: I love Shannon Hale so stupid much. Anyway, this book I actually bought for us at home, because it pretty much WAS written for Maddie right where she was-- a graphic "novel" (actually memoir) about the ups-and-downs of elementary school friendship? So Maddie. And so everyone else who remembers how traumatic the elementary school social scene actually was.
  4. The Dragon with a Chocolate Heart, by Stephanie Burgis: I confess I bought this for the library just because it sounded perfect for our family read-alouds, though it's more in the style of the books we were reading earlier in the year than when we finally got around to it after Series of Unfortunate Events (see below). Still, middle grade fantasy about CHOCOLATE. It was hard not to crave chocolate while reading this.
  5. Funny Girl: Funniest. Stories. Ever., edited by Betsy Bird, speaking of me being highly influenced by her literary opinions. She called together a diverse group of truly funny women (the aforementioned Shannon Hale? My Imaginary-big-sister Libba Bray? The mentioned-right-after-this Ursula Vernon?) to contribute to this book. Being an anthology of this nature, the results are mixed, but there are definitely some pretty hilarious stories in here, and the bests were actually from women I knew very little of. As I mentioned in this Between the Bookends review, which also includes more about Real Friends, the funniest story is "Dear Grandpa: Give Me Money,” by Allison DeCamp, but the all around best story is Carmen Agra Deedy’s “One Hot Mess” —which stuck with me so much I watched a TED talk by her the other day. Turns out she's a professional storyteller. Obviously.
Honorable Mentions I Didn't Put Into The Countdown On Account of Their Being From Series I Have Already Discussed and They're More of the Same But Still Awesome:
From Ursula Vernon's Hamster Princess series, Giant Trouble, and there's another Hamster Princess book coming out next month, too, yay! I never get tired of them. Maddie got a pile of pet-related Rainbow Fairies books for Christmas and we both got a big laugh out of one of them being called "Harriet the Hamster Fairy." "It's Harriet the Hamster PRINCESS!" Maddie insisted gleefully.
And of course my bae (I can't believe I just used that word. UGH! It just feels like the right word here anyway. Darn you, "bae") of the year Dav Pilkey released some more Dog Man books, and Dog Man Unleashed and A Tale of Two Kitties were both freakin' hilarious. We also just got Dog Man and Cat Kid which officially came out this week, but I haven't gotten to read it yet.
 

Top 5 Older-than-2017 Picture Books I Read For the First Time:
  1. Du Iz Tak? by Carson Ellis: I was a guest reader for Maddie's second grade classroom and wanted to do a "lesson" on how reading pictures was just as important (if not more so) to reading a picture book as reading the words is, so I brought in one of my favorites from last year, They All Saw a Cat, and then I thought of this one we had just gotten, and this one turned out to be the favorite. I asked the class if any of them knew how to speak bug, and insisted that by the end of the book they'd be able to, and they dove in to decoding bug language with relish. It ended up becoming Maddie's teacher's new favorite book, too!
  2. The Noisy Paint Box: The Colors and Sounds of Kandinsky’s Abstract Art, by Barb Rosenstock: I got the idea for the Visual Music Family Night (see above) without having any particular read-alouds in mind, but this picture book biography of an artist with synesthesia seemed perfect, subject-wise. So I read it and, word-wise, fell in love. It's a perfect length for a read-aloud (not always easy to do with biographies), and I kept thinking, "I would have understood abstract art SO MUCH BETTER if I had had this book as a child." Indeed, synesthesia makes abstract art make more sense, and this picture book makes synesthesia make sense, and it's all a lovely tribute to art in any form.
  3. We Are Growing, by Laurie Keller: I wanted to do a mock Geisel in addition to a mock Caldecott this year, so I pulled out all the 2016 easy readers, and this one made me laugh so much I might have biased our results with my enthusiasm when the group showed up and I was all, "Listen to this one!" So when the votes were totaled, this was our clear winner, but that was all right, because when the actual Geisel committee's votes were totaled this was their clear winner as well, so I guess our taste is pretty good.
  4. Radiant Child: The Story of Young Artist Jean-Michel Basquiat, by Javaka Steptoe: Speaking of Youth Media Award Medalists and of picture book biographies of artists I'd never heard of, it took me a long time to overcome my doubts and give this one a try. I didn't bother ordering it all last year even though it kept getting rave reviews, because bio of a little-known artist? Who's going to check that out? Then it won the Caldecott so I figured I'd better get it, but I still never bothered to open it up until I did a "Family Night At the Museum" Family Night this fall, and-- well, it didn't win the Caldecott for nothing. My jaw literally dropped several times at the gorgeousness of these illustrations. And it's also a picture book biography that's a decent length and flow for a read-aloud, so yay!
  5. Katie Meets the Impressionists, by James Mayhew: This is a book that was made for child-me. Impressionism has always been my favorite visual art style, and this is a story about a girl who walks into great Impressionistic paintings and explores them, so like gah, that is Amy's dream. It's another one I only bothered to pick up while prepping "Family Night at the Museum," and was so glad I had.
 
Top 5 Older-than-2017 Longer-than-Picture Books I Read For the First Time:
  1. The Inquisitor's Tale: Or, The Three Magical Children and Their Holy Dog, by Adam Gidwitz: I'm pretty sure Adam Gidwitz is a kindred spirit and am mildly disappointed we're both married. Gotta love me a folklore geek with a sense of humor. I also wrote up this one for Between the Bookends on GeekMom, too.
  2. The Girl Who Drank the Moon, by Kelly Barnhill: As did I with this one. It really makes me feel like I need to write less here. Sorry about that. Go, click on my longer reviews and read them.
  3. Island of the Aunts, by Eva Ibbotson: While trying to tide my kids over on humorous British fantasy after I insisted they weren't yet ready for Goblet of Fire (see below), I pulled out my copy of The Secret of Platform 13, which incidentally also has Island of the Aunts in the flip side, two books in one. So we read the first, and then I keep squinting at the second: you know, I've seen this around for forever, obviously, but why do I get the feeling I've never actually read it? Indeed, we started that one next, and I hadn't read it before. But I loved it. And dang, she's funny, and English wasn't even her native language.
  4. The Girl Who Could Not Dream, by Sarah Beth Durst: Also, already reviewed for Between the Bookends. Sophie (the GeekMom in charge of Between the Bookends, not the main character of this book, although they are both named Sophie) wrote it up in the post summary using the term "the dream economy" and I'm just kind of taken by it. It feels like it must really exist somehow, with a name like that. The Dream Economy.
  5. So You Want to Be a Jedi? by Adam Gidwitz, again: There's another Between the Bookends review in the same link as the Face Like Glass note above. But seriously, Adam, buddy, fellow student of Joseph Campbell, we really gotta talk shop, here. Turn one of my favorite movies into a second-person monk-training manual and, well, you have made me your best friend forever. So nerdy. So much fun.
Top 5 Rereading Experiences Worth Mentioning:
This is a new category I have to put in just because so much of my reading with the kids was super-memorable and yet of books I personally had read before. And occasionally I do a reread for a storytime that makes me see a book in a new way, too, as in this number 5.
  1. Yes, I have finally introduced the kids to Harry Potter this year and now I have fellow fans. (Oh, and the kids and I are all Hufflepuffs, or more accurately Sam and I are Huffleclaw and Maddie is Huffledor, so the Sorting Hat might have debated a bit. Jason's just straight up Gryffindor, no question). Just the first three books, as they still weren't ready for the end of Goblet of Fire (as it was Chamber of Secrets thoroughly freaked Maddie out). Since then we've read some pretty intense books so they might be ready now, but then they'll want to rush straight through to the end once we pick it up again, and I don't know, then it will be over... but I just have so much I want to share with them in Order of the Phoenix!
  2. A Series of Unfortunate Events was our major read of the year, being that it's thirteen books long. That took us from the end of June to sometime in November, actually. That was an example of some pretty intense content, even though it's presented so tongue-in-cheek. But rereading gave me new appreciation of the cleverness and the ways clues were woven in. Look, I kept forgetting the kids wouldn't learn who Beatrice actually was until the last word of the last book, because my whole understanding of the series was shaped by my knowing that fact now, and I had to stop myself from letting it slip a few times.
  3. Alice's Adventures In Wonderland/Through the Looking Glass: Maddie's a fan of Ever After High, and her favorite character is, naturally, Madeleine Hatter. And Sam's definitely clever enough to get most of the wordplay. So I was like, GOOD, you guys are finally ready for one of my favorite books ever. And indeed? That is just a really friggin' good book(s), and it's even more fun to read out loud (I had read it out loud to my brother decades ago so that wasn't entirely a new experience); and it's just SO NICE to be able to make references to it and have them know what I'm talking about.
  4. Speaking of which, that's why I decided to read them Holes. Sam was complaining something was too hard because he wasn't strong enough, and I shot back, "Then you just need to practice, like carrying a pig up the mountain," and then I was like, whoa, you don't get that reference, but you totally will now let's read this! I realized it had both the complicated mystery-building and over-the-top tongue-in-cheek unfortunateness of Series of Unfortunate Events so they'd probably like it, and indeed, they loved it. And I again got to read what is probably a perfect book, so hey. It also contains one of the Other Fictional Sams I Love, though granted one that dies quickly and violently. Oh, we also got to discuss the history of race relations, so, yay?
  5. The Polar Express: It's a Christmas classic, yes? But I'd never got into it much. But I'd somehow run short on Christmas outreach books the other week, and I was bringing this one class a bag of books about trains, and we have three copies of this in the main library proper, so I was like, what the heck, I'll throw that in. But I totally had my doubts, because it's long, and these were four-year-olds, but what the heck. I started to read, and THEY. WERE. MESMERIZED. No other way to describe it. If somebody had rung any jingle bells in that room at that moment, everyone's hair would have stood on end. So, okay, I get the Christmas classic thing, now.
 
Top 10 Moving Picture Media I Watched This Year:
 
I got confused trying to sort these into "Movies" and "TV." There's Netflix, which shows stuff it calls TV shows, even though it isn't actually broadcast on TV. There's that TV show that's really like three separate movies. There's a feature-length production broken into episodes and shown on You-Tube. Oh, there's an educational YouTube series I stuck in at the last minute because I forgot about it, too. So, we'll put it all together and call it good.
 
  1. Legion: Holy cow. Combine an X-Men storyline with Noah Hawley's storytelling chops and how can you make a show any more up my alley? You make it friggin' psychedelic. It's number one on the list even though there were times I wasn't even sure I really liked it-- I just loved it-- which is something psychedelia does, makes occasionally unpleasant experiences awesome. Ahem. And the characters are all so great. It's so. weird. and I know that makes it therefore not for everybody, but I WANT everybody to see it anyway just so I can talk about it.
  2. Edgar Allan Poe’s Murder Mystery Dinner Party: This was a small webseries-- basically a feature-length film broken into twelve episodes that I referred to above-- that was strongly influenced by the Clue Movie in all the best ways. It's a mystery-farce starring a variety of famous 19th-century...ish authors (the anachronisms are part of the fun), it's utterly ridiculous, and for some reason I felt the need to watch it over and over and over. I even rented it through their site (I mean, it's free on YouTube) so I could watch it with commentary (and yes, support their good work monetarily in retrospect because they're awesome). And I'm kind of addicted to the music. I want everyone to watch this, too, just so we can quote it to each other. The team behind it just released a new mini-movie--a mocku-noir this time-- but I haven't watched it yet for fear it will mess up my carefully curated end of the year list here.
  3. Agents of SHIELD: Still my favorite currently-running TV show-- we're only five episodes in to Season 5 and I only LOVED the most recent one (which may say something about the necessity of Fitz?), but the back half of Season 4, in the first part of the year, was some of the finest TV I've ever seen, thanks. It continued to upend expectations and show off fantastically scene-stealing villains (Mallory Jenson where's your Emmy dangit) while growing the characters we already loved. Why is it not universally hailed as the best not-cancelled comic book show on TV? Oh yeah, because Legion exists. But besides that.
  4. Moana: Great, another future classic Disney movie. I just genuinely enjoyed it, though, even on rewatches (THAT STUPID CHICKEN cracks me up so hard). And that dang crab makes me go to my kids, "Look, this show is rated TV-MA and there's no way I'm letting you watch the rest of it but YOU SHOULD WATCH the first scene of Legion episode 4 because that crab is playing the BEST CHARACTER" and perhaps lucky for them Legion isn't on demand anymore, darnit, you see what I mean about me and Legion, anyway. And for some reason I was super-attuned to all the mythological tropes while watching and that made it even more fun because I'm a dork that way, or more likely because I was watching "Crash Course Mythology" and they even did a whole episode on Maui soon after I saw the movie, you're welcome. OH WAIT I FORGOT: ---4a. Crash Course World Mythology: I've seen individual Crash Course videos before, but I'm such a Comparative Mythology junkie that I've been outright following this one. If I was going to be an academic I'd do Comparative Mythology. Where's the current writing on that, anyway? I know Joseph Campbell isn't considered completely "correct" by current academics but is anyone supplanting him? Besides Adam Gidwitz (see above), I mean an Academic. I WANT TO READ COMPARATIVE MYTHOLOGY THEORIES LIKE A DORK.
  5. The Defenders: We got Netflix back this fall, and rather than try to watch all the Marvel shows Netflix had put out in that time, particularly since the reviews were mixed, I figured I'd catch up with them all at once just by watching this one. And indeed, I enjoyed it so much that now I'm going to have to go back and watch some of the individual shows anyway. At least Jessica Jones because I love her. And probably Daredevil if only because Matt Murdock is super-cute. Which is totally creepy for me to say because J's super-paranoid Survivalist buddy goes by the name "Matt Murdock" online, and I'm absolutely not by any means talking about him.
  6. Doctor Strange: The extent of my review to Jason after we watched this: "I liked it, it's trippy" (See review of Legion, above).
  7. Lego Batman: Pretty sure this was the first (and so far only) movie we all four together went to see at the theater as a family. And we all four enjoyed it lots, too.
  8. A Series of Unfortunate Events, Netflix Series Version: See book rereads section, above. We saw the first one or two episodes at my parents' house, then after we got Netflix, catching up was the first thing we did. I can't wait to see how season 2 goes and where the background stories go from here. (Is Jacqueline Snicket a cross between Jacques and Kit or is Kit yet to appear as well? How long will the show draw out the full nature of Beatrice's identity?) It might have gone higher on this list but the theme song really bugs me. Sorry, Neil Patrick Harris.
  9. Sherlock: This might also be higher on the list if I didn't rather hate the first episode of the season. Well, "hate" is a strong word, but I just didn't ENJOY it like I have pretty much every other episode, even the not-so-good ones. It depressed me. But that's counteracted by the second episode being absolutely fabulous, by which I mean Martin was so fabulous I spent the next week like, "Yep, that's MY Imaginary Husband, he's awesome." And the third episode was equivalent of watching any other episode of the show, so the grand average works out okay.
  10. -(tie) Sing/Trolls: Both of these are cases of me being pleasantly surprised, after having to listen to my daughter play the (unimpressive to annoying) trailers on YouTube over and over for months, only to discover the movies themselves were both well-written and enjoyable, with actually-pretty-good soundtracks. So okay, Maddie, thanks for making me watch with you.

Okay, 3 P.S.es I watched while I was writing this, so I'm not going to try to fit them into the countdown and mess up my nice lists. I actually watched a lot of things that didn't make the list at all, but these three were all so good that they probably WOULD have made the top ten but I'm not going to attempt to figure out where:
  • Like I said, The Case of the Gilded Lily: you GUYS, I couldn't just have that link open above and seriously expect myself to wait until after the new year just so I wouldn't mess up this LIST, when I had a spare 40 minutes and it was CALLING to me. This is the mocku-noir the Poe Party team made, and it is further full of hilarity. These folks are geniuses, somebody make them famous beyond the internet already.
  • Guardians of the Galaxy vol. 2: we watched on Netflix Friday night while the kids were at their grandparents. I, naturally, most appreciated the on-point use of classic rock music-- even that UGHHHH "Brandy" I hate that song so friggin' much, but I have to admit it was USED excellently (and actually sort of highlights some of what makes the song so disgusting). Did I mention the on-point use of music was one of the things I loved so much about Legion, too? Okay, enough.
  • Then, as promised, we finally squeezed in a matinee of The Last Jedi Saturday afternoon, and the theme of on-point music cues continues, because I'm pretty sure John Williams was the main reason I cried for the whole last like twenty minutes or something. When the moment, I'll avoid spoilers but I'll just say, my favorite original trilogy theme to play on the piano started up, I couldn't hold back the eye water, and more original trilogy themes from that point on kept me suitably moved. Not to mention a moment in the credits, likewise. WHAT WILL WE DO WITHOUT CARRIE, PEOPLE. It's been a year and I still cry when I think about her. Ahem anyway, the movie was absurdly long and could probably have done with some trimming up, but that's the only negative I have to say about it. I thoroughly enjoyed it.
  • EDIT FOR POSTERITY: This happened:
I don't have a music list this year because I can't think of anything to put on it. So, moving on:

THE CHRISTMAS LOOT ROUNDUP
:
 
Top 5 Presents I Gave:
  1. Homemade Blankie Tails: I've wanted to do something with all my scrap fleece for ages, and I saw those Mermaid Tail Blankets and was like, yeah, Maddie has a mermaid thing, and both kids love to cocoon themselves in blankets to the point they wear their sleeping bags out. Sam's not so much of a mermaid dude, and I'd seen a lot of "boys' versions" that made it look like a shark was eating you instead, but that didn't seem very Sam, either. Then I remembered the inflatable blue orca they liked to take to the pool, and thought Sam would love to be TOTALLY INSIDE an orca, with the head as like a hood? Both of these took longer to make than I thought they would, but the kids assure me it was totally worth it. Here is them sleeping snuggly: kids in blanket tails 
  2. This Freakin' Rainbow Alpaca Maddie had an excessive Amazon wishlist, and on it was this "rainbow alpaca" that was one of those one-cent-plus-shipping-from-someplace-in-China things, and I was like what the heck, we'll throw that in, and I was expecting it to be like Beanie Boo size but it's like a foot and a half tall, and it came after the other things, so I wasn't sure how to wrap it, so I just set it under the tree looking cute. Then Christmas morning I hear Maddie squealing "OMIGODOMIGODOMIGOD" and I'm like, what on earth is causing THAT reaction. And it was this alpaca! She apparently did not even know how badly she wanted it until she saw it live, and now it's her best friend and lover and goes with her wherever she goes. WHO KNEW. with rainbow alpaca in the car
  3. The MP3 Player: Maddie has been stealing my phone to look up videos of songs she likes, and I'm thinking, when I was her age I had a boom box and cassette tapes of my favorite songs. What would be the equivalent nowadays? Now, earlier in the year I had bought myself a cheap mp3 player, but I kept forgetting it existed, so I thought, maybe that would be better for Maddie for her own music collection. I started that collection by going through my own collection for songs I knew she loved or thought she would like at least, then I added some more I never would have added for myself, mostly through Freegal, things like the soundtracks to Trolls and the My Little Pony Movie. I also borrowed some old Disney soundtracks from my parents to add, and purchased the soundtracks to Frozen and Moana. Speaking of music by Lin-Manuel Miranda, I even left "The Room Where It Happens" on there just to be obnoxious (she thinks Hamilton is annoying), and she STILL thinks Santa Claus was the one who curated that mix, not her former deejay mom. ;) According to Maddie, her favorite gifts from Santa are this and the alpaca, and her favorite gifts from ME are the mermaid tail and the doughnut sweatshirt I made her.
  4. A New Mattress: Sam sleeps in Jason's childhood bed-- his whole childhood bed, including 40-year-old mattress. So Sam has actually been asking, quite awhile, for a new mattress to help him sleep better, and hey, I'm all for that, since he's always a nicer kid when he gets enough sleep. I thought it would be kind of fun to see a gift as big as a mattress under the tree Christmas morning, but as it is, mattresses actually get delivered super-vacuum-packed. Though that's still a pretty big package: Sam opening a mattress box wrapped in a sheet As not-a-toy as that present is, he was very happy with it: Sam and Maddie try out new mattress
  5. Matching Reindeer Sweatshirts: I wasn't sure what to get my Dad or brother, then I wondered if there were any cute Christmas fleeces at JoAnn's that I could turn into festive sweatshirts. I found a pre-cut "blanket" swatch with reindeer and snowflakes, that was "2.5 yds" long but I don't even know how wide. When I cut it out I realized I had a lot of extra fabric, so I also made a festive sweatshirt for Jason and Sam, and STILL had enough scraps left for a slightly different style of sweatshirt for Maddie. You know what we forgot to do, though? Get a picture on Christmas Eve with EVERYONE wearing their reindeer sweatshirts. Here's my dad though: Dad in reindeer sweatshirt
BONUS: Cthulhu Cthulhu
 

Top 5 Presents I Got:
  1.  A Storage Cabinet: I have a large pile of fabric in the corner of my bedroom. I'd love an easy way to access/organize it and yet keep it out of the way, so I put a random storage thing that would do the job on my Amazon list. But my mother-in-law found a proper cherry-wood-looking-at-least cabinet with shelves inside. It is currently still unassembled on the floor of their living room, because it won't fit in our car to transport it, so we need to wait until J's dad can use his truck to bring it. But it WILL definitely come in useful.
  2. Jo-Ann Gift Cards, obvs: So I can buy more fabric to no longer leave in a pile in the corner.
  3. ...in a cute little BB-8 tin: My sister gave me her JoAnn card in this very cute little tin (I think that's the one, though the size listed seems small). There was also candy in the tin, so bonus.
  4.  Pretty wrap cardigan: Quick selfie: me in wrap cardigan It's from my parents and it exactly matched the skirt I was wearing Christmas Eve, except the shirt I was wearing was too bulky for me to put this on top of it.
  5.  Books: Got the aforementioned Betsy Bird's scandalous history of children's lit; the two illustrated Harry Potter editions I didn't yet have, a Muppet coloring book and... I think that's it, in the way of books. 
To be honest, I didn't really get much this year. 
 

Top Presents Other People Gave Other People:
  1. Thomas: We're trying to convince Sam to part with his huge Thomas Trackmaster collection, if only because he never plays with it anymore and it takes up a lot of space. The BEST way of course is if he gives it to his little cousin, who has just started getting into trains-- that way it's still in the family, and if someday the cousin no longer wants it, he can give it back to Sam. It was hard, but he started with one box that he filled with some tracks, a tunnel, and one Thomas engine with cars. The little cousin LOVED it, and Sam felt a little better about giving it. L with Thomas
  2. Switch: Sam, meanwhile, wanted one thing for Christmas: a Nintendo Switch. We were NOT going to freaking get him a Nintendo Switch. But his Grammy said, That's all right, I'LL get it for him, so, well then. He was definitely... pleased puts it mildly.
  3. VR headset: This was sort of for me in that it was for the whole family. My parents must have found a deal somewhere. We had some trouble finding an app that would work with my phone, but the kids are getting the knack of it a lot faster than I am.
  4. Karaoke machine: This might also be a terrible gift, depending how you look at it. But it's a really cool little karaoke machine, with colored lights and everything. It was from my parents to my kids.
  5. Doughnut mold: My sister had these on her wishlist, silicone doughnut baking molds. I nearly got them for her myself, but I'd found too much else for her. So my brother got them for her, instead. Maddie is totally jealous.
 

OTHER POSTS I WROTE THAT YOU MIGHT WANT TO REVISIT
:

I linked to a lot of the posts I wrote this year throughout this roundup. You're encouraged to click through and read them to enhance your understanding of what I've written in this post! But here are the top ones I HAVEN'T mentioned:

Technically the Top Five Other Posts I Wrote On This Blog, But That's Nearly ALL The Other Posts I Wrote On This Blog, Because I've Been Busy Writing a GeekMom Article Every Week:
  1. "Mission Statement of an Information Scientist": Librarians are rebels, yo.
  2. "Truth vs. the Stories We Tell Ourselves": me kind of working up to that later post
  3. "A Note About Invisible Racism (for Fellow White People)": painful observations I made of a library patron and her family. BTW, the little girl now goes to the same daycare I read The Polar Express to the other week, see above. She's really tickled that I come to her school but she already knows me from coming to the library.
  4. "Political/Fictional Parallels": in which I notice that a piece of writing I've mostly given up on still has a lot of very relevant things to say about real life.
  5. "More on Racism and Fascism": Because I've got something to SAY, thanks.

Top 5 Other Posts on GeekMom This Year, I Think. I think they're the Top 5, I mean. I KNOW they were on GeekMom this year.
  1. "Am I Different? On Claiming Identities": I did a lot of writing on labels and identity this year, but this is the post that kind of sums everything up.
  2. "How We Did Our Minecraft Birthday Party": Sam's birthday didn't make my list of notable real life events above, but it probably could have.
  3. "What Are Your Movie Adaptation Non-Negotiables?": The Wrinkle In Time trailer had the nerve to come out the day after my gallbladder surgery. I had so much to say but I couldn't sit at my computer to type it! Somehow over the next week I managed to pull this together!
  4. "A Beginner's Guide to Grocery Store Gifting": "Hey," somebody suggested on the GeekMom Slack, "how about instead of trying to put together typical gift guides, everyone picks a specialized topic to do a gift guide on instead?" What specialized topic could I offer, books? Heh. But suddenly I thought of this thing I do almost without thinking, and I put my name down for doing it before I could stop myself, and I kept writing it in my head, though while I was typing it on the computer I was like, "This is so obvious, why would anyone care?" On the contrary, it seemed to really resonate with a lot of people. 
  5. "How Deep Is Your Geek?" Another one that really seemed to resonate with people.
     
 
 
 
So, feel free to discuss any of this stuff with me, please!

rockinlibrarian: (Default)
 Good morning! I'm at work. This is not technically work, but I can't focus on anything, so no work is getting done here anyway unless I do something about my focus issues, and I know what that something is-- I need to WRITE. Not write anything in particular. Just journal. I seem to have misplaced my private paper journal, but I don't think writing in a paper journal at the reference desk will really work out anyway, so I'm typing instead. Obviously if someone needs my help, I am here and available and ready for the interruption, it's just instead of reading book reviews or outlining future programs, I'm freetyping in effort to get my brain sorted.

I've been reading this book about ADHD-- Healing ADD: The Breakthrough Program that Allows You to See and Heal the 7 Types of ADD by Daniel G. Amen-- my aunt with ADHD sent me an article about his theories that was quite intriguing: obviously Jason and Maddie exemplify classic ADHD, his Type 1 (although using the numbers always confuses me because my first thought is Enneatypes, and in Enneatypes Jason is a Counterphobic Type 6 and Maddie is probably a Type 4 if not a Type 7, hard to say at this stage in her life and it's possible the 7ish traits are just, in fact, her ADHD, but anywho), and I'm a lovely why-didn't-we-see-this-years-ago portrait of Type 2 Inattentive Type, but Sammy, the one having the most problems with it right now, seems to be his Type 3,* Overfocused ADD. So it's interesting to read about not only how the different types present themselves but also how they also require slightly different courses of treatment.

Except all types-- well, all three of OUR types at least-- do best on a high-protein, low-simple-carbs diet, which explains why I felt so much better so quickly on Weight Watchers; but darnit I LOVE my simple carbs! And it was just Halloween so simple carbs abound! And Thanksgiving and Christmas are coming to bring me more! ...but anyway. So, as if it wasn't hard enough to feed this picky family.

Actually it's always driven me nuts that my daughter, who otherwise isn't THAT picky, doesn't like tomato sauce, when spaghetti is my number one comfort-food-quick-and-easy-dinner-favorite. AS IT TURNS OUT, though, we've been tracking down this apparent stomach issue she's had for awhile that seems to have gotten worse since the start of the school year. And we haven't officially got it labelled as such yet, but at present it SEEMS to be abdominal migraines, and they SEEM to be triggered by...wait for it... tomato products. IT ALL BECOMES CLEAR. Meanwhile, her EXTREMELY picky brother only likes about five different meals, three of which involve tomato sauce. If we all had to live on the meals everyone in the family can and/or will eat, it would be nothing but mac and cheese. Day in, day out. Unless we add in, like, pancakes. I suppose we could also live on pancakes. But those aren't exactly high in protein OR low in simple carbs. 

Anyway but that wasn't what I originally was going to talk about. Have I mentioned I have ADD? :P No, he also pointed out that it's extremely common for people with ADHD of some type to have trouble getting their thoughts on paper, with learning disabilities in various forms of dyslexia abounding-- there's Jason for you. Maddie seems to have a bit of slight dysgraphia, too, not as bad as Jason, but she does tend toward out-of-proportion spelling errors and a lot of letter flipping. And all four of us have terrible handwriting. BUT of course, I work opposite. The connection between my brain and MOUTH is the one that's troublesome, and it's in WRITING that I'm able to spout out all the unconnected garbage that comes to mind. He said in the book though that this does seem to occur sometimes in a type of ADD that is otherwise CLEARLY NOT me-- hah! I don't have the book with me right now to give you specifics, but yeah.

Anyway, this book is not perfect. I don't particularly like his negativity toward ADHD-- he definitely frames it as a neurological disorder rather than a neurological divergence-- which sounds like a small issue of terminology, but when you're reading it you kind of feel like "YES, it's giving me problems, but it also gives me some unique skills and perspectives! Stop calling me broken!" Okay, yes, my brain is not working properly, but still, it's just the tone. He's also pretty braggy. OUR special tests, MY special supplements, etc. etc. Also, for someone who claims not to have ADHD himself, he repeats himself a lot, like he wrote it on Scrivener and kind of dumped his notes into various chapter folders where they might apply, then wrote each chapter separately and compiled them all without looking over the whole thing to realize he kept reusing stuff. But that's just me reviewing the book as a whole, as sort of evidence why I don't buy everything in it, to explain why he's a bit wrong here.

And he's not so much wrong, as just, well-- just because you've got seven different types identified and acknowledge they all get treated differently, people STILL aren't cookie cutter examples within those types, of course! In MY brain, the words just want to come out through writing!

I always called it Writeritis as a kid. My brain just got so swollen with words and stories that I had to write it all down, stat. Over time I came to realize that this was a way of organizing my brain. As a kid I just figured it was evidence that I was a WRITER, thank you. It's what I do! 

One thing I definitely learned from this book which was surprising but SO CLARIFYING, is that when people with ADD try to concentrate, it actually makes them concentrate WORSE. Like, physically. They've mapped the brainwaves of people and determined this. That's why it's so HARD to concentrate, because TRYING to concentrate is what ruins your concentration! That's why kids like Maddie and I didn't/don't have the red lights going off in school that makes teachers say "Whoa, problem here, get this kid an IEP!" because we were/are interested in learning things and so don't HAVE to make ourselves pay attention in school for the most part, so we just DO... until, for example, I got to 10th grade geometry, and my brain just turned OFF the moment my teacher started talking. I always blamed her voice. I said she talked in a monoclip-- too fast for a monotone, but equally boring. I just COULD. NOT. pay attention to it. Now I know it wasn't so much her, but me. Yeah, she was boring. But I wasn't exaggerating by saying I COULD. NOT. pay attention. I LITERALLY WAS INCAPABLE of paying attention, and decided I hated math until I took college courses on how to teach elementary school math, and they were totally fun, and since I didn't have to WORK at paying attention, I COULD again. And Maddie can whip off her homework in no time, but when it starts to build up-- like, she keeps missing school because of abdominal migraines-- then suddenly the same homework becomes excruciating torture that lasts all evening, just because there was a little more of it.

So I understand a little more why writing fiction when I was younger was so much easier. BECAUSE I WASN'T TRYING. I was just doing it because I felt like it. But when I freak out about the fact that I CAN'T, or don't have TIME, or don't have IDEAS, trying just makes me LESS ABLE TO, and it spirals down into this DECADE LONG BLOCK.  But the last time I wrote any good fiction-- the Pipeweed Mafia Stories-- I could because I was just playing around. Which also explains why FINISHING writing is so difficult, because then I have that GOAL in mind, so I start TRYING, and then my brain turns off. WHAT THE HECK.

Okay, I have to go eat lunch now. I've got a very low-carb frozen meal awaiting me. Let's see what happens after this.

*In Enneatypes, not to confuse the issue, of course you know I'm a textbook Type 9—an extremely attractive type for someone whose brain is wired as Inattentive ADD in fact— and Sam's a Type 6 like his dad, but much less counterphobic. I like Enneatypes! But they're much more about psychological philosophy than actual brainwiring, and this book is talking about actual brainwiring, so I'll shut up about it.
rockinlibrarian: (voldemart)
Why do I keep talking about this? Why now? 

Because lately people have been giving Centrist types who like to See All Sides of the Story a bad name, and I have to speak up. Because I'M a centrist by nature. I'M all about seeing all sides of the story. I'M the one who doesn't like political arguments because I genuinely think all sides have good intentions and just have different ideas of what's the best way to go about things. You know me. You know this about me, if you've been following what I write for years. Giving all sides a voice is important to me.

Here's what's different now. Seeing all sides of the story means understanding that the majority of people who supported and continue to support the current government were not Evil People. Seeing all sides means understanding that their concerns really are about the fact that jobs are harder to come by, that these people are scared about how to support their families. I've done that "seeing all sides" part. I've been defending them for months from people who just wanted to write them off as at worst Evil and at best Stupid.

But that doesn't mean I won't judge what they DO with those intentions. It's like when my kid has a meltdown. I do my best to understand his feelings, that he's scared, unable to handle his emotions, feeling sensory overload. I get that. But that doesn't mean he's allowed to kick people and throw furniture. I don't say, "let him, he's just expressing his overwhelmed feelings."

Yeah, you say, but what about the people who don't resort to physical violence? Don't they have the right to say hateful things, too? Yeah, but that doesn't mean I won't call them out on it, either. Like I said, these people are scared about their livelihood, I get it, but they're wrong about the reasons, very very wrong, and it's important for me to speak up and correct them because history has shown time and again what happens when these "reasons" are allowed to fester, and it's NOT PRETTY.

Fascism is about finding scapegoats, turning people against each other so they don't turn on the people in charge instead. You can't find a job? Oh, maybe it's because all these immigrants are taking your jobs instead-- never mind that the jobs the immigrants took were not the jobs you wanted in the first place. Maybe it's because of Affirmative Action—never mind that the people who benefit from Affirmative Action were in even a worse spot than you before it was offered. There are all these people around with lifestyles you don't understand—maybe that's why my own life sucks, somehow. Really, it's the money-grubbers at the top of the food chain who are making your life miserable, but god forbid you turn on THEM... so they make sure you see your fellow unfortunates as the bad guys instead.

And it works. People love to have somebody to blame, and it's easier to blame someone they don't understand, someone they haven't gotten to know, someone they've only heard about through the actions of the very worst people in their group and the whisperings of people who want them to distrust each other. 

"But you're judging the alt-right by the actions of the very worst--" okay stop. This is what I'm trying to explain. Even if you're not getting violent, you're still WRONG, and I'm trying to correct you before it's too late. Dig? 

When I was a kid I was really into mid-twentieth-century world history. It was my absolute favorite historical fiction setting, and still is, when I get around to historical fiction (CODE NAME VERITY OMG). There was Big Time Blatant Evil at work, and I was fascinated and thrilled by the actions of ordinary people in the face of it. But, again, I KNOW this history. I know it's not just Indiana Jones punching Nazi soldiers. Much more often, it all hinges on quiet everyday actions— do you comply, because you're trying to be lawful, even if the law is wrong? Or do you defy the law and do what's morally RIGHT instead? 

I always wanted to be, as we say in D&D, Neutral-to-Chaotic Good instead of Lawful Neutral which-in-certain-circumstances-ie-a-Fascist-Government-leads-to-Lawful-Evil. But I worried about myself, because I don't like to rock the boat, you know. I don't like to make waves. Face it, in my practical, everyday life, I have been far more Lawful-Neutral than Neutral-Good, and I knew it. 

But now I can't stand by and let Lawful Neutral voices brush the serious dangers of fascist attitudes away with "let's just let them say what they have to say" and "oh, anti-fascists have been doing bad things, too, they've broken laws and expressed hatred toward the fascists." I can't be Lawful Neutral when this is going on. I'VE READ WAY TOO MUCH. 

I still believe—and dangit, this is something Anne Frank said after Fascists ruined her life and just before they killed her!—but yes, I still believe and I guess I always will (if Anne Frank could hold onto that attitude, then so can safe-and-privileged-I)—that the majority of people have good intentions. Yes, deep down, even the fascists. But that doesn't mean they're not WRONG. And in these cases, even the people who aren't really fascists, who don't consider themselves racist BUT, can unwittingly do great evil simply by remaining Lawful Neutral. By letting the attitudes of the fascists slip unchecked into mainstream society. The Nazi party was FULL of people "just doing their jobs." All I'm saying is DON'T. Stop. Don't let yourself be swayed by the convincing rhetoric of people who want you to hate your neighbor in the name of Patriotism. America was founded on Liberty and Justice for All-- if you want to be patriotic, THAT is the patriotism you must fight for. Not the idea of an America where Everyone Is Just Like You that the fascists are peddling. Because THAT'S NOT AMERICA.

After I wrote the other day, I kept thinking of other moments in my life when I've directly encountered the pervasiveness of hidden racism in our society. Even I, who LOVES EVERYBODY AND RESPECTS EVERYBODY and, well, you know me, it's kind of my thing and all—even I have had moments where I nearly fell prey to the undercurrent of racism, because it permeates our society. You need to be aware of it so you don't LET IT HAPPEN. And when it's NOT subtle? When it's blatant white supremacy chanting at you? You DEFINITELY don't let it happen. Good trumps Lawful. Human beings trump flags and statues. Sorry I keep using that verb, but, hey, Good trumps Being-afraid-to-say-Voldemort.
rockinlibrarian: (love)
Kind of processing something that happened on Saturday, and I do NOT mean the neo-Nazi rally. Well, entirely. I was working, not following the news—I had no idea what was going on. But I had a slightly eye-opening and uncomfortable interaction that goes along with that news, had I been paying attention to it, and maybe the fact that it wasn't directly connected brings the point home even harder. 

There was a mom with three kids ages 4 and under at the library. They'd been there a few hours and it became clear they were waiting for a ride. The kids were getting restless, and the oldest, a very chatty girl firmly in the "Why?" stage of conversational topics, had struck up a friendship with me. I gave her as much attention as I could manage, but there's only so much answering the same questions over and over you can do, especially when you have other work to be working on ("What are you doing?" "I'm still working on fun library programs we can do here." "What are you doing now?" "Still trying to work on....") and this was going on for several hours. Then her little brother found a roll of stickers and began putting them on every available surface. It reminded me a bit of when Maddie comes to the library while I'm working—granted, Maddie is 8 years old and should know better, but that's part of the reason she now is no longer allowed to come to my programs unless she has another adult to be her guardian while I'm being the librarian, because she tends to take advantage of that awkward situation. 

THESE kids HAD their own guardian, but she was in a pretty harried state trying to deal with them. I know she cleaned up chaos at the Lego table at least twice (and it had become chaos again by the time they left), and who knows about the back of the room that I couldn't see as well. I mean, three kids under 4, getting bored, and she was all by herself. You see, most moms in this situation would have said, "Enough! We're going home!" But she COULDN'T, because they didn't have a car, and their ride wasn't showing. 

But the moment that really made me stop and think was when the mom asked to use the phone, so as to try to track their ride down. "Would I be able to use the telephone to make a really important call—"

"Sure," I said, jumping up to set up an outside line for her.

Her eyes got wide. "Really?" she said. "The other lady said no, you can't do that, the last time I asked."

Huh. I wondered who the "other lady" was. I mean, this was the desk by the teen room—we always had teenagers who needed to call for rides. Why should an adult be any different? I said as much to this woman, who—if you can imagine her saying something both "brightly" and "darkly" at the same time, that's how she responded—an obviously forced cheerfulness to cover some simmering rage: "Well, that lady—some people are like that." 

Have I mentioned this family was black, and the mother had a slight accent? It's important because the meaning changes. This woman has been burned, I realized. This woman is used to being subtly discriminated against. 

You may think I'm jumping to conclusions, but the longer we talked, the clearer it became. See, she HAD a cell phone, but she didn't want to tie it up trying to track down her ride, because she was waiting for an even more important phone call: from her husband, whose birthday it was, and who, she said in the most offhand way, "had been deported." DANG. Apparently devoted father of three kids under 4? And he was certainly well-loved and missed by those kids, judging by the intensity of the "HAPPY BIRTHDAY, PAPI!!!"s expressed when he DID call back. 

And as for that phone—a lot of people take offense to poor people having smart phones, but what they don't realize is those people don't have any other computer, and they certainly don't have internet access at home. That's why she was at the library in the first place. And lest you think she was "wasting time on Facebook" or something.... "I'm sorry I keep eating up your wifi," she said. "That's what it's here for," I assured her, as she continued—again, as if she felt the need to justify her needs to me: "...I just have to get this done, it's important..." obviously, as she'd taken out an Access card to log in— "...What?" she said to her screen. "Why did it... have you dealt with this EBT system before?" she asked me.

"No," I said simply, but before I could say anything else, she said (still in the forced-cheerful voice),  "Of course not, why would you, I'm asking the wrong person." Hey, I thought, I'm a librarian! I'm NEVER the wrong person to ask a question of! I could have continued, made a proper reference interview of it, first for that matter by asking if it worked through the Compass system which I HAVE dealt with before because my son gets Medicaid as a special needs kid, not counting my own financial struggles which just happened to have never gotten to EBT (that's food stamps, for you sheltered folks) levels. But by then she'd already gone away to work it out for herself. 

Oh, right, there was another thing she said—she asked if we were hiring, and I said, "Maybe? We've just been through some major staffing changes," and she said, "I always ask if you're hiring and they always say no, but then I come in and there's some new kid working and I ask 'how did you get hired here?' and he says 'They asked me'—but I asked THEM and they always say no!" 

Again, all these things together just added up and made me realize, this lady has been BURNED. She didn't fully trust me, and why should she, when she'd been navigating a lot of tough experiences with people in authority who SEEMED nice enough, but—some people are like that. 

I felt super-conscious, remembering everything I've read about making sure the library is a welcoming place for EVERYONE, and how some things are so subtly unwelcoming that I might not noticed from my multiply-privileged vantage point. I mean, her kids were beginning to annoy me, but too many people would have seen those kids and been like, "THOSE people—I'm not saying this to be racist, but you know, those Caribbean people just don't watch their kids like we do here." I know otherwise: they were simply acting like kids that age ACT if they've been in a place too long, and the Heinz-57 white ladies with their fancy strollers would have taken those kids home when they started to get out of hand, because they had their own cars and could do that. But this woman had obviously encountered too much of the other attitude, and I wanted to make sure she understood that my annoyance really did come from the kids' behavior and NOT their identity, that People Like Them belong in the library just as much as anyone else. But how could I be sure, when her defenses were always on-guard?

What is the point of this story? To get people to pay attention more. It's all about listening, and not immediately trying to defend yourself. Sure, this lady didn't fully trust me because I was a well-educated white woman in a position of mild authority... was she being racist, judging me by the color of my skin? Technically, yeah, maybe. But when white people get all defensive and claim "reverse discrimination" and "what about MY rights?" and whatnot, they're failing to see what's actually happening. They're failing to notice that people have been burned, that people have been dealing with things they've never imagined dealing with themselves. It's the difference between me feeling a little uncomfortable because someone is wary of me because of direct past experience with people like me, and her being repeatedly written off, outright insulted, denied opportunities, and having her husband taken away from her (and that's just what I know about) all because of her ethnicity, based not on direct experience on the part of others but on their tendency toward generalization and double-standards.

All I'm saying is to be careful. When you feel the need to deflect, to offer excuses like "well they brought it on themselves by—" or of course "I don't see the problem so it can't be that bad," stop, pause, and listen. Maybe there's a genuine reason. What's really going on?

And what can you do to help? 
rockinlibrarian: (Default)
 I'm having one of those brain-chemically Off days and finding it hard to take advantage of this, one of my last kid-free days for awhile. But the good news is, this is the first of such days I've had in MONTHS. MONTHS, SERIOUSLY. I'm not sure if those of you who are neurotypical-and-mentally-healthy are appreciating this fully, so try again, harder: I have gone MONTHS without depressive symptoms taking over my day. Last week at counseling I had to fill out the let's-see-how-sick-you-really-are checklist and I got to check "none of the days" for almost EVERY SYMPTOM, and the ones I didn't were things that have other causes besides depression, like, "Trouble focusing or paying attention" (have I mentioned I'm now officially on the record as having ADHD (Inattentive)? because I have mentioned it, but I keep forgetting).

The really annoying thing is, what could have caused this improvement? Certainly not the state of the world, which, if you haven't been paying attention, kind of sucks more every day. My kids are still loud and my husband's still Republican. I haven't even made any permanent changes in my medication, though we did try, seeing that I have an official new diagnosis that can be treated differently-- it turns out my heart really doesn't like prescription stimulants and I certainly don't want to force the matter on it. 

No, unfortunately, my improvement can be directly correlated with me being on Weight Watchers. 

SERIOUSLY, body?! My diet wasn't THAT bad before, and I'm not exercising THAT much more now. Yet you're going to make me watch what I eat and take the stairs for the rest of my life now to keep me all internally balanced out, is that what you're saying?

Before I go further, I want to make a few things abundantly clear. Most importantly: I am NOT, absolutely NOT, implying that clinical depression can be CURED just with diet and exercise. Maybe for some people it can, but that's not actually how the mental illness of depression works (maybe it works, combined with talk therapy, for some folks getting over situational depressions, but I ain't talking about them!). I am still on 100mgs of Zoloft a day, thanks, and I still have days like today, where I just haven't quite got the drive to live. The Zoloft attempts to keep the serotonin behaving as it ought to in a normal brain, but apparently being generally healthy keeps the levels of serotonin manageable on top of that.

Second thing I want to make clear: I'm relatively bothered by our culture's stance on FAT. I don't really approve of cosmetic weight loss, trying to get a Beach Body, wanting to hit a certain number on the scale. I've always had, I've said, relatively healthy feelings toward my figure (if not my face), whether as a skinny kid, a curvy adolescent, or an overweight adult. I figure, as long as I'm HEALTHY, there's nothing wrong with a little heft.

But that's the key-- I'd stopped being HEALTHY. If I ever WAS healthy. But anyhoo. That's why I started feeling better after only a week of "weight-watching." I hadn't even WEIGHED myself for the first time yet, so I wasn't psychologically cheering about that. No, I just woke up one morning about a week later and thought, "I ALREADY feel so much better. CRAP." 

i.e., apparently scaling back on portion sizes and carbs and non-water drinks actually DOES give you more viv. WHY. I LIKE NOT HAVING TO WORRY ABOUT HOW MANY POINTS SOMETHING IS BEFORE I EAT IT. I LIKE BUFFETS. I haven't had to deal with a real buffet yet while on Weight Watchers but I WILL GO TO BUFFETS AGAIN. 

Anyway, it's funny, I've now hit the point, weight-wise, I was at about two to three years ago, when other people (doctors, inlaws, you know) were telling me I was gaining too much weight and I was perfectly happy where I was. It was much later into my sudden-blimping-out phase when I became dissatisfied with my own body-- looks-wise, the fact that I wasn't fitting into pretty dresses I'd just recently MADE-wise, but also I was getting a lot of annoying side symptoms that were in fact related to extra weight. I set my first goal on Weight Watchers to lose 20 pounds, which would get me out of that stage. And I hit it, a few weeks ago. And yes, like magic the heartburn and incontinence and joint pain and junk are gone! Woot!

But now my logical brain and my Id are apparently arguing with each other. I set a new goal to get me down another twenty pounds, which would get me back to pre-Maddie weight if not pre-Sammy. But-- though my points numbers and habits haven't changed-- I'm not losing as quickly now, and I'm CRAVING high-points food items a lot more, which GIVES me less desire to stick through it. So it's like subconsciously I hit a point where my superego is saying "Okay, keep up the good work, keep going!" but my id's all "No, this is my happy spot, remember? It's fine right here." 

But it's NOT fine right here, because it's too easy to slip back to where my body wasn't so happy? So I really need to keep going, and make sure habits are in place where I don't HAVE to be QUITE so strict with my diet but I'm not going to slide down that hill of healthlessness again? 

So that's where I'm at. I'm DOING GREAT, BUT I'M ALSO AFRAID OF JINXING MYSELF BY SAYING THAT.
rockinlibrarian: (eggman)

Yeah, I know I haven't posted here in a long while. You been reading me over at GeekMom? But I was about to tweet something that would have turned into a long tweet thread and I was like, okay, easier to do this way, in these surprise extra fifteen minutes I've got.

--I arrived at my first outreach preschool of the day to find it shut down from a water break problem. "Awww," I said, for the missing storytime, but it hit me that I feel particularly badly about water problems.

I always think of the time in high school when Angie had been having a really bad day and it hadn't even started yet-- she joined me and a few other people at my locker first thing in the morning. I was already in the middle of telling everyone how, that morning, our cousins had a problem with their well, and they'd had to come out to our house to brush teeth, shower, whatever else to get ready for school that morning. And Angie got this look of pure epiphany and said out loud, "Oh! At least I have water!" 

And it became kind of a gratitude mantra. She'd keep a gratitude journal, and on the days she couldn't think of anything else to be grateful for, she'd write, "At least I have water." I do recall there were some days she just wrote "I have water" three times. 

So, although I always think of it as ANGIE'S mantra, it became mine, too. And when people DON'T have water-- when you see the water crisis in Flint, Michigan, continue to be unresolved, let alone around the world in less developed countries-- it's like OUCH. How can anything be worse? When you can't even say "At least I have water"?

So that's my shout-out to the importance and wonder of clean potable water today. Have a nice day! Be glad you have water! Unless you don't, then I hope you find some soon! Maybe somebody who DOES have water can help out, eh?

rockinlibrarian: (voldemart)
I was talking politics with my mom the other day (it's nice having an in-real-life person who agrees with you politically to talk to sometimes), and I mentioned this really interesting blog post I'd read a few months back that unfortunately I CANNOT find now. Sorry. I really wanted to link you to it. It's about how this president—at the time of the article he was president-elect or even just a candidate, I'm not sure—uses language. The article posed that it wasn't so much that he is a pathological liar as much as he's using—I think this was the term—prescriptive language in situations when most people would use (and would assume he is using) descriptive language. Descriptive language describes reality as it is (or as it at least appears to be). Prescriptive language describes reality as the user intends it to be. For example, "You're fired!" The phrase isn't true until it is said, then saying it makes it true. That's an obviously iconic example of how he's used to using this sort of language, but think about it—he's a spoiled rich kid who could get whatever he wanted, with a major entitlement complex—he's USED to whatever he says being granted, or at least, that the making of whatever he says happen is other people's problem. 

As I told her about this, I remembered how some of his original supporters liked how he was a businessman-instead-of-a-politician, so he would "run the government like a business." Right, the kind of business where the Boss is IN CHARGE and everyone must do exactly what he says. That's what they wanted? I guess that IS what they wanted. And THAT made a scene pop into my head.

Shut up a minute, Star Wars prequel-haters, I'm not saying the acting and/or dialogue itself of this scene was fabulous or anything, but it DOES FIT here. You know the scene in Attack of the Clones when Anakin and Padme have been frolicking in the fields of Naboo and he starts teasing her about being a politician and she's like what is your problem with politicians, and he's like The system doesn't work, we need everyone to sit down and work out what's best for everybody and then just do it; and she's like But that's what we DO, it's just that people don't always agree on what the best thing is; and he's like well then somebody needs to MAKE everyone agree; and she's like Hold up you're crossing over into Dictatorship territory here; and he's like Well maybe that's what we need then; and then they go back to flirting as if he hadn't just admitted that he's totally someday going to be the Emperor's Right Hand Man and will totally kill hundreds of innocents to make it happen. 

So I'm like oh shoot, that's totally what happened, all these people are like Hey, a Dictatorship's fine and dandy if I AGREE with the Dictator. Let's give the Chancellor unfettered power because he'll TOTALLY make everything right in the galaxy again because he'll just MAKE it that way! Yay, everybody we disagree with just being TOLD WHAT TO DO! That could NEVER backfire!

...I mean it's not like people haven't totally glommed onto the Rebel Alliance as a symbol of resistance to all this or anything.

Meanwhile, the kids and I have made it to The Last Battle in our Narnia reading. Ugh, we're back to the problematic racist Calormene portrayals, which is ironic, because the real life parallels otherwise are very pro-Rebel Alliance, I mean Resistance. Eerily so, reinforcing that we seem to be living in an apocalyptic scenario. But look: we start out with Shift the Ape creating a False Aslan, which IMHO nicely describes certain prominent folks in the Religious Right preaching the "Prosperity Gospel" and linking the professed "Christian" culture with big business and exploitation of workers and destruction of the environment and other stuff the real Aslan would DEFINITELY NOT APPROVE OF (and omg the dwarfs who are all like "NEVER AGAIN" when they find out they've been had, are all those people driven away from the very idea of Christianity by the actions of these sort of Christians). And, ugh, that Shift, the way he gaslights poor Puzzle—I keep interrupting my own reading and saying to the kids "I REALLY do NOT LIKE this guy!" —personality-wise, and the more he gains power, the more he becomes Our Esteemed President in this scenario, to the point that he becomes the ineffectual puppet of sly Ginger the Cat—that'd be Bannon—and the Calormene general, who is definitely effectively Putin, looking to take over Narnia from the inside (yes, government. Calormen may LOOK like the Middle East, but get over your xenophobia/Islamophobia and look at the ACTUAL ACTIONS). I mean, dang. The Prophet Clive Staples Lewis says we're screwed, folks.

Oh, speaking of which, the end of The Magician's Nephew inspired some interesting/creepy conversations with the kids, too: talking about dying suns, and Maddie's like, "Will the Sun really DIE? Like our great-great-great-great grandkids won't have a sun anymore?" and I'm like, "The Sun will eventually die but not for billions of years, humans will probably die off from something else long before then," which just made the kids like, "WHAT? How could all the humans die?" and I'm like whoa I sat in it now, and said, "Well, like the dinosaurs died off. It could be something like an asteroid strike covering the sky with dust so the sun can't peek through so we can't get food, or it could be—" and then I realized I was heading into frighteningly relevant territory "—the climate just changes so much that it can't support human life anymore, or—" why on earth was I saying this out loud to my sensitive children, it just poured out of my mouth "—when he said that bit about humans discovering a horrible secret like The Deplorable Word that could wipe out all life? I'm pretty sure, since he wrote this right after WWII, he was hinting at nuclear weapons—" SHOOT I'm going to have to come up with a comforting spin on this somehow— but then I noticed the kids had actually stopped paying attention to my nihilistic rambling. But seriously folks. I saw a tweet the other day that was like "Hey, remember those couple of decades we DIDN'T think we were all going to die in a nuclear war? Good times." SIGH.

Anyway, last week I was writing my latest GeekMom article, about Labels vs Symptoms (btw, Megan, someone wrote a glowing response to your comment on that), and I was thinking about Billy (H)arrison's superpowered autistic tendencies and wanted to use some of "his" actual quotes on the matter, so I went into my files and scanned over my related writings, and, let me tell you, some of the plot of my book, which had seemed ridiculous when I wrote it, suddenly looked prophetic. Reading tweets about the president's rally in Florida this weekend made me tweet this, in a series of linked tweets copied here into an easier-to-read paragraph:

"There's a scene at a political rally that is just REALLY EERIE right now. Not to mention gaslighting and attempts to control the media. I don't think it will ever be good enough to officially publish, but I almost want to share it as-is now just to say 'READ WHAT I WROTE DECADES AGO! It was about an OVER-THE-TOP evil take-over-the-world plot! OVER-THE-TOP, I say!' Do you think it would be a bad move to self-publish something I don't think is perfect or up to traditional publishing standards just because I want to share some of the scenes NOW? I mean, it's as good as or better than a lot of fan fiction that's out there. It just doesn't have a built-in audience. (The fact that it has Real Person George Harrison fanfic in its backstory is not obvious in text). But I'm not trying to sell it/get famous from it. I'm just like READ ABOUT THIS RIDICULOUS WORLD DOMINATION PLOT & TELL ME YOU DON'T SHIVER!"

Well, I had several people respond that they WOULD like to read it. I think the easiest way to do it, though, is just share the file (non-editable) right off the Dropbox it's already in.

So here, if I've done this correctly, is the link to Ian and Co, aka The Incredible Adventures of Four Teens Who Are More Than They Appear, aka The One With Billy 'Arrison In It. I'm pretty sure I have not given you permission to edit the document, but just in case, um, politely refrain from editing. And by "editing" I mean "changing the document itself" —I'm all FOR you leaving constructive criticism with the Comments feature or whatever. I'd love to hear your ideas! Keep in mind, if I ever do come back to these characters' stories, it may be ENTIRELY different. I already have a completely new beginning written which has Ian more of a marginally-more-innocent bystander in what ought to have been Billy's adventures, which is most likely how I will take it in the future (I said once that Ian is Watson to Billy's Holmes and that suddenly made the whole concept click into place better). But DANG is this Swish plot relevant NOW, which is why I'm sharing THIS edit as-is.

Now here's something I considered doing awhile ago, which is COMPLETELY OPTIONAL, mind you. But since I'm kind of self-publishing my book, above, there, and I've written other good stuff you might like, and we still need to replace our patio/retainment wall that fell down in the back last summer, if YOU would like to donate to the cause of ME WRITING STUFF, I've got here a nice PayPal.Me link: https://paypal.me/rockinlibrarian  So, whatever you think my book is worth to you, go ahead and pay for it here! If not, don't! I probably wouldn't because I'm cheap (but then again I might anyway if I really love it and am not currently broke—I guess I have done such things before). Because after all it isn't quite up to standard, but it's still pretty fun and I did take decades writing it!
rockinlibrarian: (eggman)
Allow me to be frank—I know I'm on the internet, which means *gasp* anyone can see me being frank—but I'm going to have to get a little ugly-personal. Don't freak out.

It's been a rough week. It's hard to say how much you, my reader, already know me, when some know me in real life but just in passing, some know me in real life quite well, some have never met me but are closer to me than all but a few of the people I have met in real life, some know me in passing on the internet, and some just stumbled here randomly hi I don't know what you're doing here but you're perfectly welcome. So I don't know if you know that I'm an utter mess, both figuratively and literally. I am NOT a together person.

But one thing I have always felt confident about? I'm a dang fine librarian. Being at work is for me is a BREAK from feeling lost and incompetent. It keeps me steady, and smart, and productive.

Until last Saturday. See, my literal mess caught up with me, and I guess it hit on my coworkers' last nerves? This is hard to explain, because I'm honestly so confused and I guess not quite so shaken as I was last Saturday, but still just...broken. Like I can't piece it together in my brain. I didn't get completely cleaned up after my program Tuesday night-- to be fair, we were pulp painting, it's quite complex, and I DID clean up MOST of it-- but, maybe it was my lackadaisical attitude toward finishing up that they didn't appreciate? Maybe, but the thing that got me lost was that this somehow earned me a week suspension. A week and a day, actually, as I didn't end up working last Saturday and here I am still off today. Now, Jason points out that I really should have been given a written warning or something instead, that the punishment far outweighs the crime and he is SO TEMPTED to march down to the library and give everyone a piece of his mind but he won't because that's totally something his mother would do and he doesn't want to do something she'd do; and there's a rational part of me that definitely agrees it's all out of proportion.

But the problem is it triggered something, shattered me further. Work was the one place I felt competent, the one thing my literal-and-figurative mess wasn't tainting. For the first time since I've been in this particular job, the thought of going back to work on Monday gives me a jolt of anxiety. I have lost that little piece of confidence. And, talk about an out-of-proportion reaction, I'm just BROKEN.

I don't want you to think I'm being melodramatic. I very nearly checked myself into the hospital that day. Because obviously I'm not good at ANYTHING anymore so there's no point trying until I can get myself FIXED. I didn't, because I figured it would be cheaper to just go home and go to bed, while telling everyone to leave me alone. That didn't work so great either, because except for Maddie, who came in and just hugged me and said "I love you" for awhile, nobody else could manage to talk to me without increasing my stress. In the middle of the night I wrote this poem-- cleaned it up and put it on Tumblr in the morning just because Tumblr seemed like the best format for it. It pretty well describes "how I'm doing," kind of perfectly, if you're asking and want to know the truth.

Well wait, copying and pasting so you don't have to click:
"EFFORT"
I’m not okay
though if you ask
I’ll say
I am
because I pull myself together
I smile, I laugh, I sing
I cook, I eat
I hug and say I love you
I go through the backpacks and take-home folders and
usually
remember to sign things
I pay the bills
eventually
I get where I need to go
eventually
But then you notice the cracks and say
Why don’t you pick up after yourself?
Why have you let yourself go?
If you would
Just
Try to
lose some weight
exercise a little more
make the kids behave
(no, MAKE them)
get her hair brushed
get YOUR hair brushed
make them make their beds
make YOUR bed
watch what you’re wearing
watch what they’re wearing
do the dishes from the start
organize your time better
leave a little earlier
make those phone calls
communicate better
pay attention to your surroundings
don’t leave things lying around
go to bed on time
tell us what you need
If you would
JUST
put in a
LITTLE EFFORT.
Good to know
that’s all I need to do
Just
put in
a LITTLE
EFFORT
If only I hadn’t used up all my Effort
pretending
i’m
okay


The thing is I usually AM okay because I'm holding together and getting through contently enough, it's just I can't take any MORE than that. Technically I SHOULD be capable of more, because more is required of me, and, like, maybe life should be more than just hanging together?

So at counseling on Wednesday I got some interesting news: I now, officially, on my medical records, have indeed been diagnosed with ADHD-light-on-the-H. See back in the day they just called that ADD but now no matter how nonexistent the H they call it ADHD-Inattentive Type instead. I slipped through all these years because of the complete lack of H, because I was well-behaved and smart enough to ace tests even if I couldn't stay on top of my homework and was only half paying attention in class. My brain was good at school. It's not so good at practical life. But practical life is what adulthood is about. You know I've said this before, lots of times, it's just now I've got an official label saying it's real, my brain really DOES work differently than normal. "You've been struggling with this all your life without even knowing why," my therapist said, having just read the above poem. 

So, somewhat tangentally (it's my ADHD! It all becomes clear!), last week we upgraded our cable to take advantage of their Triple Play, which includes phone service, since the main reason we never had before was our home and cell phone accounts were tied together, but now we get cell through J's work, so we were like, hey, and WE NOW HAVE CALLER ID AND AN ANTI-ROBO-CALL SERVICE AND I AM NEVER GOING BACK. But, also, we now get more TV channels, including FX. I'd bought access to FX's Fargo because it was awesome before, but look! Now we have FX just in time for Fargo-showrunner Noah Hawley's new show, Legion, which is a friggin' X-Men spinoff! I love Noah Hawley's storytelling (at least if Fargo is any indication) and I love X-Men, so can it get any better? The answer is, yes, it can, because Legion is also FRIGGIN' PSYCHEDELIC. 

Now I've been thinking of writing a whole post about me and psychedelia-- I've had a draft in the GeekMom Wordpress for about a month now, because I started writing it and then it turned into something else, and it might be really two posts, or it might not, but anyrate. Started when I finally got a chance to listen to the United States of America album I got for Christmas and it totally out me back in touch with a part of myself I'd been neglecting. I've been giving my psych rock collection a workout lately. Anyway, the short story about why I love psychedelia is that it reminds me of my own mind, but ever so slightly more orderly. 

So the main character of Legion has been diagnosed schizophrenic, although it turns out his hallucinatons are really telepathy. So you see the show from inside his head, which is tripped out...but strangely familiar. Me and psychedelia. I've never had to deal with hallucinations (or telepathy as far as I know), but my brain is always RUNNING and tumbling and jumping from track to track and it IS a lot to keep up with, and my dreams-- my dreamworld is nuts, y'all, and I love it--Legion really reminded me of my dreams (also the soundtrack is awesome) (maybe because there's a lot of psychedelia) (also it's made the Stones' "She's a Rainbow" stuck in my head since Thursday and I don't mind a bit).

Anyway, but the point I'm really getting to is that part of the reason he struggles so much with his mental illness is he's been fighting the wrong thing-- he thinks he needs to stop the hallucinations when really he needs to learn to control the input from his psychic powers. I keep thinking of it in relation to myself, how my brain works differently, but I've been expending so much energy trying to compensate for it instead of trying to work WITH it. It's funny, I used to know I was pretty smart as a kid, but most of the time as an adult my self-talk immediately goes to "you're an idiot." Since Wednesday it's occured to me, wow, if so much of my brainpower has gone to trying to compensate for my attention issues... maybe I actually am a genius. If I wasn't constantly trying to fight my own brain, what else could I be putting that power to? If I wasn't using up all my effort on being okay?

There was more on the end here, but somehow it got erased....

rockinlibrarian: (librarians)
A few years back it occurred to me, libraries are SUBVERSIVE. Our whole mission is to give the Have-Nots access to knowledge, and knowledge is power. This image of librarians as revolutionaries tickled me. Since on the surface I am a sickeningly sweet somewhat prudish well-behaved little white girl, I like being also, secretly, a bit of a rebel.

By now it's probably clear to you I'm in a particularly revolutionary mood lately, and you know exactly where my ire is directed. Maybe you're sick of me retweeting stuff on the subject. You remember when I was an optimistic ray of sunshine (with chronic depression) talking about books and music and children (in some order or another), who AVOIDED "issue" tweeting and political side-taking.

I apologize if all this rallying is getting old. I don't want it to get old. I want it to stay fresh. I keep sharing it because I don't want anyone to convince you that it isn't happening.

I think it's only in the past day that I've been able to pinpoint my motivations. There seems to be reason after reason to protest the government. Keep calling your representatives? What about NOW? I'm losing track of all the dangers we need to make sure our representatives resist... which is apparently something rising dictatorships count on. I read this nice article this morning called "How to Stay Outraged Without Losing Your Mind" --she talks about supporting "progressive agendas" but I want to again make clear that THIS SHOULD NOT BE A PARTISAN ISSUE AND CONSERVATIVES NEED TO STAND UP AGAINST THE NEW ADMINISTRATIONS BLATANT IGNORANCE OF THE CONSTITUTION, TOO, but ignore that bit. Anyway, her #1 says GET AWAY FROM THE ONSLAUGHT OF NEWS FOR AWHILE which might make you go "SEE, AMY? Shut up with your retweets, you're just overwhelming us so we don't care anymore!" Again, sorry. But #2 is what I want to talk about right now, and explains why I have such a hard time shutting up: "Focus Your Energy on One or Two Issues."

So which one or two issues do I want to focus on? Which slice of humanity under fire deserves more of my support? For a moment yesterday I thought it was going to be Climate Change, because I've always been an environmentalist, and I was feeling particularly angry about the government science departments being censored. But then I remembered my sensitivity toward gaslighting, and when a fellow GeekDAD actually posted this great little piece about evaluating information sources almost simultaneously with a high school friend posting this great graphic, and when I shared the former on the library's facebook page, I realized I'm not just being suddenly political. I'm DOING MY JOB.




So right. This will be my focus in the Rebel Alliance: Freedom of Information. This is why I will keep harping on about it. I'm not trying to change your political opinions-- well, not outright. I hope your political opinions will become more well-supported by fact. But I am making damn sure that the people will have access to actual facts and will have the skills and guidance to figure out what those actual facts are. That's why I'm standing up against the censorship of scientists and the intimidation of the media. That's why I'm standing up for freedom of expression and Net Neutrality. That's why I'm amplifying marginalized voices. BECAUSE I'M GOING TO MAKE SURE NOBODY CAN TAKE THE FREEDOM OF INFORMATION AWAY FROM US.

Because that's what librarians do.

rockinlibrarian: (librarians)
I'm kind of wincing at my own title. You know STORY is my favorite thing in the whole world. You know I'm all about the importance of stories and trying to separate the word "myth" from the concept of "falsehood." Story helps us give meaning to our existence. But we also sometimes use it to justify what we WANT to be true, even when it isn't. It's funny that this was a major theme in this season of Sherlock, too. I'd like to share my thoughts on that, sometime before it becomes too far past to be relevant. I'm also working on two different GeekMom articles at once (possibly three. Come Monday, if I don't get any more time to myself to type before then, definitely three). I also have (as usual, but at the same time worse than usual) a complete wreck of a house to deal with, a bunch of Christmas decor to put away, and a whole lot of commitments taking me out of the house, not to mention the day to day commitments of a family that somehow expects I should feed them everyday (even though they don't like much of anything I cook for them). There is SO MUCH I have to work on, and I haven't even mentioned settling back to do the final handsewing on my new butterfly brocade dress while watching the series of Soundbreaking I finally managed to get hold of, because that's pure leisure time.

But I digress. (Often). I really want, right here right now, to address current events, yet again. We are at a scary moment of history. And if you disagree, this is probably due to the stories you are telling yourself, not the truth. And if you think the people who disagree ARE fully aware of the truth, you are also telling yourself stories, not seeing the full truth. The sad, frustrating, dangerous, and frankly somewhat traumatizing thing is, forces have transpired to fog the truth up for us. Gah, I know, that's vague. But that's the point. It would be nice to be able to point directly at Putin and blame the rise of totalitarianism on the Russian propaganda machine, but that's just part of it. It's easy to point to the new administration, which is doing it blatantly: But again, that's just part of it. If we all called these things as they are, they wouldn't have any power. But the fog isn't coming out of a single sfx machine that we can just unplug. A spun story here, an appeal to People Like Me there, a information miasma without enough librarians, and countless individual stories-we-tell-ourselves being presented as truth in echo chambers among people telling similar stories, and you end up with a GREAT SMOG pouring in from countless directions.

I'm super-sensitive to this fog, which is why I said it's somewhat traumatizing. It's traumatizing for ME. I don't like my mind being messed with. It makes me angry. It makes me frustrated. It makes me really really sad. And I feel like Cassandra when I see it happening and I can't get anyone to believe me (who doesn't already see it happening themselves).

Let me show you how these things happen, using a tragedy that happened down the street from me this past fall as an example (skip the paragraph if you don't want to read a tragedy). Here is what happened, strict facts. A man who had been abusive and outright threatened to kill his pregnant wife showed back up to torment her and threaten her life again, even though she had a PFA against him. She called the police. Police showed up, too late, he's already shot and killed her and now he turns the gun out the window and shoots two officers, killing one, badly injuring the other. The police shut down the area and go on a manhunt for the rest of the morning, only to find the guy had killed himself right after. 'Kay. That's what happened.

Here is one way the story could be presented, and was: the story of the police martyrs cut down in the line of duty by a cop-killer. This angle is still in evidence in our town-- the blue-and-black ribbons are still up all over, the signs that say "We stand with you, Cbg PD!" and "We salute our fallen officers." This angle really resonates with people, which is how my little neighborhood ended up making the national news. Implicit in this coverage is a "Those darn criminals keep killing our fine police officers!" message. And it goes farther, it gets turned into "Why do you keep accusing the police of brutality, can't you see THEY'RE the victims, THEY'RE the ones that keep getting SHOT DOWN because your lies about police brutality make people hate them?!" Whoa, slow down here. The guy shot them because he was a violent maniac and they were coming to arrest him, not because he was part of some cop-killer club or anything, lying in ambush just waiting to pick one off. Officer B truly did die in the line of duty, not out of some political demonstration.

Now look at the way the story was NOT presented. I was surprised when the story made the national news because the sad fact is domestic abusers kill their partners ALL THE TIME, and you don't hear it on the national news unless one of them's famous or something really unusual and gruesome happened or, say, a cop got killed. Is this woman, and her unborn child, and all the other victims of domestic abuse, somehow less important than the police officers who were trying to save her? Is her life worth less? Why is her death not a national tragedy? Oh, sure, the police were in a way innocent bystanders, just doing their jobs, and they got shot. But isn't she equally innocent? Isn't it a tragedy that she's had to suffer at his hands and words all this time, that she tried to get help and protection and it ultimately didn't work? With all the black-and-blue ribbons all over town, in just one place do you see a memorial to her-- on the electric signpost of the drug store where she worked. Her coworkers love and miss her. But everywhere else she's forgotten.

Now imagine what would have happened to the story the world saw if I change just one detail. You see, this woman was an immigrant from Egypt. Her killer husband was an all-american white boy with freakin' american flags waving off the back of his truck (I used to gawk at it, it was something). WHAT IF their ethnicities had been reversed? What if the killer was a Middle-Eastern immigrant and his wife was *gasp* blonde? If you don't think this would change the way this story was told, you haven't been paying much attention. We all have our own Normals, based on where we grew up, where we live now, who we were raised by, and who we were raised among. When we see just a snapshot of another Normal, it's easy to jump to conclusions. Because this, people in that Normal must be this other thing. So we get a bit repulsed by the Others and retreat deeper into our own Normals, where everyone tells the same stories about What Normal IS that you do So we automatically frame what we see in terms of what we already consider normal. The story of the tragedy in my neighborhood takes on a different meaning depending on how you feel toward police officers, what your experiences or knowledge of domestic abuse is like, or how much you know about the culture to which any of the interested parties belong. We group people and experiences into "like me" and "not like me" categories in our heads, and when evidence goes contradictory to it, we rewrite our understanding of reality to fit. Sometimes we change our opinions. But other times we hold tighter to what we used to know as true.

This is true across the board, but people who are still optimistic about our new president have had it particularly bad, lately. They were so excited to get a GOP president-- "GOP! Anti-Obama and Anti-Hillary! That means he's LIKE US!"-- that they fail to see that he's actually NOT. Oh, he's not a Democrat in disguise either, all right. He's not a normal president, period. But he must be good because he says things about Making America Great Again, and that's exactly what we want to hear, so.... Particularly fascinating are the folks in these pictures who admire his Godliness but wish he'd stop tweeting. I suppose because every tweet makes the UNGodliness stand out instead. It makes it hard for them to keep telling that story to themselves. If he keeps it up they may be forced to change their minds about him, and they'd rather not, so just shut up, Donny, and let them keep their fantasies, okay?

Don't run away from reading me here yet, my conservative friends! Don't get complacent, my liberal ones! The Left has their own pretty stories, too. The most problematic one is lumping all President Trumpsterfire's supporters together with the worst of them. They've all made a serious mistake-- yes, you KNOW I think you've made a serious mistake, people who voted for him-- but not for nefarious purposes. Yes, they may kill people by taking away their health care, yes, they may invalidate people's marriages, yes, they may condone the persecution of millions of innocents because of their heritage or genetics, but they DON'T SEE IT THAT WAY. They know different Stories, they either don't HAVE all the facts or they can't make the facts fit into their Stories so they respin them as falsehoods. A few of them--a few-- really ARE hateful, bigoted scum. But when we call the REST hateful bigoted scum, too, it just makes it harder for them to listen to the actual truths you're telling that they need to hear! I've seen too many conservative friends bristling away from the movement toward justice because of this. I found the pictures from the Womens' Marches really inspiring yesterday. Then I saw a tweet from a conservative friend in response to someone who'd said LOOK HOW BEAUTIFUL EVERYONE UNITED EVERYONE IS WELCOME! "...not the Pro-Life ones," she replied bitterly. OUCH. I know what she means. I have no doubt that Pro-Life women WOULD have been and WERE welcomed into the marches, but a lot of Pro-Choicers have a problem how they talk about the Pro-Life movement-- they, too, lump people who genuinely believe in the sanctity of life with misogynists who just want to control women's sexuality. This is a particularly frustrating issue for me, because I grew up in a very actively Pro-Life extended family-- I've done the March for Life myself!-- and I thoroughly understand my family members' actual feelings on the matter, and I truly consider myself Pro-Life, even though from a political standpoint I am technically pro-choice. I don't think the picture shows up in the quoted tweet, here's the one I was referring to: I've had a real hard time at church since just before the election. Remember I said I hadn't lost my faith in God but was pretty disillusioned with the Church? Our pastor, he's a great guy y'know, but the Sunday before the election he said something like, "Yeah, we have to make a choice, and it looks like we have to make a choice between 'Bad' and 'Worse.' I can't tell you who to vote for, but I will say when you get down to it that the most important thing is protecting the Sanctity of Life, and we have to vote to stop abortion." And I'm just SERIOUSLY HAVE YOU EVEN LOOKED AT THIS GUY, HE IS ANTI-LIFE UNLESS IT'S HIS OWN! The fact that the Pro-Life movement has become SO FOCUSED on overturning Roe vs. Wade that they can no longer see that liberal movements have actually done far far more to REALLY protect the sanctity of life (I can't find the article I read about this last summer that uses facts to support this claim, but here's another article I found while looking for it that at least expresses the idea in more detail) is just... so depressing, really. And if we'd stop being so PARTISAN about it, we could SEE this, and actually WORK TOGETHER to truly protect LIFE.

I think the most important thing we need to do is follow Haymitch's advice in Catching Fire, and remember who the real enemies are. I know we find it hard to forgive each other. I know we're angry, we're all so angry. But let's make sure we're focusing the anger in the right place. I saw someone say, "Trump didn't divide America!" -- true, we've already been divided. I've seen others say, "We need to stand together and put faith in the election process and our new administration." Or, the opposite, "We CANNOT play nice anymore. The Nazis weren't defeated because the Allies had a nice discussion and they all shook hands."

BUT. A totalitarian government just LOVES when it can pit its citizens against each other. It LOVES to be all "if you're not for us your against us." There are people TRYING to get us to hate each other, pointing at all the worst actions of the "other" side instead of the many many more right actions. WE CANNOT LET THEM DO THIS. Civil war destroys so much. A revolution, on the other hand? If we all, ALL, take a good look around and see who the enemies REALLY are? It's rough when we're still divided over the stories we're getting, but the fact is the majority of people are GOOD PEOPLE. And when we stick together instead of turning on each other, we can beat this.

I don't know if this whole quoted tweet will show up, but... You see this is the one she was quoting: That original tweet was a little bitter, about how privileged white women are that they don't have THEIR protests broken up by riot police (when there isn't a riot). But Goldeen takes that and says LET'S USE THIS. You see what we can do when we ALL stand together? We can't let anyone try to divide us any more. We need to speak up even when we aren't the direct victims of an injustice. We need to listen to each other and not just assume that, oh, this is only about THEM, or that, oh, I don't see a problem so obviously there isn't really a problem they're just overreacting. If we open our eyes and hearts and stand together, we can keep the real enemies from their nefarious plans. We can make right mighty, instead of pretending might makes right.
rockinlibrarian: (portrait)
It’s time for the yearly roundup, and while 2016 is pretty universally known to have been a pretty crappy year, it’s had its bright spots too. As I’ve done for the past few years, I’ve rounded up events and reviews into Top Five lists for your perusal. It makes for a long post, but I’d love for you to read it, and chime in with comments on anything you see that you agree with, disagree with, or feel enlightened by, because I do these things to talk to people, you know.

Cut for length and pictures )
So yay! I hope you've stuck with me through this long, long post! Drop me a comment!

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rockinlibrarian

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