rockinlibrarian: (wwii)
I briefly considered trying NaNoWriMo since I don't have One Book to work on this year, but I had a feeling that would be like trying a marathon in my current state of fitness, so instead I said, "Okay, I will just get into the habit of writing every day." THAT hasn't been doing all that well, either. Granted, I spent the first week of November sleeping off a horrible flu-like thing that SHOULDN'T HAVE HAPPENED BECAUSE I GOT A FLU SHOT A MONTH AND A HALF AGO DANGIT, but even that week I had moments where I thought "I don't have the energy for housework, so nothing's tugging at me and making me feel guilty for writing, so I should get lots of writing done!" But HAH. I barely got daily JOURNALING in.

Then I got distracted making a dress. I replaced my sewing machine a few weeks ago, and now it's just HERE ASKING ME TO MAKE STUFF. I've been looking forward to making this dress for a long time, with a pattern I'd made up myself based on this gorgeous dress I saw on a totally-out-of-my-price-league boutique site which I can no longer find a picture of, so I pieced the pattern together by mixing up parts of dresses and other patterns I already had. Then a month ago I inherited a huge pile of fabric from my grandmother-in-law's house, which included two swaths she'd already paired together which seemed perfect for the dress, and when I actually cut the pieces out it turned out to be EXACTLY THE RIGHT AMOUNT of fabric of each color. It was creepy! It was like it was MEANT TO BE! I love the results, but they're not exactly what I expected. I'd been going for a sort of retro feminine cocktail dress type thing, and yet somehow what happened looks EXACTLY like it should be a costume for The Sound of Music.
Picture 33*
Which I still love. I've always been slightly obsessed with all Maria's dresses in that movie. And though the green fabric is heavy and I'm pretty sure Mim-mim had originally intended to make something tableclothy out of it, I don't THINK it looks like it's made of old drapes. But it DOES look a bit like I intend to do some kind of Alpine dancing in it. NOT THAT IT ISN'T AWESOME. I'm just not sure that I could wear it to a hip cocktail party** without being mistaken for some sort of ethnic entertainment.

Along with the huge box of fabric, I also got a bunch of notions and wrapping paper and casserole dishes and Pe-pa's ties that I mentioned last post, and most remarkably, a little yellowed paperback from 1943, VOGUE's Pocket Book of Home Dressmaking. It's a treasure trove of tips, if you ignore the obviously dated stuff.

Of course, why ignore ALL the dated stuff, because this paragraph on the back cover is just plain interesting: "Above all, you will help the Government in its conservation program, by waging war on waste. And when peace comes, you will want to continue to make the distinctive clothes that you have learned to make with this step-by-step handbook." That's a sort of fun thing to read and go "OOO!" But that's OBVIOUSLY a product of history. Another line on the back copy struck me even more, even though it doesn't scream out its era so blatantly: "It proves that sewing need not be difficult, but actually fun."

Heh, I thought. Actually FUN? I wouldn't even think of sewing if I didn't find it fun. Who sews because they HAVE to anymore? Putting aside wartime shortages, though, there WAS a time when sewing ones family's own clothes oneself was considered a necessary chore. You bought material and patterns, not ready-made clothes, unless you were well-off enough to afford a tailor. It was something that was just EXPECTED of the lady of the house.

But everyone I know who sews nowadays does it as a hobby. Sure, it has benefits, they can make useful things usually cheaper and more personalized than if they just bought those things. Maybe they even sell some of their creations on Etsy. But none of them do it because it's EXPECTED of them.

I wondered what it would be like if I HAD to sew. If I was REQUIRED by my family, by society, by available resources, to MAKE everything my family wore. Would I still get excited finding particular patterns or materials? Would I still want to show off what I'd made when I finished? Or would I dread having to hem another pair of pants?

It's one thing to make it a gendered obligation. Sure, there were probably lots of women who didn't like to sew and didn't like being expected to sew merely because it was "Women's work." But if I, someone who DOES enjoy sewing, had lived in a time or place where I was OBLIGED to do it, I'm not sure I would have liked it so much either. For example, take the other most prominent half of Home Economics, the half that IS still usually EXPECTED of people (although not as OFTEN in a gendered way): cooking. I DO love cooking. I love eating even more, but I also enjoy pulling together a meal and substituting ingredients and generally making something scrumptious to share with others. BUT in my house I am THE COOK. The other adult, if left to his own devices, might forget about plant-based ingredients entirely. Oh, wait, ingredients? Forget ingredients, the less pieces, the better. All-in-one ready-made for him. So basically, here I am, the one that HAS to prep all the meals every day. The one that HAS to find a meal to at least partially satisfy four people with very different tastes, one of whom is extraordinarily picky to the point that he's bordering on underweight, one of whom is slightly less picky but is weird about Things Touching and, again, is even weirder about VEGETATION, and one of whom isn't THAT picky yet somehow doesn't like SPAGHETTI WHAT IS WRONG WITH HER. (I am the least picky eater, but admittedly I AM the only one in the family who doesn't like ham. What is wrong with ME). I get SO SICK of trying to please this crew. I get SO SICK of HAVING to come up with dinner every night. That's really the problem. It wouldn't be so bad if I didn't HAVE to do it EVERY NIGHT.

It's funny how chores become such CHORES. My kids are still at the age where they think doing the dishes is the most fun thing ever, which would be great if they actually got the dishes CLEAN. But as soon as they're old enough to do it thoroughly and seriously, and I try to GET them to do the dishes, how long do you suppose the fun will last?

Life is full of obligations, but it doesn't seem fair that obligation should so suddenly and thoroughly turn things Not Fun. Really, what's the difference? What is really the difference between WANTING to and HAVING to? If people only did the things they WANT to, how soon would we fall into chaos? Or would we? Would the people who WANT to do all the usual obligations just step in and pick up the slack for those who don't? Anarchy isn't so bad because there's somebody who will do anything? Or will they? WHO KNOWS? How can we use this tendency to dread obligation to our true advantage?

I always say that about Christmastime, though-- that I wish the people who didn't enjoy the process and stressed out about their holiday obligations would just let their obligations slide and let those of us who DO love getting ready for Christmas take up all the slack, because we do it gladly and with joy and give it freely to even those who don't feel like giving it back. But Christmastime is one thing. The rest of the year, the drudge of everyday life... we may need those obligations too much to say "Only if you want to!"

OR DO WE? I'm really just confusing myself now. I suppose we never can know for sure.

---

*Also, my daughter mugging. After this picture on the computer are at least five more goofy selfies.
**because I go to so many of those
rockinlibrarian: (librarians)
Sometimes I write blog posts about whatever's on my mind. Sometimes I THINK about writing blog posts but never actually do. Sometimes I think about writing ACTUAL WORKS OF THEORETICAL ART but never actually do (the bunch of you who read my early chapter book the other week? I thank you again. I'm thinking about your ideas. I still haven't actually put any of them to use yet). But I rarely even think about writing anything of PRACTICAL USE, which is a shame, because that's actually the only type of writing I've ever been paid for, until I was replaced with a SurveyMonkey. Also, it's, as I said, useful. And it OCCURRED to me the other day, as I was surfing the 'net for programming ideas, that sometimes I came up with ideas that were WAY BETTER than the ones I was finding, so maybe I should possibly share some of them myself?

I think maybe it might be useful of me to post monthly about what I've done at the library. Since this season's programming started halfway through September, I'll add on the first few weeks of that, too, this month.

I have two basic in-house programs: Library Explorers, which is a STEAMish sort of thing for elementary students, and Family Night, an all-ages evening storytime. This season I'm doing them both on the same night so sometimes I'll use the same topic for both and just mix up the activities a bit. Here's what happened:
cut for length and pictures )
rockinlibrarian: (love)
This is what I woke up pondering in the middle of the night. I might blame Cat for creating a whole blog for such Lycoris-type questions for us to ponder (and this one I answered is sort of similar). Or I might blame this great post from Cheryl Klein and a series of tweets from Rae Carson I read yesterday, both of which discussed how helpful it is to take an objective look at stuff YOU don't like but other people LOVE just to figure out what it is that it must be somehow doing right. I might blame a chance run-in with one of those Martin-Freeman-haters, who allow the fact that my Imaginary Husband can't stop running his mouth and has said a few stupid things in his day completely sour them and blind them to the far greater amount of AWESOME he has done and said, and I get cranky when people irrationally hate people I love. I might blame violent football players, because we keep hearing about THEM a lot lately, too. Most likely it was all these things swirling together, keeping me up, making me wonder if I should just GET up to write this but then worrying that I'd fall back asleep just when I was SUPPOSED to wake up, instead.*

There's something in online culture I might call the "Your-Fave-Is-Problematic" syndrome. At least, it's most obvious in online culture, but in light of Cat's question about forgiveness, I guess it exists everywhere, in any situation. It's this idea some people have that, if they can see there's something wrong with something that other people like, suddenly it's all "THAT THING IS WRONG! HOW CAN YOU LIKE A WRONG THING! YOU OBVIOUSLY DON'T KNOW THAT THING IS WRONG IF YOU STILL LIKE THAT THING! STOP IT!" That's what Klein** and Carson were talking about in the things I linked above-- instead of immediately tearing down what other people love, you might want to focus on why they love it and you might learn something from it?

But how much wrong IS too wrong? Don't people kind of have a responsibility to point out problems that need to be changed? How much problem negates all the good? Where's the line between forgiveness and letting injustice get away with it?

Let's take our violent football players. These are people who have done things both immoral and criminal, and yet so many people are willing to overlook reprehensible behavior by their favorite players because the game is that important to them. The game's not that important to me, though. I don't feel like football really offers the world anything it can't get elsewhere, and certainly it's not like there aren't other players to take the place of reprehensible players, if necessary, either.

But what happens when you get into ART? Art, where everyone has a unique voice, and one silenced voice can't simply be replaced by another? I know fans-- and or former fans-- of people like Woody Allen and Marion Zimmer Bradley have had to wrestle with these feelings when their artists turned out to have horrible dark sides. And you have artists who've harbored horrible opinions-- like H.P. Lovecraft might be a LEETLE more excused by his time period than Orson Scott Card is today. But I haven't had to wrestle with those things, never having held strong opinions about the art of any of those people.

But shall we discuss John Lennon? John Lennon with his history of domestic violence? John Lennon with his art that IS very important to me? I admit I can sometimes feel conflicted about John, particularly in the face of his many more blind-worshipping fans. Dudes, he was NOT the sole or even main creative force in the Beatles. Dudes, he REALLY wasn't a paragon of peace. But if I'm not playing devil's advocate against his idolizers, I forgive him his faults. For one thing, he DID change his ways, in the end. Surely we can't still hold him bound for sins that he himself came to regret as well? And for another thing-- well, "Across the Universe" will never not make me blissfully happy, and nothing about its author can ever change that. --Could it? WOULD it have been different if he'd remained an unrepentant wifebeater? Maybe people would see him differently. And yet not a note of "Across the Universe" would have changed.***

This wasn't what kept me tossing and turning. Kevin Clash was. This is the one instance where the sins of the artist, uh, clashed so dramatically with my admiration for him that I still can't work it out. It still makes me angry, still feels like a betrayal. WHY, Kevin? Sure, other fallen types have done worse, but you're NOT SUPPOSED to fall. You've done SO MUCH, SO MUCH GOOD for children around the world. You've done so much for early literacy and you've brought so much joy. You should be a hero! You WERE a hero! But heroes are allowed SMALL, PERSONAL vices, like addiction or bad tempers or careless negligence. Statutory rape? Even if technically "consensual"? Can you still be a hero with that taint on you, or not? It DOESN'T erase the millions of people whose lives he's improved through his work with the Sesame Workshop. How can that be erased? And yet, anymore when I see Elmo, I just get sad.

I suppose part of the solution is to stop dealing in absolutes. Stop having heroes or villains. I just wish it was easier for people to accept that in-between place where reality lies.

*So I've also been working on another finding-myself book, Wishcraft, by Barbara Sher, as recced by my dear friend Angie, and the other day the exercise was figuring out the perfect environment for me to thrive in. The most important detail I came up with was NOT HAVING TO DO ANYTHING AT A PARTICULAR TIME in the morning, so I could wake up when I woke up and immediately grab my journal and just write until whenever, without HAVING to get up so as to feed children or get them to school or, on weekends, entertain a husband. I JUST WANT A MORNING JOURNALING TIME THAT WON'T REQUIRE ME TO WAKE UP BEFORE I'M READY.

**TECHNICALLY, she was quoting someone else in her post, but she posted it in the first place so as to talk about this, and she's the one whose name I know, so I'm giving her credit here ALTHOUGH TECHNICALLY I KNOW THAT'S NOT PERFECTLY ACCURATE, shut up you Amy's-Posts-are-Problematic folks.

***OR WOULD IT????? WHO REALLY KNOWS THE INTRICACIES OF CHAOS THEORY?!?!
rockinlibrarian: (librarians)
Yesterday afternoon I opened my 2nd grader's school folder and had a moment of smug hypocrisy. They'd done their DIBEL Reading Assessments at school, and here was a page announcing my new 2nd grader is reading at a 3rd grade level. NATURALLY, MY son reads a grade level ahead.

Never mind how it's kind of my professional mission to expose how READING LEVEL IS A CROCK.

I sat there staring bemused at the paper, trying to reconcile my strong, long-held professional opinions with my parental desires for my children to do well in school. I'd just brought home the latest Elephant and Piggie book from work with me, with the idea that it would be great fun for Sam to read to the rest of us, and then he could mark it down on the reading log he has to keep for school now. But he'd grabbed the book and rather excitedly pointed to the spine and said, "It has a red dot! That means it's a first grade book!" Luckily he didn't say that in a "that means it's for BABIES" way, which would have broken my heart, BECAUSE, ELEPHANT AND PIGGIE (I mean, what kind of idiot WOULD say that? ELEPHANT AND PIGGIE! The most genius easy-reader series of the past decade-or-probably-more!), but now I looked at the paper from the school again and thought, "But wait. Does that mean he WON'T get credit for reading this? Because all of a sudden it is two reading levels too low?!"

Now if Sam were like ME, that'd be no big deal. I read so much (pre-parenthood) that I could easily read whatever number of minutes my reading log required on my Assigned Level and read whatever I wanted the rest of the time. But Sam-- how to put this-- is not a, you know, "READER." Obviously he CAN read. He reads a grade level ahead. He's just not interested in BOOKS. Also not exactly true. He's not interested in reading through story books one after another like I did as a kid. He's VERY interested in, say, a nonfiction book about trains or LEGO. He pours over his Puzzle Buzz magazines. He reads to find out things, and he loves reading to find out things. He just doesn't love reading for the sake of reading. And sitting down reading every evening for a certain amount of time is just contrary to the way he likes to read.

So now the school is putting these restrictions on reading. He HAS to read at least ten minutes a night. Those ten minutes MUST be spent on Books With a Yellow Dot AR Sticker (and oh yeah, he has to take AR tests now). Before my own kids had reached this point at school, I'd bristled whenever a parent came into the library stressing about reading levels and colored stickers and no-you-can't-read-that-it's-too-easy-or-hard. And by "before," I mean "two hours before." Two hours before, I'd printed out this post by Jon Scieszka on how to encourage reading to keep copies of at the desk.

"Do not tell them reading is magical, or good for them, or important, or something they better do for an hour before bedtime or goddammit they will end up like shiftless Uncle Dave who is always asking to borrow money," Scieszka says. "...Do not refuse to get a book for them because it isn’t up to their reading level. Do not tell them (or me, or anyone) that they are 'reluctant readers.' ...Promise there won’t be a quiz or a list of ten questions after the book."

"THIS," I proclaimed to my coworker. "Everyone who comes in here needs to read this!"

Two hours later, I sat pondering how to help my own child meet those same restrictions.

"You should come to the library with me, Sam," I said. "I can help you find some Yellow-dot books that you'll like." It became a sort of challenge in my head, really. I KNOW there are Yellow-Dot books he'll like. We're just narrowing our options. Just for the school year. Just for the reading logs. If he WANTS to read others, hey, great. Certainly he can read whatever he wants during vacations. And it's not like we're NOT going to read that Elephant and Piggie book (but hey, maybe that means I can take a part again, right? I love doing Piggie's voice). But this is just for this homework assignment. It's just a long-term homework assignment. It's just like having to pick a biography or something for a different assignment. IT'S THE ASSIGNMENT'S REQUIREMENTS, not the requirements of reading in general.

I have to admit, I feel a bit humbled. I was blinded by my idealism. I wanted all my library patrons to just DROP all their worries about reading levels, to toss them aside as the nonsense they are. But it's not so easy as all that in reality. From a parent's standpoint, now, I understand better where the school is coming from. We DO want to challenge our kids' reading skills. It's COOL that Sam is getting poked to pick up something harder or more complicated to read than he'd be likely to choose on his own.

I still believe everything Jon Scieszka says in that post. I still hate Accelerated Reader. I still think reading level is a sham. But maybe there's a way to work with the system, to work around the system. To follow the directions of school assignments without squelching the notion that reading can be fun. We need to make sure we offer enough choice within the limits given. We need to make sure everyone understands that these limits are only the rules of a school assignment, not the be-all-and-end-all of reading itself. We need to, for gosh sakes, DRILL IN the notion that accumulating minutes and answering trivia questions is JUST A SCHOOL ASSIGNMENT, NOT what reading is all about, and your abilities to do or not do those things aren't what make you a good or bad or any kind of reader. Reading is bigger than school!

But maybe I only hope I can do these things. Maybe my mom side and librarian side will be constantly fighting each other. But I hope not.
rockinlibrarian: (sherlock)
The other day I jumped back into The Soul Tells a Story by Vinita Hampton Wright. If you've been hanging around here awhile you might remember me talking about this book, its beautiful discussions of the way art and spirituality intersect, the way it poses soul-searching Hard Questions that dig way deeper into your motivations than most other writing prompts you might encounter. I'd left off on it just before a chapter called "The Beauty and Danger of a Creative Life: Why the Wonder Brings Darkness With It," which may have been WHY I'd left off. I've been having serious fear-induced blocking issues with my creativity, after all: the last thing I needed was MORE reason to be wary of it. But as it turned out, the chapter told me nothing I didn't already know intimately. I'm IN the Dark Stuff already! If anything, it was further proof that I am, actually, a creative person.

I found myself utterly tickled by a paragraph explaining that artists tend to fall in love easily because the artistic mindset and the-emotional-side-of-being-in-love are both heightened ways of experiencing the universe, and I fell so deeply in love with that concept that I woke up the next morning intent on writing a post about it. Only I got so distracted by breakfast and children and the Internet that hours went by and I found I'd lost the desire to blog. So obviously my best bet was to procrastinate further, by searching for tips on how habitually-procrastination-prone EnneaType 9s like myself can stop procrastinating. Mostly I just found lots of evidence that, yes, we are really good at procrastinating.* I didn't think the blog post could happen in this state, so I went back to the book to reread a bit to see if it put me back in the mood. After all, I hadn't even READ the Hard Questions for the chapter yet.

Wait. HAH. In typical Type 9 fashion, I'd gotten so excited about the Beauty of a Creative Life that I'd managed to forget entirely that this chapter had actually focused on the Danger of it. I'd even forgotten why I called the Hard Questions "the Hard Questions" (hint: they're not actually called that). And these Hard Questions? There was a list called "Worst-Case Scenarios":"The phrase or sentence I most fear writing down..."; "The secret I most fear coming to light"; "The emotion that frightens me most"; "The location associated with my darkest moment"; "The failure that would shatter me most"; "The biggest mistake I could make"; "The cruelest thing I've ever said or done"; "My greatest regret so far"; "The one thing I dread more than anything"; "The possibility I worry about most"; "The thing I need to do but can't"; "The one person or event that can make me angriest in the shortest amount of time"; "The grief that won't let me go." Those are the SHORT questions. The big one was "Write a three-page essay that explores the darkness you have either found in your creative work or feared you would find there. Write quickly and don't edit... [after a few days go back and] make sure it flows well and would be understandable to someone who knows nothing about you....Come up with some sort of structure and revise accordingly." That, oh Best Beloveds, is what you're reading right now. The revised, moderately explained edition.

See, the thing about 9s is that we're actually pretty good at DEALING with the world's Darkness, push come to shove. We're good in a crisis, should we happen to be dropped into the middle of one. But we're not so good at FACING the Darkness. We'll go out of our way to AVOID dealing with the Darkness. We're a bit like the Wizard Howl, having to trick himself into being brave because otherwise he'd slither right out of it.** THESE QUESTIONS WERE ASKING ME TO LOOK MY OWN DARK SIDE RIGHT IN THE EYE AND DESCRIBE WHAT I SEE. That's the DARK NIGHT OF THE SOUL for a 9!

But having journaled since my early teens, and being a rather 4-like sexual-instinct 9, I'm a bit more introspective than the average 9. I CAN DO THIS. Maybe it'd be more the Long Dark Tea-Time than the actual NIGHT of the Soul.

Never mind it's taken me five paragraphs and two footnotes to get to the point where I actually DO discuss my Darkness.

If you were to ask me, flat out, to give a name to my own personal Dark Side, I'd tell you I've always identified with Wednesday Addams. She is the living-- okay, fictional-- EMBODIMENT of the Dark Side of Me. On the surface I may be this painfully nice, sweet, quiet, innocent girl-- on the inside is Wednesday, a morbid, snarky, sullen witch who's utterly unimpressed by what anyone else thinks. But I love Wednesday! I love secretly BEING her! I wouldn't MIND-- and probably SHOULD BE-- letting her come to the surface more often. So somehow I don't think that's the answer. That morbid, snarky side of me is NOT actually the Inner Darkness I need to face.

I decided to start with whichever of the Worst-Case Scenario questions I came up with an answer for first. The Location Associated With My Darkest Moment popped into my head immediately: I saw myself sitting in the Oak Grove at college trying to process what, looking back, I see now was a genuine Dark Night of the Soul moment (although it was morning), when I had to face a horrible truth about myself and what I'd thoughtlessly done to someone I loved. It had taken a long time-- years-- to fully recover from that. God help me, I wouldn't have to go through THAT again just to answer these QUESTIONS, would I?

But it opened up the tap-- literally, it made me cry for a moment, but I pulled myself together and quite calmly started answering more questions-- and more of my fears and regrets and demons poured onto the page. My fear of being wrong (that's a product of my 1-wing, since we're on the Enneatype stuff), because it's like every added wrong thing is more negativity in the world (which, yeah, is a 9's problem with having a 1-wing). Fears of anything bad happening to my kids, not just because they're my babies whom I love more than anyone else in the world, but also because I fear having to FACE anyone SHOULD they have (even unwittingly) caused harm to my kids, because I don't think I could forgive them-- I'm not sure I forgive myself for all my failures as a parent and how they might manifest in the future. The regret that I never did anything daring with my life BEFORE I had a family. The dread that I never WILL, that my life has gone stagnant. The deeper dread that the only way I CAN ever learn to live life fully is to give up my family and strike out on my own.

Now, none of these things were a surprise to me. Even if it might be hard to make myself sit down and write them, I've written about them all before. I've written SO MUCH in my journals-- and even here on my blog-- about my battles with chronic depression, which I even refer to as The Darkness-- because it IS, it's a cloud that settles over everything, blocking out light-- you can actually see a difference in the colors when you're depressed and not. I've written about this stuff so often it seemed pointless to write it again for the sake of this exercise.

So what about the darkness I FEARED I would find in my work? That would be more revealing. I KNOW it's fear that's causing my writer's block. I KNOW I'm slithering out of it just like Howl slithers out of his dangerous responsibilities, even as I feel called to DO it. I pondered, and the answer hit me: it's not so much what I'm afraid I'll find there. It's what I'm afraid I WON'T find. You know the Fear of the Blank Page? It's that. But it's more than that. It's the fear that even if I DO put something on the page, there will still be nothing there. I've filled dozens and dozens of notebooks FULL of blank pages, but have I written anything there, really? Anything that MEANS something? Anything with a POINT? What if I write and write but I never write anything that needs to be said? That's really the driving obsession (in the clinical, totally negative sense of the word) during my depressive periods: what's the point? What is the point of MY EXISTENCE? Maybe I'm afraid of that known liar, Depression, proving itself right in my writing, and I'll never find in it a point, or meaning, or a happy ending, or even God. I fear finding the chaos of nothingness instead of the logos of Story.

Let me explain. If I had to sum up what I believe in in one word, it would be logos, a Greek word which, in the Gospel of St. John, is usually translated as "The Word." But logos actually connotes something bigger than just words: order, logic, meaning, sense. Cause and effect. My whole world-view is founded on these things-- that there's an underlying meaning that holds the multiverse together into a story. No matter how bad I might be at following a religion, my faith in The Word-- God as logos-- is so ingrained that I have trouble understanding what it's like to think without it.***

But, if THAT's what I fear I'll find-- a lack of God-- certainly there's a way to get past that. There are thousands of people who manage to be atheists without having existential crises. Me, I don't know how. HOW, oh atheists out there reading this (and this isn't rhetorical, I really want to hear your answers. I'm trying to LEARN here!), do you answer the questions, "What's the point of me? Why am I here? Why don't I just go die?" I have enough trouble answering those questions even WITH the fallback answer of "God loves and has a plan for each and every person, even me." If I DIDN'T have that answer, I'm not sure I could get through my Dark Times.

The irony is, this makes sense even WITHIN my spiritual worldview. Most atheists pride themselves on basing their beliefs on only hard evidence, which is, when you think about it, exactly what a Type 9 is supposed to be incorporating MORE of into her life. My challenge in growing into an actualized human being is to learn to ground myself, in my body, here and now. To an atheist, the here and now is all that EXISTS. But I'm out there drifting in the numinous without any substance-- I need to reconnect with substance--in a sense, cultivate my atheism!-- in order to actually DO THE WORK of God. FURTHER irony: the word logos I identify with? Being that it means logic and reason, it is sometimes used, philosophically (less so in theology), as the opposite of the emotional. So in other words, it's ALL ABOUT being grounded instead of dreamy!

It's also strange, but facing the fear of meaninglessness by accepting it is weirdly liberating. Like, if nothing really matters, then it doesn't matter what I write, so I can stop FREAKING OUT about not knowing what to write and JUST WRITE ANYTHING. Which is, of course, the only way the bits that DO mean something will ever make it out onto paper in the first place.

Thing is, I'm not an atheist. The theme of church today was Trust in God and good will follow. We sang one of my lifelong favorite church songs, "Be Not Afraid," and my faith was THERE and fully participating. My faith will ALWAYS be there, it's just the way I am. But I have faith in the irony of my need to be more atheistic-- to stop expecting things to Just Happen, to get more involved in the here-and-now-- in order to live truly as a child of God.

Now the question is: did I successfully pull my Dark Side up and put it into words here, or did I just distract myself from true introspection with philosophical ironies that are fun to discuss?

Well, it's interesting, either way.

----
*My favorite sentence was "9w1 [that's me] has a kind of refinement and poise, because of the one-wing's desire to be perfect. But 9w1 is more likely to lie down and take a nap than the more workaholic 1w9." What, that isn't how everyone deals with perfectionist moments?

**Howl, a 9, gee. Seeing that vanity is considered a hallmark of 3s it might be tempting to put him THERE instead, but no way. He's too much of a slitherer-outer to be a 3. Maybe a 4 with a 3-wing. But what with the slithering-out, and the maintaining multiple identities, and the falling-madly-in-love-until-it-gets-too-REAL-then-abruptly-running-away... yeah, quite likely a 9. HUH. And I always identified with SOPHIE.

***My original "three-page" freewrite of this topic here took a tangent into ranting about Philip Pullman. When it came time to form this into a Proper Essay for the Consumption of Others, I realized my musings on Philip Pullman didn't really fit, structurally, but I enjoyed it SO THAT'S WHAT FOOTNOTES ARE FOR. If you're new here: I've always had a PROBLEM with Philip Pullman. Oh sure, he's a great writer, but somehow, whenever I read an interview or an essay written as HIMSELF, it ALWAYS rubs me the wrong way, even when I AGREED with him. Sure, he IS a sometimes controversially-outspoken atheist, but quite a lot of atheists say things I agree with just fine, and even where our beliefs seem to differ I often get the feeling we merely define a few words differently, or have different understandings of what God or religion IS. Philip Pullman doesn't even allow me THAT much. But writing this I realized that, unlike most atheists, it isn't merely a matter of not believing in an Old Man Creator In the Sky-- Philip Pullman doesn't believe in logos! It's not that our worldviews are DIFFERENT, they're OPPOSITE. They CLASH! Weird story though-- some weeks back I took a "Which Fantasy Author Are You?" Internet survey, one that was quite long and in depth and therefore you'd expect it to be more accurate than usual. GUESS WHO MY ANSWER WAS. Maybe Philip Pullman is my shadow self. Maybe HE'S my Dark Side! Sorry, Wednesday! You've apparently been supplanted!
rockinlibrarian: (hi maddie)
Hey, kids!

Do you enjoy when I ramble aimlessly on the Internet? Well, you're in luck! Today I need to use you in lieu of my private paper journal, because the heel of my right thumb is injured and I'm finding it exceedingly difficult to write with a pen for an extended period. Meaning, longer than a paragraph. I just tried and it's not working, so here I am, because even though I can't seem to MAKE anything of my writing (for now, for now! To everything there is a season! as my dear friend E. Louise Bates reminded me last time I felt down about that online), I apparently still must write SOMETHING daily to keep my head on straight.

I got stabbed with a steak knife, if you were wondering. This is why loading the dishwasher is dangerous and should be avoided at all costs. J had foolishly stuck it in the silverware holder moments before, point up, which is not a wise thing to do, by the way, and he still can't seem to forgive himself, but I think he did a rather fine job of redeeming himself by coming to my aid afterward, as I was going helpless. "I'm okay, I need to get a bandaid," I said, going to wash my hands, "I'm bleeding a lot. Um, could you get me a bandaid? I don't think I can get it open," and that's when I started getting woozy and had to collapse on the floor.

Please say I'm not the only one who has this problem with injury? Like Anne Shirley at first, I feel like I'm missing something because I've never PROPERLY FAINTED, but I come NEAR enough to it for all sorts of stupid reasons. I get surface booboos all the time, being a klutz, and I almost don't even notice those (hense my immediate "I just need to get a bandaid!" reaction), but just a bit DEEPER than surface and I start to pass out. Part of my deep mistrust of gym teachers is rooted in the time we were supposed to be practicing cartwheels in 5th grade and I came down on my thumb wrong, pulling it backward too hard, and this Woozy Reaction hit me so I tried to go sit down and the gym teacher would NOT HAVE IT. How injured could I BE, really? And I'm like I KNOW it's stupid and I'm barely hurt BUT I HAVE TO SIT DOWN OR I WILL FALL DOWN ANYWAY.

So J applied pressure and bandaged me up and talked me through the feverish faint until I could actually sit up again, and then cautioned me against overtaxing the hand until it healed, so then I laid down and watched Netflix for the rest of the evening. And there went my plans for today. Go to yoga? Weed the garden? Write with a pen, apparently? I am SO MAD that I'm not ambidextrous.

So anyway, I must do my rambling here instead of in my notebook. Normally first thing in the morning when I write, I often write a bit about what I dreamed, but last night there's nothing sticking out as PARTICULARLY memorable. OH, OH, except this part about how people in an Irish village have to be sacrificed to the fairies every New Years Day but the group of us slated for sacrifice managed to avoid this this year through strategic elevator deception and possibly fireworks? I'm not sure. That's where the not PARTICULARLY memorable part comes in, because I don't remember that part.

Yesterday we were playing Rifts, a "tabletop" RPG, over Skype with J's best friend. The two of them can talk minute details of RPGs they will never get around to playing for HOURS, but every so often they'll get a block where they can both sit at the computer and chat over the microphone and actually PLAY, with ME around to be a third player, because it's boring to have less players than that. I enjoy playing from a storytelling standpoint, if not to the point of minute details, but the difference between making up a story out loud vs. on paper is frustratingly apparent, at least when you're trying to play a spy with advanced interrogation skills, and the rest of the team is waiting for you to ask just the right questions and you're sitting there making fish faces until you burst out "My CHARACTER knows what to say, but I don't!" Why IS that? I don't think it's merely a matter of confidence. I think there really might be a short circuit in between my putting-things-into-words center and my mouth center. There doesn't seem to be that problem between my brain and HANDS, which is why I can SAY everything I'm thinking in WRITING. Not that I'm exactly Queen of Improv here, either. I guess it's just less of a problem to take your time remembering the right words when you're putting them on paper and only letting someone else in on them when you're all done (if ever). Or, maybe, taking things back and trying out DIFFERENT things to say, and what order to say them in, whereas you have to make a snap decision on what you're going to say if you say it out loud.

So it's possible that the only reason I'm a better writer than a talker is because I'm indecisive.

I'm reading Jaclyn Moriarty's A Corner of White-- I KNOW! I KNOW! I'M ACTUALLY READING A NOVEL FOR ONCE!-- and it's because I love Jaclyn Moriarty that much, so much that I can finally get around to reading a book AFTER the sequel is already out. Anyway, in the part I was reading last night, a teacher tells his students about Isaac Newton writing himself questions to think about and answers in different handwriting, so that changing his handwriting can help change his thinking in new ways, too. And I thought, well, THAT'S something I need to try. Now, writing with my left hand would certainly be a change in my handwriting, wouldn't it? But I don't want to mess my journal up with it!

This time around, when I had to buy a new notebook for journaling the other week, I bought a sketch journal. No lines! My heart cried out for it. I still WRITE more than draw-- I doodle on lined paper, too. But so far I think the only doodle in this so-called sketch journal is Paul McCartney's bass. This is okay! I had no intention of using it for drawing. It's just a different surface for journaling. Of course I tend to draft things on the backsides of scrap paper, anyway. Stories, letters, complicated blog posts (not my concert review, though. That was actually drafted, for the most part, IN my journal itself. Along with the doodle of Paul's bass). Random rants to the ghost of Diana Wynne Jones. It feels less like you're wasting paper that way than if you do your jotting in a nice lined notebook. But journaling is more linear, so I don't mind-- nay, I PREFER-- to do that in a nice self-contained spiral-bound, in non-smearing pen. But I have yet to see if there's a difference in the way my MIND works, journaling with no lines versus lines.

Now I'm journaling on the screen, with a keyboard, with the full intention of hitting "Publish" when I'm done. But I don't know if even THAT has changed WHAT I would have written THAT much. I explained a few things more than I would have in my private journal. But even my private journals have a bit of an audience. There's SOME imaginary person, far in the future, that I direct them to. It's something in the shaping of it-- not TRULY just random thoughts, but an effort to turn my random thoughts into COMMUNICATION. What would I SAY right now if I had a captive and unwaveringly-supportive audience?

And that's about it. Thank you for being here for me, Livejournal, when my thumb would much rather occasionally hit a space bar than continuously support a pen. I bid you good day.
rockinlibrarian: (beaker)
So the other day when I was having a crisis of identity, I mentioned how the Lone Power likes to twist healthy, positive messages like the #WeNeedDiverseBooks campaign into attempts to get me to shut up, by pointing out that because I'm not any typical big-name minorities-- not in ethnicity, sexuality, physicality, language, whatever-- then obviously no one needs to hear MY stories. E. Louise Bates replied in sympathy, saying that the campaign really DID seem to take on more of a "This is DIVERSITY, this isn't" tone after all-- a strange sort of us-vs-them undercurrent, focusing on certain labels. Like quotas. It's hard for us to talk about, Louise and I, because we ARE coming from places of Privilege, and it's too easy for us to seem to be missing the point or just whiny and self-centered, like the struggling white male authors who protest every time someone says white male authors get all the attention.

But you NEED to talk about it, which is what the point of an attention-getting campaign IS. If only people could be clearer what they're talking about. This is why sometimes I prefer to talk to dead people. I've chosen as my Patron Saint of Creativity a woman who ironically was an avowed atheist, but whatnot-- when I'm trying to get jumbled personal thoughts about writing out and need to bounce them off somebody but not an actual biased person who can directly answer me back, I write to Diana Wynne Jones. (Sure, it's Madeleine L'Engle I named my daughter after, and she would probably be more understanding about being prayed to, but I've always felt that my own writing niche seems to more closely align with Jones... or something? Anyway, it just feels right). So I was writing to her this morning and got to talking about the #WeNeedDiverseBooks campaign and tried to work out exactly what was bothering me about it, beyond a selfish entitled "what about ME" kneejerk, and, as one does when one is praying in a freeform way on paper, I had some interesting thoughts that I feel are worth sharing, even though I could be wrong and all I am is a clueless Privileged girl.

I think what's so disconcerting about the #WeNeedDiverseBooks campaign is that it DOES focus on labels, instead of characters in and of themselves. This seems counter to the point. I like what Shannon Hale has to say on the subject (granted, I like what Shannon Hale has to say on MOST subjects: she's a very wise woman and I recommend following her on at least one media platform if you aren't already)-- she talks about SPECIFIC characters as opposed to NEUTRAL characters, where "neutral" usually defaults to "white, straight, able-bodied." You know, like me :P. Shannon Hale was one of the originators of the campaign, but she's also white, straight, and able-bodied... and Mormon, though-- you note she notes religious differences, too, in her post, and I'm sure she's sick of the Backwoods Polygamist stereotypes out there in the world. But, you know, when you start breaking it down into more and more specific character traits... well that's the thing. They're CHARACTER TRAITS. When we talk about diversity, are we talking about a wide variety of character traits, or are we talking about just a few specific big Labels?

Lisa Yee wrote a "rambling rant" for #WeNeedDiverseBooks where she addresses this question of "should an author write outside their own Group?" with a lovely little catchphrase: "Do not presume -- but do dare to imagine." Well... that's what an author is SUPPOSED to do. We're SUPPOSED to imagine what it's like to be somebody else, no matter what TYPE of somebody else we're writing about. We're SUPPOSED to portray a character, not necessarily a stand-in for ourselves. A unique character who nonetheless is embedded with a universal humanity. CAN you write outside your race? Can you write outside your sexual preference? Can you write outside your gender, your interests, your home life, your tastes in food, your basic personality type? I'm afraid if I say "It's just like any other character trait," I'll come off as privileged and naive, but... it IS like any other character trait. You just have to make it TRUE.

I know I can't claim to be metaphorically "colorblind," not noticing the Type a person belongs to, and I admit to still finding it delightful and surprising when someone defies their stereotypes in some way. It's just I'd rather wait and SEE that part before acting on a first impression-- I'd rather deal with an individual than a type. I'm interested in the things we have in common. I'm interested in the things that make us different, but different as individuals, not group differences. I'm female, but I feel that way about gender, too-- I just don't CARE so much about whether you're male or female or neither as much as I do your individual quirks. Maybe it's just that LABELS remind me too much of CLIQUES. I'd rather not think like that.

The thing is, I DO personally understand the Need for Representation. As a child-- and even now as an adult-- I hungered for two particular Representations of my own self that I just wasn't seeing enough of in media (worse on screen than in books, but still): people with glasses who weren't (stereotypical) nerds, and blonde girls who weren't Bombshells (I could do without the DUMB Blonde thing, too, but even when shows and books made their blondes smart, they were always still considered pretty/love-interest-y/popular). It's a weirdly powerful subconscious and-sometimes-even-conscious NEED for me to see it. To be honest one of the things I love most about Allie Brosh is that she represents a non-bombshell blonde-- a blonde who's funny and angry and unfeminine and tending toward scrapes and completely unique and just happens to be blonde. Because she's autobiographical. And, you know, she just IS blonde. It's just a trait. It wasn't a trait that was chosen to PROVE anything. It's not being used as a shorthand for Beautiful or Ditzy or Popular, or even as a conscious contradiction of any of those things. SHE JUST IS. Like a person.

I think the problems start when people DO think in terms of conscious representation. When someone says, "well, we need more books about black kids that aren't historical, so, hmm, what's a black kid like?" BAM, suddenly they ARE writing a Type instead of an individual-- even if they're consciously writing AGAINST a known stereotype. It's got to be more organic than that, and it's hard to MAKE it organic when the discussions of representation are so HEATED, when there's so much riding on them, when every time a minority character shows up in a story (on paper or screen) they're immediately SCRUTINIZED for how ACCURATE they are and yet NOT STEREOTYPICAL they are and WHETHER THEY'RE GIVEN ENOUGH ATTENTION or whatever. Heck, Lisa Yee above often cites some of the horrible Amazon reviews she got for Millicent Min, Girl Genius which complained that she was fueling the "Chinese smart kid" stereotype... even though Millie is SUCH an individual who just happens to be of Chinese ancestry (and guess what: I, as a Caucasian adult living on the other side of the country, I totally --painfully at times-- identified with Millie). (Also they obviously had not actually READ about Stamford Wong before they complained). Shannon Hale must have said it on Twitter because it's not in that blog post, but her answer for why #WeNeedDiverseBooks was So That It Wouldn't Fall On One Character's Shoulders to Represent An Entire Group. Again, I LIKE THE WAY THAT WOMAN THINKS. It needs to be about individuals.

These sort of campaigns freak me out as a Privileged writer, because I suddenly find myself worried that my stories aren't "diverse" enough or that when I DO have "diverse" characters I'll do it wrong, and I'm REALLY HUNG UP ABOUT WRITING as it is. The funny thing is, when I dream at night, I frequently-- REGULARLY-- nearly nightly-- end up trying to shape the dream into a workable story as it's happening. Okay, here's the main character-- ooo, I'll have to remember that detail-- ooo, this is the conflict upon which the plot will turn, isn't it!-- so on and so forth, working the storytelling muscle overtime while my inhibitions are turned off, because as soon as they turn on again once the light of day hits, it shuts down again, Paralyzed by Self-Doubt. A few weeks ago I had one such dream in which one of the main characters just happened to be legally blind-- no plot-specific REASON for it, she just WAS-- and all I thought about it in the dream was "ooo, that'll force me to work on describing things with non-visual details!" When I woke up and looked back, I realised, "Oh, that there would be one of those 'Diverse' characters I'm supposed to be working into my fiction more." Huh. It was so REFRESHING when she was just a character who happened to be legally blind, and now my waking brain-- my INHIBITIONS-- was trying to make a Thing of it. Well, heck. It doesn't need to be a thing. She's simply a character who happens to be legally blind, and I'll have to focus less on visual details than I do, but you know? I can do that. It shouldn't have to be a Thing if you truly believe in your characters as individuals, right?

But what do I know? I'm still trying to work my way out of this serious many-years-long writer's block. Tell me I'm wrong, where I'm wrong, but I really do believe that portraying individuals is more important than portraying groups.
rockinlibrarian: (roar)
Last week, a tree fell on our house. I was in the upstairs bathroom, the room directly under the point of impact. My initial reaction was to burst out laughing at how this had been immediately preceded by one of the guys cutting it down saying "Uh-oh." A few yards and an attic crawl space from being beaned to death by a falling tree,* and all I could do was appreciate the comic timing of that loud "uh-oh," followed by the smack of a huge bunch of branches right outside the window.

A bit later I was able to expand that reaction to laughing at the irony of the entire situation. We have a series of very old, very tall, very rickety pines right on the property line-- on one side or the other, but all a threat to either our house or the neighbors'. So when said neighbor came over to ask permission to work in our yard so as to remove one of those trees that was on their side of the line, I said, "Oh yes, we're concerned about those trees falling on our house, too." So when the first tree being removed instead falls DIRECTLY ON OUR HOUSE IN THE PROCESS... seriously, you have to admit that's funny!

"How are you laughing?" people would ask me later as I tried to tell them what had happened. "How are you TAKING this so well?" Well, no one got hurt. Insurance is handling all the repairs. Sure, we're going to have to pay a lot more, to take this opportunity to replace the entire roof that needed it anyway; and to replace ALL the siding because they don't make the kind we have anymore to match; and to take this opportunity to get the house properly insulated because it turns out it ISN'T (and that will save money in the long run). And that's kind of exciting. Sure, we probably WON'T get to fixing the retaining wall or painting the shed as per the original plans for this summer of having-more-money-than-we-used-to, but hey.

And you know what? We've never been as friendly with those neighbors before as we have since they dropped a tree on our house. The guys at first cowered in terror from my husband, and took some time to get their heads around that he HADN'T come out screaming-- or shooting, everybody knows about his hobbies-- at them, but instead just expressed concern about no one getting hurt. "What good does getting mad do?" he said. And, as it turned out this had been our neighbor and his buddies themselves trying to do this tree removal instead of a professional company-- and they were definitely not going to try again WITHOUT a professional company, J said, "When you do, let me know, we can go in together on it and get the other trees done, too. Talk to you later, we'll have some beers and barbecue!"

All the personality type descriptions of me that come up feel the need to point out that, as an optimist, I need to be careful not to ignore problems or refuse to acknowledge that there's Bad Stuff about even the things and people I love. That was even TODAY'S Type 9 "Enneathought for the Day" in my inbox: "As average Nines accommodate themselves, they idealize the other person, who can do no wrong. Values and beliefs are seldom questioned. Watch for this tendency in yourself today." I snorted. Well, it's true I'll tend to go with whatever anybody else says rather than stand up for what I want, and that IS something that's been on my mind since yesterday evening, when the hubs and I had an argument about what colors to go with for the new siding and trim. He wants grayscale for easier repairing. I want the exact opposite-- even our current blue-with-white-trim is too bland for me. I want COLOR. Sensible color. I'm definitely leaning toward this particular shade of green, which looks lovely with some browns and a touch of red. Last night I spent a great deal of time dreaming I was studying green houses, and how to compromise with roof color. I also dreamed I was trying to unlock these pictures I couldn't access of the Time I Swear I Really Did Meet Julie Andrews and She Said She Liked My Gardening (note: I have never actually met Julie Andrews), and this lady kept wanting to give me acupuncture in the shape of India. But anyway, my point is I'm sticking to my guns on this, and we ARE going to have SOME color in our new house covering.

And, okay, I do tend to ignore problems, either hoping they'll go away or waiting until I ABSOLUTELY HAVE TO DEAL with them, which could be dangerous especially in medical situations (but you know what happens every time I go to the doctor, after trying to rassle up babysitting or some other rearrangement of schedule? "Oh, you just have a pretty bad virus. Get some rest and drink plenty of fluids." AAAGGHHH!)

But refusing to acknowledge the bad or thinking loved ones can do NO WRONG? I kindly disagree. I am all too aware of The Dark Side. I'm probably MORE aware of the Dark Side than the average person.** That's why disasters and tragedies and horrors seem to SHOCK other people more than they shock me. Not saying bad things don't make me sad, or angry, or slightly sick. It's just that they're so common. If I was expected to cry in outrage EVERY time I encountered a tragedy, I would never stop. So I choose to focus on the beauty or the humor or both.

A common refrain of those who take a pessimistic view is, "We're just being realistic about it!" Dude, let me tell you about being unrealistic. Do you know what goes on inside the head of a person with chronic depression? It's utter negativity. And it's utter BS. Choosing to focus on the positive allows me to actually TAKE ACTION in the world. Focusing on the negative makes me give it all up to hopelessness. Now, I can see where acknowledging as opposed to ignoring problems comes into this. Ignoring problems is not taking action, either. But there's a difference between "HERE'S A PROBLEM. LOOK AT THIS PROBLEM. GASP IN SHOCK AT THIS PROBLEM. OH NO, WE HAVE A PROBLEM!" and "Well, THAT'S something we need to fix. How are we going to do that? I'm sure we'll find a way."

As for idealizing people... I AM very good at seeing the good in other people. I AM inclined to Not-Hate people everyone else can't stand-- and often I DON'T see what their problem is until it's pointed out to me. But usually, I do. I just don't care unless it's actively causing a problem. Like there's a book vendor who has a history of coming to our library. I do not want to work with him. I wish they'd stop letting him come in. He's a horribly pushy salesman. Last time he showed up, unable to find anyone who actually orders books to talk to, he just asked some of the others to look and see what they might be INTERESTED in, and then went and ordered them all for us anyway. I don't like him. But only as a book vendor. I'm sure his family is very proud of what a good salesman he is, how he supports them and all. Just because I don't want to work with him doesn't negate his worth as a human being. It doesn't give me the right to insult his fashion choices or make assumptions about his politics. It doesn't mean I'm going to start a campaign to have all my followers find his Twitter handle and bully him online-- "well HE'S a bully, serves him right!" No, not really. I just don't want to deal with him trying to sell me books.

In one of my childhood books-I-wrote, there's a line at the end where I said (I'm the narrator of that book) something like, "The others have been treating so-and-so better after I told them that she makes a very good book character." Maybe the whole empathy-from-reading-fiction thing is what's kept me realistically-optimistic about people, instead of idealizing them or hating on them. I've always liked looking at people as potential book characters. Imperfect characters are way more interesting than perfect ones. I like quirks. I like wondering about the pain and/or hopes beneath the surface of people. I like comparing the different ways people react to the same situation.

And so I tend to give people the benefit of the doubt.

And what's wrong with that? Is it really better to say "This person is a jerk because they have this terrible fault," than "This person is wonderful in these ways! Oh yes, they're not perfect, but I wasn't talking about that right now"? I mean, sure, if someone has done something reprehensible, they ought to be punished for it if at all possible, and it's wrong to let them get away with it (for example, on one end, Justin Beiber's DUI issues, or Woody Allen's sex abuse thing on the other). And I admit when someone gets a lot of praise whom you know has been, to put it mildly, Imperfect, there's that urge to say "...but!" It's my John Lennon problem. It bugs me when people talk about him like he WAS the Beatles, like he was the genius behind it all, because he wasn't. He was only a so-so musician, particularly compared to Paul. And that whole Icon of Peace thing... excuse me, John? Who mistreated his wives and girlfriends? Rude, crass John? GEORGE would make a much better Icon of Peace-- or Ringo. From a personal day-to-day standpoint, Ringo embodies living a life of Peace better than any of them. DARN IT, PEOPLE, STOP IDOLIZING JOHN. And yet... John. Funny, clever John, who would have made my life by writing either "Across the Universe" or "Julia" alone, and he wrote BOTH of them. I can't not love John, warts and all.

I just don't see the point on dwelling on problems that can't be undone. There comes a point where you realize what a crapball the world can be, what idiots humans are, what atrocities and injustices happen at every moment, and you give up on it-- or you notice the good things that keep on happening, even among all the bad. You notice the wildflowers that have overgrown the tracks at Auschwitz, the strangers sharing supplies with each other in the wake of Hurricane Sandy, the smile on the person you pass on the street, just acknowledging you, just saying, "Hi, I see you're there, and you're a person who could use a smile today."

Focusing on the good is not the same as refusing to acknowledge the bad. It's just not letting the bad win.

----
*one of my grandfathers was killed by a falling tree, this is serious business!
**seriously, "The Imperial March" is playing on my computer right now. I'm not even kidding.
rockinlibrarian: (portrait)
Surprise! Yes I AM posting two days in a row for the second time this month! That's because today is Dogsbody day at #DWJMarch, and when Kristen M first MENTIONED the imminent arrival of #DWJMarch, I said, "Sounds like an excuse to read some fiction again," and turned to my "get at some point" list on my library catalog account. When we converted our library to a county-wide system last summer, allowing us to easily request things from other libraries in the county and use our cards wherever and so forth, I searched for all kinds of things I'd been wanting to find for awhile, and put them on a list for, you know, whenever I felt I had the time to read and/or watch them-- including a search for all the Diana Wynne Jones in the county that I hadn't yet read. I chose Dogsbody from that list the other week because I knew it was a favorite among several people whose opinions I trust.

Then about halfway through the second chapter I laughed at myself, and thought, "Wait, I forgot I hate dog books."

Luckily, there are exceptions. Books where the dogs have a clever way with words and are always getting pulled into scrapes by melodramatic cat friends (the Bunnicula books), books that are just so utterly charming you're really not sure HOW they overpowered your dog book aversion in the first place but you'll recommend them to both dog book lovers AND dog book haters from now on (Because of Winn-Dixie), and books by Diana Wynne Jones are all okay by me. Anyway, it's not so much the presence of DOGS as much as the general overarching genre of ANIMAL books, where the fact that you love dogs, or cats, or horses, is supposed to carry you through an otherwise dull and usually emotionally manipulative plot.

Diana Wynne Jones is incapable of writing such mediocracy unironically. When she writes a dog book, she makes her dog the actual Dog STAR, sent to Earth in the body of a dog as punishment for a murder he didn't commit unless he can find the alleged cosmic murder weapon before this mortal canine body dies. See? Yes. Every so often while I was reading I'd smile and think "I have NO IDEA where this is going!" That's DWJ for you. If you should by any chance correctly predict anything about where one of her stories is going, it's only because she WANTS YOU TO.

But it's still a dog book, at heart, in that the story is grounded in the relationship between a dog and his person-- here a mistreated girl living with relatives while her dad's in prison for being a revolutionary, because DWJ can't do realism in a boring predictable way, either. It's a rough book, full of rough people, but I appreciated that it was never ALL bad. Kathleen's aunt is cruel, but her uncle is merely uninvolved-- when he DOES notice what's up, he's even supportive; her older cousin is a bossy jerk but loyal when push comes to shove; her younger cousin is outright loving. There are trustworthy townsfolk and there are neighborhood bullies. There are moments of justice that aren't just at the very end. (But yes, it can be heavy).

Dogs are such a pure example of LOVE. I like that about them, in real life. I'm not much of an animal person (though certainly more than I am an animal BOOK person), but I definitely consider myself a Dog Person above, say, a Cat Person (which is apparently sacrilege for a librarian. I'M SORRY. CATS ARE OKAY BUT I DON'T CARE ABOUT THEM. I DO NOT COLLECT CAT PINS). I love dogs because dogs are LOVE. There's so much loyalty, concern, genuine REJOICING IN THE VERY EXISTENCE of their pack.

And I like that about Sirius, whom you meet as a hot-tempered immortal, but who truly embodies the loyal affections of his new doggy nature in time. Which brings us to another weird bit of symbolism I got out of it which probably wasn't intended at all. I was fascinated by Sirius's early attempts to reconcile his dog-ness with that green power inside, his mortal and immortal selves. His luminary past was something fleeting and vague that he couldn't quite grasp with his stupid fleshy brain. It reminded me of trying to find Enlightenment, of reconnecting to the Divine while living in a mortal body. Sometimes we touch the star in us-- other days we just slog through our dogginess. OOOOOOO.

So do I recommend the book? Sure! I recommend it if you like dog books for the doggy loyalty, and if you don't like dog books because you'd rather have supernatural mysteries. I recommend it if you like the complete ORIGINALITY of Diana Wynne Jones, though I'll caution if you mostly just like her funny books, because while her sense of humor is always there, it's generally a much more serious book than, say, the Chrestomanci series.

I for one am just still grateful that I still have DWJ books left to read in my life. I know I'm always guaranteed a real trip.
rockinlibrarian: (portrait)
Remember how I said yesterday that I had more stuff I wanted to write but I figured I'd stop at the music thoughts because maybe the rest would be more appropriate today? Well, FINALLY I've managed to get time today WHILE LiveJournal is not being goofy (it's decided the afternoon is a terrible time to work properly the past couple days. Which is why you might have missed yesterday's post), and I really MUST, because March is already three days in and TODAY I HAVE THE MOST TO ADD to #DWJMarch!

A couple years back we marked the one-year-anniversary of the passing of Diana Wynne Jones with a "month long" blog tour that became so packed with tributes that it actually lasted about three months. Kristen over at We Be Reading has made it something of an annual tradition now-- less of a blog tour, more of a multi-platform online discussion. No, not A discussion. A party. A party full of discussions one can jump in on. This year she's made a schedule of topics so we can jump in on a general theme day by day. So you see why I had to post about this as early in the month as possible. Why, you've already missed two days! I don't have all that exciting of a collection to share (Day 1), and I'm not sure I have anything to add to the topic of the Chrestomanci books that I haven't said already (okay, mostly I've just said Chrestomanci is SUCH a charmer and is totally one of my book boyfriends, but what's wrong with that?).

But TODAY's topic (for the next two hours in my time zone, already long past in DWJ's old time zone) is our Favorite Main Character, and even Chrestomanci with all his charms cannot match the Sheer Awesomeness that is Sophie Hatter Jenkins-Pendragon.

Okay, so maybe I've also already told you how much I adore Sophie. But it bears repeating. BECAUSE DANGIT FOLKS, I ADORE SOPHIE. Sure, you get ROMANTIC fictional crushes, but a platonic fictional girl-crush can be every bit as powerful, and oh how powerfully I wish Sophie was my best friend. OR DO I? Or do I maybe wish I WAS Sophie instead?

Here's a excerpt from a post from a few years back that many (if not most) of you have never read, because it was Friends-locked, because it was basically a post about personal medical TMI. I was going in for some outpatient surgery and had been given a cocktail of narcotics to prep. And boy, were they powerful:

I was all drugged up, which resulted in me pretty much losing control. Losing control= a bad thing. But among the things I lost control over were My Inhibitions. Ah, here we go: see, I've never been properly drunk, because alcohol tends to make me REALLY SLEEPY before it has any other effect on me. But when other people talk of how it makes them lose their inhibitions? Okay, I get it now. That's exactly how I felt when I was all drugged up. Not sleepy. Just completely uninhibited.
...
It wasn't that I wasn't Myself. I was just a different version of Myself. The version of Myself that those of you who don't know me personally know-- or more appropriately even, the version of Myself that writes in my paper journals that no one sees but me. ME WITHOUT INHIBITIONS. LIVE IN PERSON! not just on paper or screen.

So, what am I saying? That I need to get properly drunk on a regular basis? That I need to start doing drugs? Um, probably these would be bad choices.

But it made me think of Howl's Moving Castle and my dearest beloved #3 Literary Girl Crush, Sophie. See, this is why I love Sophie so much. She starts out this timid, dutiful, mousy, responsible Oldest Daughter, then BAM, she's cursed. Curses = bad things. But Sophie makes the best of it. If she's going to be old and crippled and creaky and tired and sore and all that, DANGIT, NO ONE IS EVER GOING TO MESS WITH HER AGAIN! All inhibitions go bye-bye. But the great part is, once the curse gets broken and she's back to normal, she's not back to her FORMER normal. She has said goodbye to those inhibitions for GOOD. The protagonist of the next book she appears in thinks she's TERRIFYING. So much for mousy.

So the point is, it's nice when you don't have to be CURSED first to lose your inhibitions (if, in fact, your inhibitions are a problem for you. If your inhibitions are keeping you from becoming a serial killer, you might want to hang on to them). Can this apply to ME, I thought? Can I KEEP being uninhibited while I'm NOT on drugs? That would be handy, as I don't really WANT to be an addict.

Jason thinks I can, because he's seen me do it. But that's why I married him-- because it's easier to put my inhibitions aside around him than around the average person. The trick is to do it around the average person.

And why not? I only became shy because other kids made fun of me. Nowadays I LIKE being a total nerd, and I LIKE being a rock fanatic, and I LIKE the weirdunique person I am when I write, so why can't that person be out ALL THE TIME, when I'm LIVE IN PERSON?


She inspires me, she does. And maybe that's all there is to say about it now. But I'm saying it again anyway because I never get sick of celebrating her.

But now, it's bedtime. And I can't even think of a clever concluding line because I'm that sleepy. So, have fun following all the DWJ gushing this month!
rockinlibrarian: (sherlock)
There was a time, back in the day, when a) this blog Happened more often, and b) when it happened, it wasn't just Deep Philosophical Thoughts. I'd ALWAYS be willing to share my thoughts about the latest installment of whatever exciting media series I'd just gotten my hands on. And right away, too! It was exciting! Maybe because people used LiveJournal as an actual social media kind of platform and actually left comments! So we could banter and debate back and forth about all the little details and WHAT THEY COULD MEAN!

I get the feeling that sort of thing is happening on Tumblr now, but I've yet, after over a year, apparently (so Tumblr tells me), figured out how people actually hold DISCUSSIONS in that format. Most of the time in order to comment on something, you have to reblog it, and even if you do, there's no guarantee other people will see your comment, and you can't favorite comments OTHER people make, just the whole thing, only once, and... well I just find it superbly inconvenient for conversation. I mean, it's nice for posting PICTURES, but other than that I'm not altogether sure why FANDOMS like it so much as a virtual watering hole.

Plus, as I mentioned a few weeks ago, the Fandoms of Tumblr kind of freak me out, anyway. It's more than just me being old. There's an actual dark undercurrent that rears its head far too often in Internet fandom, and I explored it further than my original post by, ironically, reblogging this very long Tumblr post on Fandom vs. Creators, made up of very long comments by at least five different people, so it takes awhile to get to what I wrote, at the bottom, but it's still interesting, darnit! Anyway, those aren't the sort of fans I want to befriend. But I WANT to talk about the things I fan over. It's FUN. It's just a matter of finding the where and the who that works.

Let's look at something that happened in Internet-Fandom-Land this weekend that covers both sides of this spectrum. It can be summed up in the entirety of this link to The Mary Sue-- actually this link goes directly to MY comment on the post, which sums up what I have to say.... Anyway, look at the thing as a whole. JK Rowling made some comments in an interview that maybe, she wondered, marrying Ron and Hermione together might have been a mistake. So this Hypable website takes those comments out of the context of the interview and proclaims "ROWLING ADMITS HARRY/HERMIONE SHIPPERS ARE RIGHT!" which, incidentally, she hadn't even said, and suddenly it's a HUGE DEAL, like a SHOCKING REVELATION THAT SHE HELD A PRESS CONFERENCE TO REVEAL... the same sort of thing happened around her "announcement," which was really just her answering an interview question, that Dumbledore was gay (which I had reacted to with "Oh. I thought everyone knew that already," while the headlines went wild)-- to this day people still refer to that as if it was a publicity stunt on her part, all cleverly orchestrated to get a reaction, when she'd JUST ANSWERED A QUESTION IN AN INTERVIEW. It drives me nuts, that the poor woman can't say anything without PEOPLE REACTING LOUDLY, and yet...

...check it out. Currently as I'm typing this there are 157 comments on that post. That's about 15 times the number of comments that show up on a Mary Sue article on average. Clearly, we all still DO have strong feelings about the relationships in those books. And it's been a long time since I've actively "shipped" anybody, but the long-dormant Ron/Hermione shipper inside me roared to the surface this weekend, anxious to defend one of my favorite fictional couples of all time.

So when you think about it... it's actually kind of cool. Most of us ARE adults, but these books mean a lot to us. WE DO CARE. ABOUT FICTIONAL CHARACTERS. What ALCHEMY is a story!

So anyway, last night Sherlock Season 3-- or Series 3 as they say where they made it, which in this case actually makes more sense. They're not SEASONS. They're RECURRING MINISERIES. Anyway, last night it wrapped up again 'round these parts (or as much of fandom says, it's "back on hiatus." But that's misleading, considering these are recurring miniseries and not seasons! You don't say a movie franchise has gone on hiatus when there are a couple years or so between movies!). And I'm too high on adrenaline to fall asleep right after, and when I get up this morning I'm still antsy, like I want to be back there-- like I wanted to TALK TO PEOPLE ABOUT IT. But if you actually seek out People Talking About It, you find Heavy-Duty fandom, and I, on one side, do not ship Johnlock and also couldn't care less about Benny's Cheekbones (sure, we can talk Martin all you want though), and on the other side, I'm not a huge Conan Doyle fan and don't have the BACKGROUND KNOWLEDGE to go into it nitty-gritty. I'd rather just talk with average folks who enjoy the show. Like, my friends who've seen it. Where can I do that? OH, that's right, I HAVE A BLOG. I'M GOING TO TALK ABOUT THE LATEST INSTALLMENT OF THIS SERIES I LIKE ON MY BLOG, LIKE A TRUE OLD-FASHIONED LIVEJOURNALER.

As I said in that post I linked to already that I wrote at the BEGINNING of Series 3 (here's the link again in case you missed it the first time!), I don't know if I count as a huge fan of the show itself as much as a stupidly huge fan of Martin Freeman, who is most certainly at the top of his game in it. (Who am I kidding. He's ALWAYS at the top of his game. When he's acting at any rate. He's abysmal at not-having-a-dirty-mouth. And I can't speak for, say, his cooking skills. But he's always at the top of his ACTING game and the making-me-instantly-smile game which is an important game that not many people care about besides me). I'm not proclaiming its superiority over all other shows (everyone knows that honor belongs to Firefly. Or Freaks and Geeks. Or Sesame Street. Depending how much violence you're looking for). I'm not immune to its faults.

So say I. But then, in the midst of actually WATCHING a new series again? I am THOROUGHLY enjoying myself. EVEN IN SOME JOHN-WATSON-LESS SCENES. Guys, this was just so fun. The first episode was weakest, but I was glad to be back. The second episode I am fairly sure is my FAVORITE EPISODE OF THE ENTIRE SHOW EVER. Last night's episode was not so perfect as the second, but had me thoroughly enthralled and loving it (and it was still funny, even if it was also a whole lot darker certainly than Episode 2).

So let's talk stuff. Like I said, I'm not a huge Conan Doyle fan, needing to devour everything Sherlock Holmes-related. I'd read Hounds and Study in Scarlet back in the day, then revisited those and added the collection The Adventures of S.H. just after I'd seen the first series of Sherlock, the Robert Downey Jr. movie, and read Nancy Springer's Enola Holmes series all within like a month of each other. I also discovered, since Study in Scarlet had annoyed me enough on first reading (huge BLOCK of weird pseudo-Mormon-pioneer story in the middle that is NOT NARRATED BY DR. WATSON? What was he THINKING? Yes, I've always been thoroughly attached to Dr. Watson. The cartoons never gave him enough credit. And much as Martin is both my Imaginary Husband AND the Greatest Watson Ever, I have to say Jude Law's Watson was just downright friggin' sexy, too. WATSON FOREVER) that I'd tossed it aside after I'd finished and failed to notice (or at least remember after I'd tossed it) that my copy actually doesn't JUST have Study in Scarlet in it, but has got The Sign of Four in there right after! And what a good discovery THAT was. I LOVED Sign of Four. It was a rollicking good time-- much like Sherlock the show in that way. And my dearest Dr. Watson got all love-struck in it, which was fun because a) it certainly solidified him as my #8 Literary Crush; b) omg you could totally tell he ENJOYED just BUGGING Holmes with all that EMOTIONAL stuff, which he'd opened the book with Holmes complaining about beforehand; and c) it introduced a strong female character in a series that dreadfully lacked them. Okay, not that Mary was really IN the stories much BESIDES in Sign of Four, but that was enough to get her thoroughly on my good side.

So again, I found myself vehemently defending fictional characters on the Internet, thank you, because too many people leading up to the new series were like "Ugh, I'm glad Mary DIED in the stories, she'll just get in the way," and I'm like "First of all, have you NOT read Sign of Four, and second of all, she did not just up and DIE IMMEDIATELY, give her a chance, seriously." And then we're given the delightful little in-joke that they'd given the part to Amanda Abbington, aka Martin Freeman's Real Wife,* which COULD have been a bad thing if that had been the ONLY reason she'd been given the part. Like if someone cast me to play Jason's wife just because I'm Jason's wife and hah hah I'm kidding I'm a way better actor than Jason is so the argument's meaningless. But even though I'd never actually SEEN her act in anything, I follow her on Twitter, and there's something about her that captures the EXACT sort of person I'd always imagined Mary to be, so I felt fairly confident about the casting.

This is when I start talking about the current series of Sherlock so you should probably not expand here if you haven't seen it yet )
So anything else we should talk about? Tell me in the comments! Let's talk! Also, it goes without saying that Martin was Awesome, which is why I didn't say much about that. No really, I didn't. I could have said much more. It's just that it would have amounted to "Martin is awesome" over and over.

And now it's totally past my bedtime. So, I'll go do that, then.

---
*(TECHNICALLY, they're not legally married, but I find that a stupid clarification. First of all, marriage is way more than one single public "I Do," and second, when's something count as a Common Law Marriage, anyway? Pretty sure they've hit that point. Anyway, anybody whose relationship can survive raising two kids of a particular-age-I'm-familiar-with are totally SOLID).
**WOW. I'm shocked. Spellcheck says this is totally a real word.
rockinlibrarian: (librarians)
So, hey, non-librarians, were you aware that this morning was THE biggest awards show of the entire awards show season? Who needs the Oscars when you have the ALA YOUTH MEDIA AWARDS!!!!

We have a bit of a stomach bug thing going 'round in this house this morning, and I kind of feel like lying down, but THIS IS TOO IMPORTANT. I must respond immediately!

My overarching response to the whole of this year's award announcement is: I LOVE THAT I'M IN CHARGE OF ALL THE CHILDREN'S/YA LIBRARY BOOK PURCHASING WITH ALL MY SOUL. I love that I can look at this list and say, "With very few exceptions, I have either ALREADY purchased or HAVE ON MY WISHLIST nearly every one of these books for the library!" It's truly a gloriously smug feeling.

But as for WHAT won, specifically, I have much less feeling about. I honestly, I realized a couple weeks ago, did not read a single new middle-grade book last year, and I only read about 3 YAs. Most of my book reading last year was self-help books for grownups, and that was about 5 or 6 books. SORT of pathetic, I admit. Decent for your average American, but sad among book people. This would be why I didn't write a Best Books of the Year post at the end of the year.

BUT I can still be happy as a librarian, that my collection is SO up on things this year. Here's the official press release on the ALA website, which is prone to crashing since so many people are clicking, so here's the whole list so you don't have to click:
but I'll make you click to expand just because, LONGNESS: )

And that's it! If my stomach calms down in the next few hours, my Library Explorers tonight will be making posters announcing the winners and watching the stream if I can get it to work. Meanwhile, I'll try to figure out what to eat for lunch.

PS: Today's my mom's birthday! Happy Birthday to my mom, everyone!
---
*So did I ever mention how this one time Virginia Hamilton was two people in line behind me for the restroom? That's a rhetorical question, because I mention it EVERY time Virginia Hamilton comes up in conversation.
rockinlibrarian: (roar)
I've always wondered if anyone's ever correlated the answers to "If you could have any superpower, what would you choose?" to a more general personality test. My answer's always been "flight," which I think must stem from some longing for freedom and lightness. But I know, out there in the world, "invisibility" is a common answer. My brain boggles at this, the way it boggles at people who consider "going out to a noisy crowded bar" their top answer to "What do you like to do to relax after a long day?" I can't step out of my introverted mindset to make sense of those things!

"I can listen in to secret conversations! I can be a peeping tom! I can get into places I'm not allowed to get into!" they protest when you ask them why on earth they'd ever want invisibility. I still stare at them blankly. Then I admit, "I already have that superpower. It's a letdown, really."

I developed this superpower, naturally, as a coping mechanism. An adaptation to aid in my survival. I read in Time Magazine just the other day (it was an older issue, not sure when from exactly, just laying around my mom's bathroom*), that someone had done a study, exploring sensitivity in babies: the fussiest babies, the ones who were most likely to freak out at loud noises and stuff, nearly all grew up to be introverts. The least fussy ones, extroverts (this explains my sister, also). They figure withdrawal is something people develop to deal with being Really Friggin' Sensitive.

And dear lord in heaven was I sensitive. ANYTHING could make me freak out. I couldn't watch Sesame Street from the time I was three until I was in my teens because it was TOO ZANY for me. One of my best friends has a daughter who receives treatment for Sensory Processing Disorder, so she's a big advocate for getting the word out about it. Not only does this also exactly describe my son, but I'm also pretty sure it explains my own childhood. When my younger brother was diagnosed with mild autism, we'd done some retroactive squinting at the symptoms as exhibited by girls, then at my own childhood, but it didn't quite match. Sensory Processing Disorder though? That's different.

But you know what that looks like in a kid, to other kids? Spoil sport. "We can't play with Amy, she'll just get bumped or something and start CRYING." "Do we HAVE to pick Amy? She'll just CRY when things don't go her way." "She's just doing it to get attention." "CRY-BABY! Stop being selfish, CRY-BABY!" As if anyone would be this way on PURPOSE, I kept thinking. What did they want me to DO? I hated it. I hated ME because I couldn't stop crying, which, naturally, made me cry. The disdain of my peers and the cruelty of the bullies was nothing compared to the utter loathing I had for myself.

All my life I heard "You need to get a thicker skin!" Well, that's great. Where can I buy one of those? My only option was to curl my very being up like a pill bug and hope that the small bit of self I'd left exposed was just thick enough to protect the rest. Voila! The Invisible Girl. Giving off hypnotic suggestions that say "You don't see me here! I'm nothing! I'm no one! Don't worry about me! Just go about your business!" And it worked. I stopped being picked on. I stopped being noticed at all. Well, maybe long enough to be voted "shyest" of our senior class.

You might assume introverts would WANT an invisibility superpower, because we can use it to hide. And probably a lot of introverts do. But they're a different sort of introvert than I am. Not quite so confused about what they actually want as I am, maybe.

I've gotten so good at this Invisibility stuff that I can't turn it off. That's an exaggeration. I've gotten much BETTER at turning it off over the years, or at least turning it DOWN. But still, it was a major factor-- probably The Majorest-- in my failure as a classroom teacher, and in my faults as a parent-- somehow I can't Assume Authority. I am shockingly easy to IGNORE-- like when I want someone to follow my directions and they don't want to. And because it's my Hot Button, being ignored makes me do the pill-bug thing, which just makes the situation worse. "Why do they listen to me but not to you?" my husband asks, seemingly unaware how very aware of that I already am. "I don't know," I mumble, and go psychically hide in the corner until the verbal robotic-wasps-he-didn't-know-he'd-sicced-on-me leave my little pill bug exoskeleton alone.

On top of that... I'm also a bit of a show-off. I like applause. But you don't get applause if you never put on a show.

So, yesterday I was working on another The Soul Tells a Story exercise, a doodle illustrating my Creative Well, with your conscious mind at the top, going down deeper into the subconscious until you reach the collective unconscious at the bottom-- filling the whole thing with whatever images, events, people, or concepts seem to be prominent for you in each level ("describe or draw," the directions say. Mine's kind of a messy, collagey combination). Halfway down, in "unconscious" territory, there's "fear of being taken advantage of, no boundaries, TOO MUCH," which is exactly that oversensitivity issue I'm talking about (Ironically, as a side note, another thing that happens when you make yourself invisible is you tend to get STEPPED ON A LOT, so in that case, invisibility really WAS kind of a bad coping strategy for protection, wasn't it? I have TERRIBLE personal boundaries. I'm just hidden). But on approximately the same level, there's "repressed anger at being ignored or belittled."

I know, academically, that I have a lot of repressed anger. It's a hallmark of being a Peaceloving Type 9. But I never took any note of WHAT I might have to be angry about. But here, because I was in the "unconscious" section of the well, I was thinking about recurring dream symbolism, and I know I've had a lot of dreams where I've completely lost it, massive fits of rage and violence. And when I thought about what was happening in each of those dreams, I was always being either mocked or shunned. Treated as if I didn't have a right to be there. Which, crap, it's really myself that I'm so angry with. It's ME with the crappy self-esteem. Basically, I'm angry with myself for not believing in myself. But since I repress that anger, I'm also repressing the drive to ASSERT myself in the first place. MY PSYCHE IS A TWISTED, TWISTED PLACE.

So I've got two conflicting drives here, fighting each other. One part of me WANTS to be heard, wants to be known. But the other part of me knows it's dangerous to be Out There, nobody who puts themselves Out There is ever free from slung tomatoes, darts, and bullets. Some people can take that stuff easy. But for someone who can barely take the sound of a fire siren? It's really, really scary folks. I'm not sure how you can understand how genuinely scary it is if you're not oversensitive yourself.

Just slightly above that part, in the subconscious of my Well, I've drawn two little figures, both representing the archetypal Mentor in different ways. One's got a kind of flowy-triangle robe with a hood and a long sword, and is labelled Obi-Wan Kenobi. The other is a plump figure with huge boots, layers of scarves and shawls, and a felt hat on top. Mrs. Whatsit. She's been there before for me, with just that one sentence, "I give you your faults." It's that same advice I'm thinking of now. My sensitivity IS a gift, after all. Somehow I need to face it enough so I can harness it and MAKE SOMETHING OUT OF IT. And then I have to put that something Out There. I believe art is important, so why do I keep trying to insist that anybody else's art is important but not mine?

A friend of mine on Twitter the other day mentioned enjoying an actor's performance, and he tweeted back to thank her, even though she hadn't actually @-mentioned him. "That is some impressive self-googleing," she said. "Perhaps he's got a phrase-based search list made on his name, comes up automatically," I suggested, "I'd do that, if anyone knew my name." "Probably," she replied, "though I'm not sure if I'd do that as an actor. There's probs more weirdos than people telling you you're pretty." GOOOOOD point. On the other hand, I said, "I'd probably try it, then change my mind." It's one thing putting yourself out there, another thing to throw yourself in the PATH of the darts and tomatoes. Sometimes that Invisibility Cloak does come in handy, when you need a quick getaway. So you can survive to face your foes again!

So somewhere there's a balance. Somewhere there's a way to let your sensitive, soft sluggy soul out into the world but keep just enough of a shell so you aren't shredded. Maybe you can keep that Invisibility Cloak around, but only use it when it's absolutely necessary. If only I could figure out when that is.

---
*BTW, I was at my parents' house because it was their 40th wedding anniversary, and my sister and I were making them a Fancy Dinner. And my brother was ordered to do dishes. So everyone wish a Happy Belated Anniversary to the couple whose relationship is MOST IMPORTANT TO MY EXISTENCE. THINK about what you'd be missing if they hadn't gotten together!
rockinlibrarian: (eggman)
So back when I was trying to come up with themes for this semester's library programs, it occurred to me that this winter is the 50th anniversary of Beatlemania hitting the United States. So thrilled was I that I immediately scheduled a Beatlemania Family Night story time for our very first week back after winter break,* tonight, even though after the fact I realized that while January 9 sounded perfect in my head, I'd actually been thinking of FEBRUARY 9 as an actual significant date, but oh well, we're still close enough, and this way all of YOU still have a whole month to plan your proper 50th Anniversary programs, yourselves!

Here's our calendar description: "It's the 50th anniversary of the Beatles' first tour of America. How does this old rock band that broke up over 40 years ago keep gaining more rabid fans in every new generation? We'll learn about the most influential rock band of all time tonight, make our own psychedelic album covers, and YES, there will DEFINITELY be music!"

I mention the "rabid fans in every new generation" part as justification against those people-- you know they're out there-- who say "I'm not from that generation/kids don't know who these old bands are/it's nice to see you remembering these bands from My Day/yadda yadda yadda." Because yes, it's been 50 years. My dad was one of the original U.S. Beatles fanatics (I can't quite call him a Beatlemaniac. That would imply he used to scream and throw himself at police barricades to get through and stuff, wouldn't it). I wasn't BORN until 8 years after they broke up, but I'm an utter Beatles GEEK-- and so are more than a few of my same-generation friends. My kids' 17-year-old babysitter and bunches of HER friends are Beatles nuts. And my kids-- NATURALLY my kids-- they were identifying Beatles songs on the radio not long after they could TALK.

It may be the Yellow Submarine cartoon that gets kids first. My kids still prefer songs-that-were-in-the-movie to other Beatles songs, with the exception maybe of "Here Comes the Sun," because they know that's my favorite and love to point it out to me whenever it's on. I got them a Yellow Submarine Lego set-- no, K'Nex, not Lego, so you don't get confused futilely searching the Lego site-- for Christmas, even. I did not bring it to the library tonight though because it's in pieces again. Some of the Beatles themselves are missing entire limbs.

So what DID I do at the library? I'm glad you asked.

First order of business was a soundtrack. Rather than using any particular album, I made a mix CD of the most Kid-Friendly Beatles songs, with my own kids' picks. Since what they picked only totalled about 15 minutes (they DO get stuck on the Yellow Submarine songs), I added my own ideas of what counted as Kid-Friendly-- everything from "She Loves You" to "Octopus's Garden," and then narrowed it down to what would fit on an 80 minute CD. This step excited me, so I did it as soon as I finally finished all the stuff I had to do around here for Christmas.

Now, what SOME people would CONSIDER the first order of business when it comes to a library program, the second step was rounding up a book selection. I borrowed some books from other libraries in our county system to get a little more variety in my display-of-related-books-you-can-check-out. They were mostly chapter books and longer. For story time PROPER, I was pretty much limited to The Beatles Were Fab (and They Were Funny), by Kathleen Krull and Paul Brewer.** It's a little long for a Story Time read, but the only other semi-related picture book we had in our entire system was John's Secret Dreams, which is just too John-centric, obviously. Somewhere out there in the world there are apparently picture books of Yellow Submarine, and it looks like there's a picture book of "Octopus's Garden" due out next month. Also this, due in March, which looks like it COULD possibly manage to be short enough for a story time, as well, maybe?***

It worked, even though it was long. The group I got was pretty enrapt. They laughed a lot, too.

So next up, activities. Had a hard time coming up with them at first. Found a Yellow Submarine coloring sheet. Then I stumbled upon this: it turns out Mr. Harrison of Dan Gutman's Weirder School's Mr. Harrison is Embarrassin'! is actually named GEORGE, and the whole book is FULL of Beatles jokes. Whodathunk. So that was a pretty good kid-appropriate activity, too.

THEN I hit on the winner: Make Your Own Sgt. Pepper-esque Album Covers. This was so fun and took up so much time (it's technically a one-hour program. Most of the group stayed longer) that we didn't need anything else, after all.
cut for large images )
As we were finishing up, a worn-looking grandmother on a ventilator who'd been sitting disinterestedly in the corner suddenly perked up and said, "I saw the Beatles in concert, in Cleveland."

Suddenly everyone took notice. "Did you hear any of the music over the screaming?" I asked.

She smiled, then said, "I was screaming." Everyone laughed. It was a perfect capper.

___
*we're a public library, not an academic library. We just run programs on a rather semester-like schedule.
**when looking up this link, Google autosuggested "the Beatles were overrated." Seriously, who SEARCHES something like that? And WHY, Google, would you ever suppose I would be searching that?! It's like you don't know me AT ALL!!!
***This is also coming out next month, and while it is definitely too long and complex for story time, we're getting it from Junior Library Guild and I am KIND OF EXCITED ABOUT IT, thank you.
****I'm pretty sure One Direction has been on the cover of J-14 for the ENTIRE PAST YEAR.
rockinlibrarian: (roar)
New Years EnneaThought

RIIIIGHT. So every morning in my social-media email (it used to be my junk email, but it got to the point that more people message me through social media [which I registered through that "junk" email address] than send me an actual email, so it is usually more entertaining than my "official" email), I get a Type 9 Thought for the Day like so from the Enneagram site. If you recall if you've been here long enough, I really liked this personality test because it was so dang ACCURATE for me (Actually, I've since managed to find a Myers-Briggs test that actually came up with a clear result for me--INFP, also, and there was this other test I took recently that labelled me, fairly obviously, as a "Dreamy Idealist." And if you read the descriptions of all three of those "types" here you'll see they're all virtually identical, naturally, so-- yeah, probably accurate). So a motivational reminder that's actually TAILORED to SOMEONE LIKE ME is a lot easier to catch my attention each morning than a general platitude. Easier to catch my attention, but naturally harder to do. If I got, say, a Type EIGHT thought that said something like "Try to be nice to people today," I'd be all like, "Oh SURE!" and I'd be really good at following that advice, but it would do neither me nor anyone else much good because I'd probably have done it anyway.

No, dangit, I need to GROW in life, and the only way to GROW is to stretch a bit in that direction. Stretching is challenging. Particularly for personality types known for their tendency toward sloth. Hence the notes in my inbox saying "HAPPY NEW YEAR! Why don't you make and keep some actual resolutions for once?!"

Maybe I should make a plan to figure out how to make a plan. This year I will figure out what it is I actually want in the first place! First step: figure out how to figure out what I actually want!

But it helps to know I'm not starting from scratch-- no couch-to-5K thing. Or it is, but I'm already OFF the couch, strolling leisurely and distractedly toward 5K. Maybe toward The Marathon of Self-Actualization in the long run. But I'm OFF THE COUCH. If you scroll to the bottom of that Type 9 description linked above, you see a chart describing the way a 9 behaves at various levels of psychological/spiritual/emotional health. Two years ago at this time I was bottoming out around Level 7. I was dragging myself through the very basics of making sure nobody died in my care, and only managing that because people WERE in my care. Eventually I found Zoloft. ZOLOFT MY TRUE LOVE! Now what many people struggling with clinical depression don't realize at first, and I didn't either (and people who AREN'T struggling with it certainly don't even THINK to realize), is a) you have to trial-and-error to find the RIGHT medication and right DOSAGE of that medication before it actually works right, so if you try something and it doesn't work that doesn't necessarily mean MEDICATION ITSELF doesn't work. I had three serious relationships with other medications-- was engaged to Prozac for a bit until it went all ANXIETY-ATTACK-INDUCING on me-- before I found my beloved Zoloft. Anyway, and most importantly b) medication is your life-raft. Medication is not the cure. Zoloft brought me up out of those "Unhealthy Levels." Dropped me at about a Level Six or a low Five. Hardly a model citizen. But I could WORK now. I could work at MYSELF without despairing and falling into an impenetrable Brain Fog.

Last year at this time, with the help of a lot of counseling and self-helpish reading and the Lycoris Letters project and the deep philosophising with the new and dear friend Cat I'd made through that project, I'd made it up to bouncing between Levels 5 and 4. Now, after over a year of semi-regular yoga and other enforced exercise (I mean, for ME. Not compared to the way my SISTER does exercise), as well as continued self-helpish reading and chats with Cat and-- well, actually, doing a lot of Real Life Stuff-- dare I say, I'm actually showing a whole lot more Level 3 (and 4. Average to bad days I'm definitely not pulling off the whole healthy assurance thing... but on good days, maybe I have!)!

I mentioned before this marvelous inspirational creativity book I'm reading/working through, The Soul Tells a Story by Vinita Hampton Wright. Right now I am thoroughly stuck on the Hard Questions (my words) at the end of only Chapter 3. "These two things nearly always happen when I create:" I'm supposed to explain. "When I create something, this is what the beginning is like:...the middle...the end. My creative gifts really kick in when:"

I HAVE NO IDEA! DO I create? Maybe I haven't created anything in YEARS. No, I just sewed like five fleece sweatshirts for Christmas, that probably counts as creating. Also my library programs. WHAT DO MY PROGRAMS AND MY SEWING STUFF HAVE IN COMMON?! Nothing? I don't think anything. What do I do when I create? Putter around doing everything but? No, when I was SEWING I actually tackled everything pretty straight on and all at once. It's only making stuff up from scratch that I putter around Not Doing. I think I'll go check Twitter again....

So as I said: my goal this year is to figure out how to make goals in the first place. Or to figure out what the heck I'm doing in general. Or... something.

But I DID make it past chapters one and two. I MANAGED to answer not just the first set of Really Hard Questions, but several MORE sets. "The activity that gives me greatest joy is…" "A lot of things make me happy," I wrote, "but JOY implies an ALIVE sort of happiness... I think it's 'making music,' for all I don't do it much... When I think of 'JOY,' raising ones voice in song is the first thing that comes to mind...."
"The good qualities that best describe my life are…""'Loving.' 'Relatively secure and comfortable'-- part of me is like 'BORING!' and the other part is like 'HUSH! Don't tempt fate! Secure and comfortable is GOOD!'..."
"The help that people often solicit from me is…" "...well, besides 'MOMMY GIVE ME FOOD! NOW!' INFORMATION. And book recommendations. I'm a librarian and the world knows it."
"The part of my personality that I would most hate to lose is…""imagination, the ability to see things in unique ways."
"The work that is most satisfying to me is…""I'd say it's a combination of 'making people smile' and 'getting results.' ...it's getting feedback, I think. Getting evidence that what I do actually makes a difference. Which is a problem when it comes to WORKING on writing...."
"The activity that I feel drawn to, even when it’s scary, is…" "okay I have no idea. Performance can be scary? Flying? Boating? Does 'EVEN when it's scary' HAVE to imply some level of fear? Or can 'sleeping' count? Or stalking Martin Freeman? I avoid being DRAWN to scary things. Even though I've always liked scary books...."

Got the answers out. All over the place, but out. Next came some questions about my most joyful memories from various times, and what I'm doing when I get so carried away that I lose track of time ("first I thought, 'Oh, that's hard, I can't remember when I last got so involved,' then I realized, WAIT, DUH. This is me ALL THE TIME! I have NO sense of time, apparently, I'm ALWAYS losing track of it or having it disappear on me... I think the problem is my attention wanders ANYWAY, it just never wanders to 'WHAT TIME IS IT') and what it means to me to say Yes or No to my gifts.

Then we came to: "If you asked the people who know you best, what would they say your gifts are?" You may think this is strange, but at that moment, I hadn't a CLUE. I honestly didn't know. So I turned to Facebook, which is a debatable mix of people who know me best, but to be honest I'm not sure I could even tell you who on this earth knows me best to begin with, and I posted this:
Good stuff about me
Note the responses, which I have cleverly grayed out and numbered for easier reference. Gah, that person they're describing... that sure SOUNDS like somebody who DOES have something unique to say, doesn't it? Like somebody who really is called to write after all? And yet it still surprised me a little. It's OBVIOUS, and yet all my doubts have been working so hard to not let me see it.

Finally we come to Friend #7 there, and her somewhat frightening clarification request. Her actual answer, just below where this image cuts off, is long and quite revealing, so I'm copying it here in full so you don't have to squint at a screen capture:

In person: You are sweet and understanding, and accepting of everyone from the start. Even if you aren't really, you appear trusting and have a calming influence on me (and I suspect others around you.) You also, once one can get you to open up, have a wealth of information on a broad range of topics, which makes you a fascinating conversationalist, provided you remember to speak up. But you are usually not the one to introduce a topic. However, you are clever enough to try to get there tangentally, if you so choose.

Online: I think your online personality is similar in some ways, but online, you are wittier, more brazen. You're willing to put yourself out there a good bit more. Online, you aren't afraid to be the one to initiate conversation on any multitude of topics. You share more of your likes and dislikes, obsessions and pet peeves. You are brave, online. You're more provocative, and I don't mean that in a sexual connotation, but never mean or troll-like.


WOW. THAT'S some insight. It actually sounds a bit like she's WRITTEN some of the Personality Type descriptions linked above just by looking at me. But the sentence that stuck out the most for me?

"You are brave, online."

Why am I so scared to write, guys? Why am I so scared to BE? I AM brave, online. Here I am. And I'm using my writing voice (it's actually my WRITTEN personality rather than exclusively an ONLINE one. This is the same person you'll find in the journals I kept when I was fourteen. Though hopefully I'm a bit less naive and cringe-inducing now). What will it take for me to be brave OFF-line? To write "seriously," actually crafting stories again? To speak up at home or at work or wherever when I'm not comfortable with something? To speak up when I WANT something? To ADMIT to myself that I want something (something attainable. Not Martin Freeman)? To TAKE CHANCES? To GO PLACES? To TRY NEW THINGS?

So, maybe that's my goal for the year. Learn to be brave.

Step one: figure out what I want to be brave about.

Which really isn't all that different a resolution from what I said at the beginning of the post. I just stuck the word "brave" in there. It looks more determined of me.
rockinlibrarian: (christmas)
Well, time is tight, and I have so much to write about, but I don't want to let today (my favorite day of the year! Yes, Christmas Eve is actually more my favorite than Christmas Day, that's just the way it works) pass without wishing you, my Internet friends, my friends and family I WON'T be seeing this week, and my lovely random strangers who happen to be reading this, a very Merry Christmas. I'm going to get back to that by the end of this post, by way of a lot of other stuff that's been on my mind the past few days, so... be patient? Or get your internal scanners ready?

About this past weekend

So, eleven years ago tonight I got the only piece of jewelry I ever (let alone always) wear, from my then-boyfriend, who was actually stunned when I accepted it. Ten years ago this coming Friday we got married. It seems like a good opportunity to do MORE than JUST dinner-and-a-movie, although we did do the dinner-and-a-movie (though in two parts) too, but this actual anniversary weekend is a little busy, so this PAST weekend my parents took the kids and booked us a night at a fancy little bed-and-breakfast in Ligonier. We DID have Friday evening and Saturday morning at home, where we finished up Christmas Stuff; but then off we headed, to a fancy and probably-most-expensive-we-ever-actually-paid-for-and-WE-DID-IT-ON-PURPOSE dinner at my cousin's restaurant. That's where we took my new Facebook profile picture: 018
...which stunned at least 29 people with its beauty. "HOW are those two complete dorks looking so CUTE?!" everyone on Facebook thought. I don't know. Expensive food. That must be it.

Then we RELAXED in our fancy little B&B, run by a woman who ordered us to Be Romantic or Else. She seemed to think we ought to be listening to quiet instrumental music over breakfast instead of watching Marvel Universe movies on FX. But this is what she served us for breakfast: baked pears in rum sauce with pecans; a sort-of-stuffed-French-toast-thing-made-with-cinnamon-and-stuffed-with-mascarpone-and-apricot-jam-I-think-I-got-that-right; very good seasoned homefried potatoes; sausage and maple syrup. There were also snacks in the room, and we had hot chocolate in the morning too. So we were very well-fed this weekend.

Then we ran off to see Desolation of Smaug, because it wouldn't be a proper anniversary without me dragging my Real Husband to watch my Imaginary Husband on the big screen. So here's where I do a quick movie review!:

A Quick Response to The Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug:

Desolation of Smaug is very much the middle movie of a trilogy: it drops you right into the middle of the action and ends so suddenly that, in our theater, the silence was broken by the guy beside us exclaiming, "You have GOT to be KIDDING me!"

Beyond that, I cannot possibly give you an objective, mainstream review. I will admit it: I'm an utter Pete-Jackson's-Middle-Earth fangirl. I fail as a book purist-- I honestly didn't care WHAT happened-- even Jason, who has only read the book once, questioned aloud at one point "The ring didn't AFFECT him this much in the book, did it?" (and I refrained from responding "ShutupmyOtherHusbandisACTING!")-- although towards the very end I did wonder how long the action at Erebor would drag out-- but otherwise I let it go (also I figure if people would just refer to the movies by their subtitles only-- ie Desolation of Smaug-- the need to feel at all book-pure decreases significantly). I fail as a critic of fine cinema-- I don't even KNOW this time around what the faults and strengths of this movie as a visual storytelling device are. I was just THERE, immersed, and smiling constantly. Dear lord it's possible I'm even more of a Middle-Earth fanatic than I am a Martin Freeman fanatic! ANYTHING else he's in I get totally antsy when he's off-screen, no matter how good the overall production is (DARN YOU LAST-JOHN-WATSONLESS-THIRD-OF-SCANDAL-IN-BELGRAVIA!)-- THIS time, even though there was a disproportionate LACK of titular Hobbit in this Hobbit movie, I BARELY noticed: I was like "MIDDLE-EARTH!-happy-happy-happy-smiling-happy-ohlookmyfavoriteactorBONUS!-happy-happy-happy...." A LEETLE bored by wizards and necromancers, but that was my only "but why can't we get back to the OTHER scene?!" moment. So yeah, I loved it, but I can't speak for anyone else. My geekitude, which even I wasn't entirely sure about before, has become fully exposed.

About Kindness

Now to get serious for a moment. Last week YA author Ned Vizzini killed himself. Considering that I've never actually READ any of his books, and considering how little I tend to react to most other deaths and atrocities in the world, it's surprising exactly how much this shook me up. Or not. I've already written about how sensitive I am to suicide. There's something about being destroyed from the inside out, it's scarier than external enemies. Demons are absolutely the most frightening of monsters, because they attack from the inside, too. Dementors are by far the scariest monsters in Harry Potter, because they're basically a metaphor for this whole thing-- MENTAL ILLNESS, eating you up from the inside.

Anyway, somebody wrote a perfect comment on the obituary at The A.V. Club-- so perfect I printed it out! It summed up my own feelings, though perhaps more crassly than I would. So if you don't feel like clicking through, I just want to highlight his* last paragraph for you: "So let this be my New Year's resolution, my goal. For every artist like Ned Vizzini who loses their battle in the end, I vow to work twice as hard at making my craft better, out of respect for what they've managed to do despite their challenges and to in some small way keep them alive, by working on their behalf to create something new that otherwise might not be."

That is EXACTLY the way I felt when Diana Wynne Jones died, though she wasn't a suicide, just a sucky lifestyle choice (HAVE I EVER MENTIONED HOW MUCH I HATE CIGARETTES, TOO?!). But this time, maybe because I hadn't read his books, it wasn't the carrying-on-the-ART vow I wanted to make. I vowed, with all my heart, to work THAT MUCH HARDER to counter negativity in the world. To counter negativity-- and this is the important part-- not with MORE negativity, but with KINDNESS. To devote my life to spreading Kindness (as opposed to my usual, ineffective Niceness). To embrace everyone, with all their faults, and hold them up, out of the darkness.

So Now for my Christmas Wish

Which brings me back to my Christmas Wish for you, and for the world. Every year I post this song. Many of you have it memorized. Many of you have listened to it once before. Many of you weren't following me last Christmas, or you just never bothered to listen. But this time I'm serious. I want each and every one of you to spare three and a half minutes to let this Christmas Wish seep into your consciousness:

Wishing you the most genuine of Peace and Love from me to you. Merry Christmas

*(the commenter struck me as male, but I could be wrong. He's a he in my head. If she's not, and she/you are offended, you can set me straight.)
rockinlibrarian: (christmas)
When I was growing up, there was a man at my church who'd had a stroke, some time before we'd moved there. It had left him, most noticeably, with no vocal control-- his timing was off, tonality unexpected, sometimes the words would even come out wrong (once he said "I shall not be healed" instead of "I shall be healed," which was so appallingly wrong I couldn't keep a straight face about it), and his volume was ALL OVER the place, especially if that place was "loud." Yet he insisted on raising that voice forcefully into every song, every chant, and every prayer. It was more than a little distracting for any tactless kids in the congregation, like my sister and I. One day on the way home we were giggling about it-- not making FUN of HIM so much as just laughing at the weirdness (I can at LEAST claim that we had no cruel intentions), and our dad gave a sympathetic but sort of sad smile and said gently, "I've heard he used to be a wonderful singer, with the most beautiful voice." You could hear that, when you thought about it-- the richness behind the technical flubs. The PASSION. The man LOVED to sing, loved to raise his voice in prayer, and he wasn't about to stop just because he couldn't get it to WORK as well as he used to.

This morning at church we sang a song that we'd sung frequently at my childhood church-- it's "Like a Shepherd," if you know it-- you know that random sustained high note in the third verse? That sudden six-step leap that your average untrained singer is NEVER going to hit right no matter how often it's on the program? I've been battling laryngitis all week and could barely sing as it was, so I looked ahead to that note a LITTLE warily. And then I heard, in my head, the way that man had always sung that note when I was a kid-- the sudden huge slide to a blaring off-key finish. It made me smile and get teary at the same time, and I got over the nervousness and dove right onward-- and actually managed to hit it okay. Inspired by a now-dead man whose name I don't even know, whom I heard sing this song, poorly, decades ago. The music continues.

It reminded me-- and rather proved the point-- of something I read just last night. I've been MEANING (but too busy) to tell you about this book ever since I started reading it (if you're my Facebook friend you might have noticed a cryptic reference to an exercise I was doing from it a few weeks back, when I needed your opinions on me and swore I wasn't fishing for compliments but actually doing a writing exercise, and I SAID I'd explain eventually but in all honesty I don't think I'm going to get to explaining that part today, either). The book is The Soul Tells a Story by Vinita Hampton Wright, which I read about at Kristi Holl's Writers' First Aid blog. She'd (Kristi Holl) pulled a list of questions from the book for this post, and I thought, "Whoa. These questions are WEIRDLY HARD." So I knew I'd have to track the full book down, because it surely had something to teach me (and in my journal I actually DO tend to call it "The Hard Questions Book").

The subtitle is "Engaging Creativity with Spirituality in the Writing Life," and it's published by a Christian press, which I suppose is the only reason the book is not more well-known in the mainstream writing community (although Walking on Water is, and that's got possibly even a MORE spiritual bent, but then Madeleine L'Engle is a bit more well-known a name. And Bird by Bird and If You Want to Write are, like, THE writers' inspirational titles, and neither of them exactly shy away from spirituality, either. Which is basically the whole point of THIS book, so let me get out of this parenthesis). The premise is that creativity (not just writing, not even just art-- CREATIVITY in general) and spirituality are intrinsically linked, and developing one will help to develop the other and vice versa.

This book is GORGEOUS and WISE. I keep wanting to post quotes from it, but then it gets to the point that there is TOO MUCH I WANT TO QUOTE, and I'd basically be quoting the ENTIRE BOOK. Basically, it's LOVELY. It's got ALL these quotable moments, when something wise and deep that you didn't realize before is said in a way that you know instantly is Truth and it's also beautiful. But I haven't got time today to tell you about all of it; I just want to focus on this bit I read last night:
I like to think of creativity as a celestial drama in which each of us walks on and off stage at various points. It's a huge show with trillions of acts, big and small, scaling the centuries and the cultures, informing humanity constantly and at multiple levels. You and I dip into the action as we respond to the smaller dramas in our own soul. We answer single soft voices, never knowing where our individual efforts fall within the overarching story line.

When we delve into our creativity, we are responding to something that's bigger than us.... When you respond to your creative calling, you are doing something that is necessary for the world. It may be necessary in a big way-- say a series of newspaper articles that can help shape the consciousness of a generation. Or it may be necessary in small ways-- perhaps a charcoal sketch that brings you, the artist, healing.... Creative works are called out by cultural and personal needs that are too deep and intuitive to be obvious every time....

...If you've ever participated in [a creative ensemble, like a band or a theater troupe, where everyone's individual efforts combine into a whole bigger than its parts], remember them as you begin a project on your own. Just assume that there are other voices, images and phrases joining your own work, somewhere and somehow. ASsume that whatever you do will rhyme with what others are doing and will do, or with what others have already done. In someone's life your turn of phrase will make a difference, simply because it follows another turn of phrase by another writer at another key point in this person's life.


See, I could just keep going. It was HARD sticking to the right-here-relevant bits and not typing out the entire section of chapter. But here's the point:

A quarter-century ago there was a man who loved to sing, even though he couldn't do it technically well. A little girl heard him giving it his all anyway, and a quarter-century later, that now-woman remembered, and she sang a little louder herself. The music grew. Who knows what effect each bit of song has on the whole? Who can say that even the most off-key note can't help the eternal music of the universe keep playing?
rockinlibrarian: (christmas)
I knew there was something significant about today's date, and now I remember: it's the 95th anniversary of the birth of the woman who wrote my favorite book and the 12th anniversary of the death of the man who wrote my favorite song. That's a lot of significance for one day. (Just listened to the latter sing the words "All the world is birthday cake" which could be for the former. IT ALL TIES TOGETHER).

Nowhere I have to be for a few hours at least, nothing I have to do except get the kids in the shower once they're done with breakfast (they got into my cousin's cologne yesterday. This will require a serious soaking), and I have a horrible cold, so don't really WANT to do much. Don't really want to SIT here, even, except mentally I'm in a place where I just feel like talking to you today. It's been two months. (Have you missed me? If you missed me, tell me so, it will make me feel useful. Then again if nobody missed me then I'll be more depressed than if I hadn't bothered to ask, so maybe not. But now I won't know whether you didn't miss me or DID miss me and are just trying not to enable my neediness).

Yesterday was Thanksgiving, so of course it's proper to start out by being thankful for Madeleine L'Engle and George Harrison. And for once I feel like telling about personal events, as if this was a journal again more than a blog. My aunt had hosted Thanksgiving, and, well, pretty much everything, for many years because she had a house for it, but this spring she moved to a place more suitable for Just Her and a Cat or Two. But her son manages/lives above a restaurant/bar/thing, so he offered the run of the place for all of us for Thanksgiving this year, instead (I'm sure he didn't intend to offer the run of his cologne in this package, but what's a holiday with small children without the makings of a holiday with small children?). It was a maze of rooms, so quite easy to lose yourself/ small children in (they had themselves a surprisingly difficult game of hide and seek. Don't think they'd ever played in a place with so many good hiding spots before). But everywhere you went, you ran into someone else, so you never were COMPLETELY lost. And they certainly had the facilities for feast-preparation, although in our family no one is ever in charge of ALL the cooking. I brought bar cookies that I overboiled the ingredients for, making them ROCK HARD (I actually broke one of my best knives trying to cut them!), but luckily there were enough other desserts. We had pumpkin pie, pumpkin cake, a REALLY DELICIOUS pumpkin trifle made by a woman we just found out is the fiancee of one of my cousins so YES MA'AM WELCOME TO OUR FAMILY YOU MAY ALWAYS BRING DESSERT, pumpkin cookies, pumpkin dip, and pumpkin ice cream. Also a few other things that weren't pumpkin.

I simultaneously love holidays and get infinitely frustrated by the way other people react to holidays, too. Every so often this week there's been someone on the "Thanksgiving is offensive because that whole Pilgrims-and-Indians-happy-feast-myth is so PROBLEMATIC" train. Which is not a fault of Thanksgiving at all. It's the fault of people who insist on having preschoolers make feathered headdresses for a Thanksgiving craft. CANADIANS have Thanksgiving-- in October-- and it has NOTHING TO DO with Puritans at Plymouth. It's what it IS-- a harvest feast to give thanks for being able to eat and all. And I'm pretty sure that's how most people celebrate Thanksgiving, anyway.

Then there's the "Thanksgiving is early Christmas" thing, which was even more tricky this year since Thanksgiving WAS also Hanukkah, and "Hanukkah is Jewish Christmas." Look, I love Christmas more than ANYBODY.* ANYBODY I KNOW, at any rate. But I'm not ready to get in the mood for the holiday season until NOW. People always laugh about how early Christmas stuff comes out in STORES, but this year I saw SO many Christmas lights out on PRIVATE HOMES TWO WEEKS AGO. Of course, maybe they celebrate Hanukkah and were only prepping for THIS week. I guess we don't really know. I just hope they KEEP those lights up until at LEAST January 7th. Come on.

But on the complete opposite hand, a couple weeks ago my coworker who "shares" social media duties with me (okay, anymore SHE does most of it, and I just pop on whenever I have an idea) posted a picture of the decorated tree we have up in the library with the message "Our holiday tree is up and decorated in Dr. Seuss characters thanks to our local girl scout troop." And on our Facebook page, someone commented, "Don't you mean Christmas tree?" Since our Facebook page is linked to my personal Facebook account, I got a notification as soon as this comment was posted, so I responded, "Well, it's a little early for Christmas-- Thanksgiving and Hanukkah aren't even for another two weeks! We have a lot of other holidays to celebrate before Christmas!" This turned out to be the Exact Right Answer, earning both an in-person thumbs-up from my coworker for handling the comment so well, and a Facebook thumbs-up from the commenter for an explanation she could live with: her response was "I was really just hoping you guys weren't going the way of (what seems to be) everyone else, by not acknowledging Christmas at all...glad to hear you're just trying to extend the joy. ;)" And I'm like, really? That's the whole POINT of using the term "holiday season," not to cut OUT Christmas, but to extend the joy to ALL the OTHER holidays and traditions of this darkest-time-of-year. Christmas is December 25! But Dewey Decimal Day is December 10, and that's an important holiday, too! Okay, maybe not important, but worth celebrating (the last thing I did at work before leaving on Wednesday-- we were closed yesterday and today-- was making a "December" sign for our monthly holiday books display. There's a LOT of holidays this time of year! And it so happens Dewey Decimal Day is one of them). Worrying that there's a War on Christmas because it's acknowledged not to be the only holiday in December is like worrying making gay marriage legal will destroy straight marriage. Wait, that's usually the same people doing the worrying.

Then there's people who get stressed out about holidays. I just want to say "WE DON'T CARE! Let us people who DON'T get stressed out about holidays handle everything! We'll ALL be happy!" I was angry with my husband yesterday because HE'S one of the grinchy types, and he said, "Are you okay? Is this just your usual holiday depression?" "MY holiday depression? I wouldn't be depressed a bit if YOU weren't so grumpy." Luckily he mellowed out by the time we reached my family's party and he had a couple superb German dark beers. But anyhoo, I really think that. Holidays would be so much more pleasant for everyone if the people who got stressed out over holidays would just sit back and let the holiday-lovers take care of stuff.

So, I hope tomorrow we can do the Thorough Once-a-Year (or close to that) Housecleaning that must take place before the Christmas decorations (and Advent, and New Years, and St. Nicholas' Day, and Dewey Decimal Day, and Jane Austen's Birthday... you know, the HOLIDAY decorations) can come out, but I do have this awful crappy cold and want to go to sleep. And now it is much later at night than when I started this, so going to sleep would be a pretty good idea.

I'll get back to you again SOMETIME before Christmas (I refer here to December 25): I've been meaning to tell you about the book I'm reading/working through. For one thing. Also, who wants to go see Catching Fire with me? Jason says he'll go to the theaters with me for Desolation of Smaug (even if that IS the one with my Imaginary Husband in it), but he doesn't care to see Catching Fire in the theaters... which is just a shame that he didn't care for the first movie, because I KNOW if he read all the books he'd REALLY appreciate the worldbuilding of Panem. But ah well. Girl date! Or boy date! I don't know of any boys who read this who actually live near me though, so never mind them. Whatever-gender-you-identify-with non-spousal date!

---
*That links to a post that links to almost every OTHER post I've ever written about Christmas, so it seems most convenient. Except for the post I wrote last year, since it hadn't happened yet.
rockinlibrarian: (love)
I've been meaning to write this for awhile, because every time I see the phrase "If everyone is special, then no one is special," I want to slap whomever it is said it over the head. Possibly with a thesaurus. Yesterday someone linked to someone else rolling their metaphorical eyes at the old Fox News stance that Mister Rogers' "You are Special" refrain insidiously created a generation of entitled slackers, so I thought of this post again. What's interesting about the above link is that someone in the comments (yes, I read the comments! They actually weren't bad!) then linked to a response one such apparent Mister Rogers blamer wrote to clarify what he actually meant.

Unfortunately, the guy's still missing the point.

Which is why I still have to WRITE THIS POST TO EXPLAIN WHY.

He-- and most of the people with something to say about this story-- is hung up on thinking the Terrible part about this story is the slandering of Mister Rogers, who IS, certainly, one of the greatest (and more importantly, uh, GOODest. "Best" doesn't have the right connotation, sue me) men of the 20th century, or at least in the history of television, and therefore yes people who slander him suck. But the real travesty of this guy's thought process is his complete inability to understand what Mister Rogers MEANT by "You are Special."

Maybe it's some kind of all-American hangup about competition. There HAS to be winners and losers. Somebody HAS to be The Best. Some people are entitled to good things because they EARNED them and that makes them "special." You have to WIN Specialness.

I don't think it means what he think it means.

Fred Rogers was an ordained minister who literally saw his television show as his ministry, the audience as his congregation. Of course it wasn't a religious show, no mention of God or Jesus or any other Bible character, but in this secular format he was able to express one of the most important tenets of Christianity: YOU ARE LOVED, JUST THE WAY YOU ARE. Even when you mess up, God doesn't stop loving you-- no matter WHAT horrible thing you might have done, God may be SAD about it, but YOU ARE STILL LOVED. And this isn't just true for Christians, or any other one Chosen People-- it's EVERYONE, whether they love God back or not. All of humanity is Redeemed, even if not everyone ACCEPTS their redemption. NO ONE IS BETTER OR WORSE IN THE EYES OF GOD. ...can you tell the fact that so many people who call themselves "Christian" align themselves with the other sort of Politics (and in fact believe it to BE the Christian "side") bugs me? Seriously, we liberal Christians really need to start speaking up more. *ahem* anyway...

It's like a counselor explained to me once: your USEFULNESS may fluctuate, but your self-worth is a CONSTANT. Is a baby worth less than someone at their physical peak? Are you worth less when you've got the flu or a broken leg? Should we round up apparently useless people and shoot them? I came out of this session honestly wondering how people who didn't believe in God-- or God's Love-- came to grips with this concept. Surely if you took away the presence of unconditional love, then logic says a more Useful* person IS more worthy of existing. But God's Ways are not Man's Ways, and it clearly says GOD LOVES EVERYBODY.

The other day my friend linked to a site about National Suicide Prevention Week, which explained that this year's theme is "You Cannot Be Replaced." You cannot be replaced.

THAT'S what "You are Special" means. And yes, EVERYONE is special, because WHOEVER you are, you can't be replaced. THERE IS JUST ONE OF YOU.

Depression is this disease where you can't help believing the lies the Devil whispers in your ear-- even when you KNOW IN YOUR HEAD these things are lies, and not only lies but EVIL lies, it's still so hard to fight it. To be honest I'm not comfortable with the phrase "the Devil," I prefer "The Lone Power," thank you Diane Duane-- the inventor of Entropy, the opposite of Creation. These lies are "You're worthless. You can't do anything. Give up. No one needs you. You MEAN NOTHING."

Madeleine L'Engle called it "X-ing yourself" in A Wind in the Door-- this believing evil's lies that you are Worthless. Snuffing out the Light, the Worth, that really IS there. Just today I flipped my journal open to something I'd written while reading The Diviners, how scary, how EASY it is to give into the sins of apathy and sloth and hopelessness-- how easy it is to GIVE UP. "Terrible things can happen if I believe [the lies of depression]. It's, in a way, kind of encouraging-- what CAN I do, what IS my great potential, if the Devil is so determined to keep me from it? ... I don't like to think that I could be a tool for Evil, but I allow myself to be just by DISbelieving that I can be a FORCE for GOOD. ...Negativity keeps trying to NEGATE me. WHICH MEANS I'M SOMEBODY WORTH TRYING TO NEGATE. Gotta remember that."

It's funny, you really HAVE to be speaking from a place of Privilege if you think "Everyone is Special" means "Everyone should get everything handed to them." There are far too many people in the world who need to hear "You Are Special" just to believe they have a right to exist at all.

And hey. You. YOU. You DO have a right to exist. You have a POINT. YOU ARE SPECIAL, because you are the only You there is. You cannot be replaced.

---
*This is the thing that bugs me most about my son's beloved Thomas and Friends, beyond the annoying songs. I hate the emphasis on everyone trying to be a Really Useful Engine. I mean, obviously they're trains, they HAVE to be useful, but they're ANTHROPOMORPHIC trains, which thoroughly muddies the issue.
rockinlibrarian: (voldemart)
Hey, all, I'm a BLOGGING FREAK this week, aren't I? Remember this during my dry spells.

The thing that's made me start writing TODAY is the conversation that ensued when my video blog* friends discovered this Buzzfeed post: 12 Reasons Why Hufflepuff House Is Actually Badass,** and everyone cheered for their not-so-closet Hufflepuffness, and we naturally got onto the topic of Self-Sorting and/or Letting-Pottermore-Do-It-For-You, and once more I found myself getting TOO DEEP AND VERBOSE FOR TWITTER, so here you are.

Thing is, I was always clearly a Ravenclaw. A Capital-N Nerd. My life WAS my brain, and learning, and even showing off what a huge-know-it-all I was (though, unlike Hermione Granger, I LACKED the bravery and crusading, SPEW-creating spirit that would have put me in Gryffindor. And Slytherin? Pah, it has nothing to do with not wanting to associate with dark wizards, and more to do with COMPLETE LACK OF AMBITION TO A FAULT). Also, though this was established only in 2003, if I've had ANY ambition in my life it has been to Be Luna Lovegood, so there is that.

But reading this article, I had a gut "It's true, we ARE!" reaction. And then I had to think. WAIT. Ravenclaw. I've always been Ravenclaw. But suddenly I wasn't feeling it any more.***

When I look back, I'm pretty sure I would have still immediately put myself in Ravenclaw as recently as maybe a year ago. But I might have been a little bitter-proud about it. "Yep, I'm the brainiac. Completely useless at anything else, but a brainiac."

But I really HAVE changed in the past year. You know I've been working through my self-esteem/depression issues for years, but it's this past year that I feel like I've been making REAL PROGRESS. And yes, that's why nearly everything I post anymore is all philosophical, because I've been spending so much time and energy Working These Things Out. It's still a work in progress, mind you, but... but that's what I'm getting to. Let's start from the beginning.

At Hogwarts at the age of 11, I certainly would have been a Ravenclaw-- as long as they didn't hold that HOMEWORK thing against me. I clung to the fact that I was smart. Only a year or two before one of the books I was always writing contained a scene that went something like this:
Mary Sue Version of Me: "Hmm, maybe [incredibly obvious deduction]!"
Classmate: "Wow, Amy, you're such a genius, you should be in the ADVANCED ADVANCED Gifted Education Program!"
Mary Sue Amy, without trace of reaction: "Well, they don't have that, so I guess the REGULAR Gifted Education Program will have to do."


I swear I actually wrote that. Unironically.

At the end of 8th grade we had an awards assembly, and among the awards were medals given to the student who scored the highest on each separate subject of the standardized tests we'd taken. I got all but one. I think it was the math. Anyway, that was the first I'd ever felt a little embarrassed about it. But at least it was something I could feel CONFIDENT about.

Sure, I was a crybaby whose "best friends" pretended we WEREN'T actually friends around other kids. Sure, I had over-sized glasses and crooked teeth and the physical coordination of a chess piece. But DANGIT, I WAS SMART.

It probably was in about 8th grade, too, because that was the height of my paperback-horror phase, that I read a book (shout out in the comments if you remember this one-- I don't remember the name or author) about a cursed prom/formal dress that left each unwitting girl who wore it without the one thing they were most proud about. And there was a brainiac girl who ended up brain damaged. And it squigged me out. THAT CAN'T HAPPEN TO ME, I thought. MY LIFE WOULD TOTALLY BE OVER.

Fact is, I was a snob. For an unpopular kid with no fashion sense who claimed to hate snobs, I was an INTELLIGENCE snob. I didn't have the patience for people who THOUGHT SLOWER than me.

In high school I read an article about EQ-- how emotional intelligence was more important than traditional IQ in predicting future success. I was offended. So I KNOW they're trying to make people who aren't so smart feel better about themselves, but are they trying to say people who DO have high IQs aren't so great? PAH.

But as I got older, I started to figure out that the article was right. For one thing, a positive thing, I met several people who taught me to appreciate that even people who WEREN'T SMART-- who even had LOW IQs-- had OTHER valuable qualities-- sometimes even MORE valuable. "I know I'm not very good at some things," one such woman, who I'd (take that, snobby-younger-self) come to know as a friend, told me once, "but there are OTHER things I AM good at, so I focus on those!" I've never forgotten that. The world would say I was blessed with so much more natural talent than she was-- and yet here she was, teaching ME something very important that I still haven't quite mastered.

For a not-so-positive thing? Yeah, real life has no use for brainiacs. Who gets paid to take standardized tests?

So for most of adulthood, I haven't taken much pride in my brains. But I still defined myself by them. Now I was just bitter, and resigned that the school system had failed me and I was a failure.

But they say, when real change happens, the old self dies and makes way for the new. And it's possible that my OLD self was the Ravenclaw. And right, I'm still a nerd. I still love learning and memorizing weird trivia facts and doing pencil puzzles in GAMES Magazine, but I don't DEFINE myself by it any more. There are other things I value more. There are other things I want to BE. I'm not STUCK in my old ways of thinking. And it's possible this New Me would fit in better in another Hogwarts house. Right now I AM leaning particularly toward Hufflepuff's open, loving, supportive, and need I add food-appreciating nature.

But as I continue to grow, I could even find myself latching on to a big boost of Gryffindor courage. Who knows, really. But I'll be open to it, whatever it is. I'll still try to be the Best ME I can be.

-----
*which I am on hiatus from for a bit by reason of TimeSuck, but here's three blog posts in one week if that helps any!
**why yes I DID realize there's a lovely GIF of Martin right there two down, but I swear that's not why I'm linking you to the article! ...You have to admit it's a nice bonus, though.
***and no, it had NOTHING to do with the lovely GIF of Martin, which was only being used to illustrate that Hufflepuff House is like a Hobbit Hole. Obviously, Bilbo Baggins would be (the only hobbit ever to be) in Gryffindor, so that wouldn't have been a draw to it. (OKAY, Tolkien nerds, ease off, he's not the ONLY hobbit ever, some of his Tookish ancestors might have gone that way, too, and MAYBE one or two of the Fellowship, BUT IT STILL WOULD HAVE BEEN RARE).

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