rockinlibrarian: (roar)
I've been unearthing roots of current subconscious feelings a lot this week, like spontaneous psychoanalysis: "That's impressive," my therapist said, "you've done a lot of work!"

"Not really," I said, "I just ruminate about these things. I don't DO anything about it." I mean, it's all well and good tracing your self-denial and hesitancy to WANT anything back to a simple and understandable Ice Cream Incident at the age of six, but what can you do, go back to 1984 so you can tell that six-year-old "It's OKAY to be disappointed, you're NOT selfish, maybe we can try again to get ice cream later"? Being able to see clearly what had happened and knowing objectively that that six year old did nothing wrong and should not have been so harshly punished by her own inner demons, can't magically erase the layers of loathing and mental mechanizations those demons put in place to keep punishing that inner six-year-old whenever her 38-year-old self tries to even HAVE her own wants and needs.

They keep whispering, "Stop whining! You've got it good! You have nothing to complain about, you live a life of privilege!" Little white girl, comfortable middle class home, two loving parents, good at school (not counting homework*). You lived a sheltered childhood. Oh, sure, try to pipe up something about how lonely you were, start to mention "bullying," but we all know bullies have done much worse to OTHER people. Bullying is supposed to involve physical assault! Nobody ever hurt you. Never mind that when you actually look back and describe various situations you think, "Holy heck, girl, no wonder you have social anxiety." Didn't hurt you.

The irony is, the inner demons are doubling down on all the bullying that did, in fact, happen on the outside. They are being bullies, bullies you can't escape from because they keep following you around inside your own freaking head. That's why you still have anxiety dreams involving school cafeterias, where everyone is laughing at you, and everything you say and do just makes the laughing worse, and you literally blow up and start SMITING people and, well, they STILL point out that you're obviously a freak because normal people don't SMITE people and you're all worked up over nothing.

Note: I'm going to get into the current political situation again here, so, you know. But I'm still not talking about politics, per se, I'm talking about bullying. And subconscious roots.

And the fact that walking down a street lined with campaign signs for a classic psychological (as well as apparently physical) bully can be triggering.

I told you, when I devoted a whole post to this election, that I normally don't have strong feelings about politicians. They're all flawed, they're all skilled, it's just a matter of weighing their traits and comparing it to the job and deciding from there. I was very objective in that post. The FACTS favored one candidate far over the other. But the truth is my strong feelings about this election aren't completely objective, because one candidate literally makes me nauseous. Not hyperbole. I'm not insulting him here, saying "he makes me sick" because he's ugly or I don't like his ideas (although I don't). I'm saying he causes a reflexive stress reaction in my body that makes me feel sick. I am LITERALLY SICK of hearing his voice and seeing his smug, hateful, punchable face.

I saw an article on Twitter last month, see what I wrote:

And because the embed doesn't actually let you see the content of the tweet I was quoting:

And if you're like "On a site called 'Everyday Feminism,' yeah like THAT'S not biased," shut up and read it. Well, read it if you ARE like that. If you can just see the headline and are already nodding like, "Yep, absolutely true, I KNOW," then don't read it because it's freaking triggering. Or in my case, read it, discover it IS triggering but it EXPLAINS SO MUCH so you're glad you read it.

THOSE are the things I experienced at the hands of other kids (and in some cases, probably unintentional, from adults--not my parents I must add) as a child, and the things I saw other kids, some of them very important to me, experience and fill me with rage. THOSE are the experiences evoked in my subconscious when I have those cafeteria nightmares.

And, like the article said, it's incredibly triggering to see these behaviors flaunted by someone running for the highest office in the country. When I see his smug face, he reminds me of every kid who picked on me or my friends at school. The decades of simmering frustration bubble back up into the present and all I want to do is PUNCH HIM, and with him every other bully who has ever crossed my path. Did you hear about the guy who sledgehammered his Hollywood Star yesterday? Oh, say what you want about the evils of vandalism, I'm not condoning him, but I TOTALLY understand him. He just DID what all us victims/loved ones of victims FEEL. And, more kindly than sledgehammering the guy's FACE, which is what we really burn inside for (not saying we genuinely want it with our minds! We just FEEL that want).

This ISN'T political, this is primal gut instinct. Don't try to tell me his opponent is a bully, too. You may not agree with her, but if you think she's a bully then you don't understand what a bully is. It isn't just insisting that you're right-- that's called being assertive. A bully is something else entirely, and victims recognize it when we see it, if only subconsciously through reflexive stress reactions. I went into my therapy session on edge yesterday, and said I kept thinking about bullies, and my therapist kept asking if something had happened that had triggered it, and I said, "No, it was just seeing political signs along the road." She nodded immediately and said, "Ah, of course, you've been Trumped." She didn't know my political affiliations! I hadn't said anything specific! But I'm willing to bet I'm not the only one of her patients who has this reaction, and she knew EXACTLY what I meant. People are only getting bullying flashbacks via one particular candidate.

Anyway, to bring it back around, walking the kids to the bus stop along a street with sign after sign supporting the Bullying Poster Boy is... somewhat disconcerting. Even the kids think so. Of COURSE the kids think so-- not just my kids, SO MANY kids, not just parroting their parents' opinions, but genuinely their OWN: "Why do people like him? He's MEAN." Leave it to the kids to cut to the chase.

"Well," I say, "people like him... because... maybe they just believe his lies?" I don't know how to explain. I understand how many people in communities like mine have just had enough of the Liberal Elite, but to actually support this monster instead? THESE people are not monsters. These are ordinary folks who give me cheerful hellos, who have lent a hand on occasion, who have families and full lives.

Maddie's friend and her older sister run out of their house (one WITHOUT a campaign sign) to join my kids at the bus stop, their hair in cornrows, bright smiles on their dark faces, and I get another mental nudge. How does THEIR family feel, living on this street? Oh, maybe people are just as nice to them. Maybe they see them as "GOOD ones, not like Those Others." Or maybe not. But how would I know? Perfectly inoffensive white lady with Resting Nice Face? Nobody feels threatened by me. Who knows how many people who are perfectly decent to me aren't nearly as decent to someone else?

Bringing me back to childhood again. Or adolescence-- do you know how socially acceptable it was to pick on my best friend in high school? Kids I didn't previously think of as bullies would join in freely. Maybe they felt it was okay to side with the bullies when the person being picked on seemed so different from them, too. Maybe they felt it was safer. Maybe that's how the people on my street feel.

I'll admit: I wasn't completely immune from this behavior myself on occasion. The song "Hey Mickey" always kind of haunts me-- people in the marching band had made up alternate words for it, directed at this awkward nerd of a kid whom I didn't particularly like either, and although I knew I shouldn't find it funny, it WAS funny. But gosh, what was it like for that kid, when even I couldn't help laughing at that song?

But luckily for my retroactive pride, I was more often the kid in the middle. The one defending a friend to another friend who was saying terrible things behind--or in front of-- her back. "How did the others react when you defended the person they were picking on?" my therapist asked. I blinked a little. "Well... it was weird. On the surface they called me things like 'goody goody' or whatever, asked why I cared, told me to stay out of it because I was wrong," I said. "But on some level-- I think something in them kind of respected it? Because they weren't like 'If you're friends with them you can't be friends with us,' or anything overtly cruel. I think they KNEW that, with the situation reversed on them, I'd stick up for them, too, you know? So they didn't want to alienate me too much."

She smiled as if I'd finally hit on obvious proof that I didn't have to be so afraid of speaking up for myself. But it's so much easier to stick up for other people than for myself. Sticking up for myself against outside bullies (or even just nice people who disagree with me) would require me to first stick up for myself against my inner bullies, and they are super-persuasive.

But maybe that's why I'm so privileged. Maybe I can't handle any more to battle inside me. But outside me? I can keep standing up for others. And maybe people will actually, every so often, listen to me.

So that's why I keep speaking up, trying to get people to listen to each other.

My therapist suggested maybe I'd have better luck standing up against my inner bullies if I thought of it as doing it for my childrens' sake. Still really hard. But it feels right.

I have enough trouble dealing with internal bullies. I refuse to put up with outside bullies, no matter who they're picking on.

*Last night after I tucked her in and left the room, Maddie out of nowhere piped up, "Mommy, did you ever forget to do your homework as a kid?" HAH, girl, we don't have time to have this discussion right now! 
rockinlibrarian: (sherlock)
I'm sure I've mentioned that the reason I actually started WRITING stories as a child (instead of just playing make-believe-- I was plenty enough good at THAT sort of storytelling without any other prompting) was that I kept having awesome narrative dreams that needed to be written down and shared. In my teen years I actually came up with tons of stories that WEREN'T inspired by dreams, then in adulthood I mostly concentrated on rewriting old stuff in an attempt to make them publishable, then I had kids and lost control of my mental capacities.

Nowadays I never think of fictional story ideas during my waking hours. I'm just like, "I have no ideas. There's nothing I need to write about." Occasionally I think of things to BLOG about, and to be honest probably the only reason I allow myself this is that blogging is easier and it's so much more immediate than fiction.

Because my subconscious still ADORES writing fiction. I really do have epic, marvelously story-like dreams. I even work on revising and otherwise shaping the story to make it better while I'm dreaming it.

And then I wake up.

Anyway, here's what I dreamed last night. I was in a pet supply store. There was a sense of survivalism among the shoppers, and a couple of girls in front of me in line begging for leeway with their payments because they only had SOME of the money now but they couldn't wait because there's no time, "the DNA shift is messing everything up!" The "DNA Shift" was apparently affecting masses of people, changing their genetic makeup just enough to slightly alter the way they experienced the world. It had apparently happened to prepare humanity for a pending apocalypse. Only the shift affected everyone differently apparently depending on their moral values and choices, and only SOME of the shifting would actually result in survival, only nobody knew exactly how. And I was given a brochure about a holiday CALLED "Ramadan" but celebrated by Celtic Neo-Druids in early February and based on spring cleaning, both actual and symbolic-- and then I was in the midst of such a celebration, which was kind of fun and involved candy feather dusters and a video game about vacuuming up evil spirits. But they were still actually prepping for the pending apocalypse, and there was a gas that caused the DNA Shift that was incorporated into the celebrations, but because not everyone had been exposed to the gas/experienced the Shift yet, some powerful executives tried to exploit Celtic Ramadan to withhold the gas for only those they deemed Most Worthy (ie, those who had the money to pay), so now there was a whole thing about who could and who could not undergo the Shift, and rogues going out intentionally exposing people and other rogues going out trying to stop them, and... and...

I woke up. And immediately I think, "Gotta write this one!" and then almost immediately another part of me thinks, "It's TERRIGEN MIST, you were totally just stealing Terrigen Mist because you're a Marvel TV addict with no ideas of your own. And the fact that the survival-likelihood of your DNA shift is based on moral values has a weird religious tinge to it, what exactly are you trying to insinuate? And is Celtic Ramadan more offensive to Muslims or Neo-Druids? Why does your subconscious have to have such messed-up cultural appropriations? WHY CAN'T YOU GET ANY USEFUL STORY IDEAS?"

And THAT is why I can't write fiction with my conscious brain. BECAUSE IT WON'T SHUT UP AND LET ME.
rockinlibrarian: (hi maddie)
Checking in.

Still not writing much. Just jotting down my dreams most mornings. I do actively write stories in my sleep, while I'm dreaming, but of course I can never remember the details that REALLY MADE it once I wake up. Like last night's was about these two schools next door to each other (one was a middle school, one a high school?) one of which had a random pet goat and the other of which had Tony Stark as a teacher, only it turned out the pet goat was actually Tony Stark's illegitimate kid-no-pun-intended who had the ability to shapeshift into a goat and was also a cyborg, and then his (the cyborg-goat-kid's) long lost twin sister, now a social worker, showed up looking for him, and there was a happy family reunion, and this was ACTUALLY RELATIVELY AWESOME while it was happening but I have no idea what I was thinking now.

Truth is I've been having mental health issues lately but mostly they've all been me holding everything in and giving myself stomachaches and pretending everything is fine, like I do, so when, for example, my FBI fingerprinting clearance FINALLY showed up the other day, making me legal to work with children again, I was SO RELIEVED that I suddenly only then REALIZED the stress it had been causing me, because my stomach stopped hurting. Also I've got a muscle spasm in my shoulder that's put me on a weird cocktail of medications. Oh, also, the muscle spasm was partially caused by me for some reason HOLDING A GREAT DEAL OF TENSION IN MY MUSCLES. I also was not aware I was doing that. So right, I haven't been quite so well, which means I may have appeared to have fallen off the face of the earth there.

(If you are worried, I do have an appointment with a proper psychiatrist coming up to try to get myself back in order again. In late August. Because that's how soon people can get first appointments with psychiatrists. And I'm so grateful that I have experience, and a general support system, and am already on meds, because if I had to wait that long while I was truly at rock bottom and didn't know what to do or if there was hope? HOW MANY PEOPLE does that apply to. Please, support making mental health help easier for anyone who needs it to get, wherever possible in your life).

Also I've been having a hard time reclaiming my internet access from my children lately. It's been raining a lot here. Constantly. No just sending them outside. And at some point, I do not know how (WHO TAUGHT THEM THIS YOU WILL PAY) they discovered Toy Unboxing videos on YouTube. Sam watches people play with Thomas Trackmaster sets over and over. Maddie watches cutsie little toy animal plays by people who try WAY too hard to do cute voices. They both keep ASKING for new toys. And the other day they even discovered the existence of Kinder Surprise Eggs this way and DARN YOU FOREIGNERS. OR US CUSTOMS REGULATIONS. OR WHATEVER. Anyway, you'd think it'd be easier to pull them away from this steady diet of amateur infomercials but it's NOT. Today I figured out exactly WHAT was so sickening about this habit though. "STOP WATCHING OTHER PEOPLE PLAY!" I told them. "YOU go PLAY something YOURSELF!" :P

Meanwhile I finished a new dress today. It's kind of a fancy party dress, but definitely needs some poofy petticoat action to go for the full effect. I think I'll wear it to work tomorrow anyway.

Maddie told me the other day that I'm like Rarity the My Little Pony because I love to make dresses. Now, I am very LITTLE like Rarity, who is highly vain and image-conscious, I'm really much more of a cross between Fluttershy and Twilight Sparkle (which has also been pointed out by my children), but I kind of Huh-ed when she said that, because it's TRUE. I DO love to make dresses, don't I? I always associated fashion design with, well, characters like Rarity, girls who were much more interested in being cool and following trends than I. I just like pretty dresses and flowy sleeves and my own hippie-and-occasionally-mod-if-I-feel-like-cleaning-up-a-bit (the one I finished today is definitely more Mod than Hippie. I'm pretty sure they sell something just like it at ModCloth) style. NOT trendy.* NOT caring what's cool. But I DO love it just for me, and I think being a grownup who's allowed to like whatever I like no matter what CLIQUE it might be associated with is wonderfully freeing that way. So yeah, I DO. I DO love to make pretty dresses.

At work-- now that I can legally do so-- I've been busy with Outreach programs. I still do readings at day cares-- which is a change this summer, previously I only did it during the school year; but earlier this spring I started bringing my Library Explorers program to the activity center in the low income housing plan. This gets a little wild but is quite fun, and I'm thrilled that I have so many regulars showing for it. The only IN-house program I get that much reaction to is Lego Club, and that's not so much me as, you know, LEGO.

It occurs to me I meant to run down all my spring program ideas for you several months ago, but somehow I lost that.

Collaborative Summer Reading is Every Hero Has a Story, and I have been almost ZERO involved with Summer Reading this year. But I am sticking with the theme for my Family Night storytimes, for which I consistently get the same small family every week. One kid, his baby brother, his mom. But they're enthusiastic!

Today the kids and I went blueberry picking, which was lovely. We missed strawberry picking this year, and the farm we were at was even out of its own already-PICKED local strawberries, so I was a little sad about that.

I dropped my waterbottle on my toe a few weeks ago and it STILL hurts to the touch. Luckily it's summer, because I can't wear shoes over it, only sandals.

And that's it, I think. That's my letter of update. That's what's up. How about you?


*Okay, ModCloth IS kind of trendy in a hipsterish way. But that's not WHY I like it, and if it stops being trendy, so what.
rockinlibrarian: (beaker)
It's good, in retrospect, that none of you voted for "larger social issues" when I asked social media what I should blog about next the other week, because it turns out that post wasn't ready yet after all. The winning post about "Smaller personal habits" (ie Ones Relationship with Obligation) did coincide nicely with me finishing sewing a dress. Then I did immediately start typing the second-place "hopes and dreams" post (ie an interesting recent exercise from my endless self-help work) that one person voted for, but trailed out as I hit an emotional dip as the week wore on. Me and my stupid self-help books. Me and my self-pitying funks. I couldn't write about my hopes and dreams then because it would turn into too much woe-is-me. And I REALLY, REALLY couldn't write about Larger Social Issues because I was far too self-centered at the moment. I'd come off as a total hypocrite. I'd come off like I was trying to say something Current that I didn't have any right to say, that other people had said better than I could, that whatever. It just didn't seem to be the right time. Just before I woke up yesterday morning I was in the middle of a dream about belonging to a small group of freedom fighters trying to figure out how to survive outside the Corrupt System until we could overthrow the tyrants-- "we'll probably have enough skills among ourselves, like she's an expert on growing tomatoes, so we'll be able to eat tomatoes. And I, I'm a writer, so I guess I can keep us entertained in our seclusion... oh wait. I'm a WRITER. I NEED TO WRITE THE TRUTH OF WHAT'S GOING ON AND PUT IT OUT THERE TO FURTHER THE CAUSE!"

Then I woke up, got on the computer, and witnessed the reactions to the grand jury decision in Ferguson. Part of me thought, well, now I'm REALLY unworthy to write what I was going to write, but another force was at work inside me. A Divine force, a Calling, the Holy Spirit Itself whispering forcefully NO. YOU NEED TO WRITE THIS. THIS IS EXACTLY YOUR STORY TO TELL, AND PEOPLE NEED TO HEAR IT. Write it on paper today, work it out into something for public consumption, post it tomorrow. You have a divine duty to speak up.

This is why I'm starting out by asking you to read this, no matter who you are. Read it without reacting, just let what I'm saying sink in a bit. Reflect on it. I'm not going to try to explain political issues to you. I'm not going to talk about things I don't understand. Actually THAT'S what I'm going to talk about. The State of Not Understanding. And I want everyone to think about it no matter what they already think about other things.

PRIVILEGE. It's a word that's come up a lot lately in conversations about social issues. It's really easy to misunderstand and get defensive about. But here's the thing: all "Privilege" means is "a particular problem you DON'T personally have." Everyone has Privilege. Nobody has EVERY problem known to humanity. Likewise, along with our Privileges, we all have our own problems, and no one knows exactly what anyone else may be going through. We're all Privileged, and we all have problems, and neither of these things is anything to be ashamed of.

The TROUBLE with our Privilege is when we start to think to ourselves, "THAT Problem? I don't see that Problem. Therefore the Problem must not really exist." Or "...therefore the people talking about the Problem must be exaggerating." Or worse, " must be the people WITH the Problem's FAULT somehow. If only they acted like ME. Then THEY wouldn't have the Problem, either."

The thing is, we don't even REALIZE how self-centered we're being. Somehow we're always able to rationalize, in our heads, how if WE and the people we interact with daily don't have a Problem then it really must not be that bad. And, yeah, by "We" I do mean "Me."

The particular issue I'd originally been going to write about was Feminism. You see for years, even as recently as a few months ago --if you go back in my posts you'll probably find me saying something to the effect of it-- my reaction to anyone's talk about sexism was the first one above. "Sure, sexism is wrong and just plain stupid, but is it really as BAD as all that? People can just do what they want, right? Who cares what some stupids have to say about it. I'm a woman and I've never felt held down by the patriarchy. Anyway I WANT to do traditionally feminine things like work with children and be a mother." To be honest I felt threatened by Feminism, afraid I was being judged and found wanting because I wanted to do traditionally feminine things. BUT IT TURNS OUT THIS IS THE EXACT OPPOSITE OF FEMINISM, and anyone who tells you otherwise is just secretly (or unconsciously!) reinforcing The Patriarchy even more. It's the PATRIARCHY that calls anything "feminine" demeaning. Female is not LESSER. Any kind of gender expression is valid and none is greater than any other. No one else should have any say in the matter.

My point is, I've come to understand these things much better over time, just by listening to some very wise (and some not-so-wise-but-they-still-make-some-good-points) people explain the issue online. And then a few months or so ago there's this backlash against "feminism" that springs up on social media, not from outright misogynists, but from other women: this "#Idon'tneedfeminism" thing. It took me a few months of observing this and sighing inside a little to realize, "Hey wait a minute. THAT WAS ME. I used to say that all the time myself." Why did I say that? Because sexism was not a problem I really ever encountered. I felt annoyed that people-- these "feminists"-- kept allegedly speaking for me as a woman without knowing what I ACTUALLY needed. Yes, I DO have trouble speaking my mind and standing up for myself, not going invisible or making myself small, but this isn't the patriarchy's doing or the doing of Men in my life, these are just my own psychological issues and my Type 9 tendencies.

BUT SO WHAT. So I have different issues. But there are LOTS of other women WITHOUT my issues who DO feel the oppression, and they've been saying OVER and OVER that this oppression is real. Why should I brush off what they're saying just because I'M not feeling the oppression? How self-centered can I BE? "I don't have the Problem, therefore it must not be a Problem"? It's utterly irrational, and even worse, it's utterly un-compassionate.

Here's a feminist issue that is now hitting me close to home, and eventually ties into my overall theme here: my daughter is SUCH a comedian. She's naturally funny, and she's always clowning around. And yet there are people out there who still insist women can't be funny. I don't want her growing up with that attitude in the air! I want her never to stop believing (and enjoying) that she's funny! Which, admittedly, is kind of difficult to encourage right now because she's in this phase of telling truly terrible jokes-- when she says something like (and this is one that makes more sense than some of them) "What did the pen say to the piano? 'I WILL PLAY YOU!' Get it?" and you're sitting there trying to find the balance between encouragement and constructive criticism and just trying to figure out what she said in the first place, it's hard to laugh appreciatively.* But as she told me the other day, "Just because you don't GET IT, doesn't mean it's not FUNNY."

Which is what I'm talking about here. Just because you don't GET what someone else is trying to tell you about their Problems, doesn't mean it's not TRUE.

Let's get back to the Ferguson issue. Whatever you feel about it, it's likely your impressions are shaped by where (and from whom) you're getting your information. Me, I was on Twitter when Mike Brown got murdered and the protests started and the police force there turned into a militia. I saw on the spot tweets from the journalists who went there to try to get a story and found the police trying to silence them from reporting the truth they saw, and what I saw was mind-boggling. This police force was OBVIOUSLY way out of line. There was NO WAY this story could be spun in their favor, not with this kind of evidence, not with them TURNING JOURNALISTS THEMSELVES away. And yet somehow by the time the story got to the mainstream media-- particularly the more conservative outlets-- it had become about rioting, looting thugs and the police force that had to use extreme measures to keep order, which did not reflect the truth of what had happened at the time. I mention the conservative outlets not to make this politically polarizing, but because it's these conservative outlets that are usually all about Gun Rights. My Gun Nut husband talks all the time about how the average citizen needs to be able to arm themselves in case a Police State should come to power. GUYS. GUESS WHAT. A POLICE STATE IS TOTALLY IN POWER IN FERGUSON. This is EXACTLY the scenario gun nuts fear could happen if they lost their rights to bear arms. And yet, what do these same news outlets espoused by the gun nuts (and the gun nuts following them) DO? Proclaim their support of the police.

There's a disconnect there. I think anyone who claims they need the right to bear arms against a government gone out of control and then turns around and supports the government gone out of control needs to take a really serious look at what they really believe. Do they want to stand up for citizen's rights? Or do they only want to stand up for the rights of PEOPLE LIKE THEMSELVES?

That's a tough question to ask yourself. YES, by asking that, I'm implying you may be racist. Here's the thing: before I saw what was going on in Ferguson, before I heard the other stories of other incidents in other places that came out again in the wake of it, I was more racist than I believed, too. Sure I treated everyone I met equally no matter what they looked like, but I admit that, when I heard stuff about how mostly black people get sent to prison, how cops keep shooting black kids, I did crinkle my forehead and say, "well, maybe they just commit more crime?" Ferguson was HUGELY eye-opening for me. It wasn't that I had chosen to be racist before. I was just Privileged to not have to face those sort of situations, to not know anyone personally who had to face those situations, and because those situations were so unbelievable, I allowed myself to disbelieve them.

The other day I reposted on social media a link to this essay on The Mary Sue, about the personal stories of real people who've dealt with poverty in these modern-day United States, the "Land of Opportunity." It's called "My Hunger Games." There's been a saying going around since the Hunger Games became popular enough that people could refer to them as a metaphor and other people would understand: "If you don't believe we're already living in Panem, you must live in the Capitol." One of the MAIN THEMES of the Hunger Games series is that the people in the Capitol are so completely blinded by their Privilege that they don't even REALIZE the problems out in the Districts. They accept that propaganda the government feeds them about how the people in the Districts somehow earned whatever quality of life they are living, that Life Is Good and It's All For the Best. The reason the government fears Katniss is that the people of the Capitol LIKE her, so they LISTEN to her when she points out the injustices, so gradually more and more of them GET IT. They drop their blinders and start to join the revolution.

I'm not calling for revolution today. I'm calling for self-reflection. I'm calling for each of us to really examine the way our own privileges may be clouding our ability to face the real needs of our fellow human beings around us. I'm using "us" purposely-- I'm not pointing fingers, I'm not trying to get specks of dust out of your eyes with a plank sticking out of my own. I'm showing you how I'VE grown in understanding in just these past few months, when I never even realized I had growing to do in these areas. I STILL have growing to do. There are STILL issues about which I am privileged that I still don't quite GET, that I still internally scrunch my forehead at and think "But why don't they just...?" There are still issues I feel too self-centered over to deal with properly, like the "We Need Diverse Books" campaign, which makes Reader Amy go "YAY!" and Librarian Amy go "SUPER YES!" but Writer Amy keeps INSISTING on taking the wrong way and keeps hearing "SHUT UP AMY YOU'RE TOO 'NORMAL' THIS IS JUST ANOTHER REASON WHY NO ONE NEEDS TO HEAR WHAT YOU HAVE TO SAY" instead.

But ironically, this time, my "normalness" is EXACTLY why I NEED to write this post, why it's my GOD-GIVEN RESPONSIBILITY to write this post. Because I have been blinded by my Privileges and have found my eyes opened. That means there's hope for anybody. For ALL of us to stop and observe and grow.

For Thanksgiving it's always good to express gratitude for the things we take for granted, and our Privileges ARE all the things we take for granted. But just saying "I'm thankful for my Privileges" seems a little squicky-- it reminds me of that line in "Do They Know It's Christmas?": "Tonight thank God it's them instead of you." Ugh. THAT'S not what I mean. But what I AM most thankful for is this opportunity I've had to learn. I'm thankful for this opportunity to grow. I'm thankful for the strength to overcome the voice in my head that keeps telling me to SHUT UP instead of write, so that I COULD write this, and share this, and hope it will help others to learn and grow as I have.

*I brought her a joke book home from the library yesterday. I think this qualifies as both encouragement AND constructive criticism. She's very happy about it. One Mom Award for me!
rockinlibrarian: (portrait)
Trying to drown out the quiet,
the thundering of possibility,
the space that whispers to be filled
by you

when you're not even sure there's enough of you
to fill where you already are

the quiet asks too much

or knows more about you
than you do

(Post-Script: the past two nights I've had random bits of dream in iambic pentameter. My subconscious is way more clever than my conscious is. It's annoying. My conscious does free-form and thinks it's accomplished something)
rockinlibrarian: (rebecca)
This year is the first in ...nine?... that I'm not starting the One Book activities manual writing this month, and I find myself curiously discomforted by this.

It had started pre-kids, while I was working at the Children's Museum, and the Museum had been asked to supply an activities manual to go with an activities trunk for the brand-new PA One Book Every Young Child program, and the Educational Director, having just discussed the Museum's circulating book collection with me since I was in fact an MLIS at that point (even though I was working the floor of a Children's Museum), suddenly looked at me and asked, "Hey, can you write?"

For most of this past almost-decade I didn't even count this as really writing, because I wasn't writing stories from my imagination. That awful voice in my head kept taunting me about NOT WRITING, even though I wasn't just writing, and publishing, but getting PAID for it. I admit I got a kick out of filling in Schedule C-EZ lines A and B of the taxes each year, because the IRS didn't care that I didn't feel like a "real" writer. Writing was what I'd been paid to do, so "Writer, Activity Manual, Business Code 711510" is what I was. I just didn't appreciate it until I didn't have it anymore.

I keep thinking of my writing process for One Book. How I'd feel all proud of myself for color-coding my notes and putting activity ideas in order like I'd done something impressive. How I'd keep getting distracted but I'd make myself work, in little pockets, "Okay you can check Twitter again AFTER you finish this paragraph!" How I'd take drafts of pages with me to work on in bits while waiting to pick up Maddie from preschool. As weird as it sounds, I MISS that. I miss HAVING something to work with, to work TOWARD.

And I now realize that I WAS working, to an extent, like a real writer. The ones I follow on Twitter, speaking of Twitter, are always talking about these little tricks they use to get the work done. It makes it seem like a chore, but I realize how much I enjoyed it now that, well, I don't have anybody counting on me to get the work turned in.

Because I could easily adapt those techniques to working on my own stories. But without that external motivation, the committee saying "We need the manual activities by this date!" --I mean, that's the only problem. It's so easy for That Voice to tell me that nobody CARES whether I write MY stories. But if I COULD, if I could ignore the Lone Power long enough to work on writing other things the way I worked on One Book-- I see now that it IS POSSIBLE. Tomorrow school starts. Tomorrow I'll have five afternoons a week-- okay, three, I work two of those-- with NO ONE ELSE to distract me. No one else but me. But if it's my JOB to get SOMETHING on paper/screen, I don't know, maybe I have a chance.

Because I also realize that my freaking out over the past few years, worrying that I'm no longer a writer or I don't want to be one anymore or I CAN'T be one anymore or I'm just stuck on old dreams that no longer apply-- I realize that I was stressing over nothing. Well, almost nothing. I still have creativity blockages and motivational issues and whatnot, but my basic identity as a writer is so ingrained that I can't even dream at night without my dream self attempting to write everything down as it happens and plotting out how I could adapt what I see into a proper story. My dream self knows exactly what I am, and tells other people in the dream that. "I'm a writer."

This morning my husband, the one who doesn't get the point of art, the one who's completely jaded to the concept of Following Ones Dreams and Finding Ones Purpose, he was chattering about a new RPG campaign he and his best friend wanted to start-- as I've said before, they "meet" to game over Skype, and they like me to play too because it's more fun with at least three people. He was encouraging me with character generation ideas when he said, "See, I'm hoping thinking about this might inspire you to help you get back into your own writing." He said that? My clueless husband? I started to cry and ran over immediately to hug him. He worried that his description of his post-apocalyptic game-world had freaked me out. But I was just relieved.

I really am running out of excuses not to write.
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: (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: (sherlock)
The other day, feeling utterly uninspired in every area of my life and wondering if I even had anything to BLOG about, I pondered if a regular blog series on My Best Dreams of the Week or So would be feasible, because it would give me something marginally entertaining to blog about when I don't have anything I particularly WANT to blog about. I'm fairly regular about writing my dreams down (at least the good ones) in the morning, so it wouldn't even require all that much work.

I don't THINK I'm going to do that. Unless there's a huge demand for it now that I mentioned it. I HAVE written about dreams here many times before, and it's even worse if you're on Twitter because if I'm on the computer during breakfast and something amusing about my dreams can be summed up in a sentence or two and/or stars someone I FOLLOW on Twitter, chances are you'll hear about it. But have I REALLY talked about my dreams, in a general sense? Devoting an entire post to the topic?

Dreams are closely linked to my identity as a writer. I started writing stories based on particularly excellent story-like dreams-- for the first six or seven years of my writing career (using "career" in the sense of "how long I'd been writing," because I was in elementary school and hardly getting paid for it), all my stories were based, at least in their first drafts (and I really didn't start revising at all until about 5th grade), on dreams. Lately they're the only thing that keeps me from entirely losing my self-concept as a writer. I honestly still can't make myself believe, in the cold light of day, that I have any stories worth telling... and then I fall asleep and the blocks fall away.

I dream in narrative. Not saying they're GOOD narratives or at all things that would make a decent book, but I do dream stories. Dreaming in color? Pah, child's play. I dream in five or six senses and in fully-formed characters. I dream adventures! I dream EPICS! I dream insane twisted hilarious things, and actually-pretty-clever inventive things, things that are so unique that, yeah, maybe I DO have a one-of-a-kind special voice... in this part of my brain that my conscious mind refuses to let out during the day.

Sometimes I'm a character in the story, seeing and being through the eyes of a made-up person-- someone who could be of a different time, a different age or race or gender or background; it feels like reading a book, being in the mind of the main character and feeling with them even though they aren't you.

Other times I AM me, though not always me as I actually am right now. Often I'm younger-- a child, a teenager, a young adult unmarried and childless (though there are confusing moments when I'm sitting in my 6th-grade classroom saying, "But when I was in COLLEGE..."). I'm also more active, more assertive-- I have a lot of Rallying-the-Troops moments, which also somehow frequently involve me leading everyone in song. Occasionally I'm outright aggressive and violent, taking out the anger I've repressed in real life on obnoxious dream figures (did I tell you about the time I dreamt I was a serial killer who kept reflexively smiting people? I'm still not even sure what I was so angry about at that time).

I'm very prone to lucid dreaming, which sounds all new-agey and mysterious but for me it usually just happens, and most of the time I just decide to ride the dream out to see where it goes, anyway, all the while informing everyone I meet that I'm actually just dreaming them. Often I'll have fun with it-- or use it for quick problem-solving shortcuts-- doing things I KNOW couldn't happen if it wasn't a dream... which most of the time involves me either flying or having affairs with certain celebrity crushes. Many times I don't even have that much power (my flying attempts turn into a sort of low-gravity bouncing, or my celebrity crushes refuse to even show up), and I still get surprised by the dream moments that go on happening regardless of where I think the story's going-- like huge Sheriff McCheeseburger Dudes devouring Mr. Potato Heads behind you just when you think you're going back to redo your lost PRAXIS test. (What. Yes, I'm using real examples here).

But the most common thing I do, when I realize I've been dreaming? Grab a notebook and attempt to write it all down. Sometimes I merely forget that I'm still dreaming and that dream notebooks don't wake up. Other times I'm convinced that if I just get it all down, THIS time I'll have it in the morning. Very often I'm trying to write down the dreams while dreams just keep happening around me, and I'll be like, "JUST LEAVE ME ALONE TO FINISH WRITING THIS!" Or I'll keep having the dream over and over as I "rewrite" it, changing it slightly each time-- or, IT changing without me expecting it.

In real life my doubts have gotten to the point where I can't even write for fun anymore-- except for journaling and letters and occasional blog posts, but only rare bits and pieces of fiction. It makes me question my whole identity, makes me think that I'm NOT a writer after all, that that's just something I did as a child when I had trouble expressing myself and now I should just get an actual life instead. But in my dreams I'm still a writer, taking notes, crafting characters, thinking in narrative.

Am I giving up on my dreams? My dreams are not giving up on me.
rockinlibrarian: (sherlock)
I have made a lot of progress with One Book this week, so it's time to take a break and mess around on the Internet. And TWO PEOPLE posted SURVEYS yesterday. What timing! Anymore YEARS can go by without those surveys, those surveys I was so addicted to once. I think they happen a lot on Tumblr anymore, but as I've said, Tumblr bewilders me.

So, Two Surveys
Two Surveys Under the Cut In Case You Don't Care About Surveys )
rockinlibrarian: (beaker)
I will probably not finish this tonight, but I have to start or else I'll just keep putting it off. Don't worry: I'm not about to make any terrible announcements or anything. But my reluctance to start writing is exactly what I want to write about.

See, I remembered something yesterday that I never should have forgotten. You see I was thinking about the enneagram personality and my 9ishness again because, you know, I've been reading about it and all, and trying to figure out why my written personality is so much more ALIVE than my real life personality-- for all of you who don't know me in real life, it's true. When I write I have opinions and inflections and passions, but if you met me in real life-- well! Like the description of the 9 says. It's like I CAN'T MAKE MYSELF EXIST. Well anyway, I was thinking about that, that gap between the outer me and the inner me, and wondering how the writing me fits IN to this overall shape of me-ness, when it suddenly popped into my head:

I've got a real, vibrant personality inside that I just can't seem to let out. But it WANTS to be let out. My whole life the best way I've ever found to let it out is through writing. I write to express what I can't express in any other way.

I've always known this. But I've forgotten-- maybe I've been getting sicker, I don't know. That Evil Voice in my head, the Lone Power in Young Wizards terminology, the Devil in Judeo-Christian terminology, the Misdeveloped Superego in the Enneagram books, my Personal Gremlin in the book my therapist gave me, whatever it is, keeps telling me that I have nothing to say, that nobody cares what I have to say or needs to hear what I have to say, that I ought to do something better with my time (although I never do, anyway), that I am nobody and I shouldn't try. It's gotten harder and harder to tune that voice out. I'm -- the outside, not-particularly-healthy-9ish me-- so good at Not Doing Things. I could spend my whole life Not Doing Things, except that I'd just become increasingly depressed, which makes it harder to do things, and on and on. That Evil Voice has almost succeeded in silencing me, in taking away that last outlet of creative spirit. In snuffing out the Light. Almost. I've still got that Light under a bushel that I can't seem to figure out how to take off, but at least I know-- or at least, I'm PRETTY sure-- it's there.

First thing in the morning, I usually write in my journal, and usually this is a recap of the highlights of whatever I remember dreaming. Many, many times I have dreams that are Exceedingly Storylike, either in their sense of plot or maybe just in the fabulously creative concepts my subconscious comes up with when it's not being squelched by the Forces of Evil. I write them down, and part of me smiles and thinks, "See? You have ideas. Maybe you can turn that into a story." Forces of Evil glare at that optimistic part of me. Optimistic-but-wussy part of me adds, "...someday. Maybe you'll write it Someday."

But a couple days ago the story dream I had felt SO fully formed, like it was writing itself, and barely thinking about it I started to write. Two pages of a story beginning about-- well, it's hard to explain what it's about. But I wrote it, without being afraid, without hesitating, without overanalyzing, without having any REASON to other than that I felt it ought to be written down. I don't know if I'll ever do anything more with that. It happened to me once before in adulthood, a couple years ago-- that one got to three pages long-- of a fully realized story beginning, with characters I knew and concepts that fit together and FUNNY BITS. Never added any more, though.

And I wonder, what was different? Why could I so easily decide to write that, when any other time it's a Huge Dramatic Dilemma? What was different, in my head, and HOW DO I TURN IT ON AT WILL?

How do I find the confidence to let my voice out?

Do you know-- you should, I'm telling you now-- Jerry Nelson died last night? He was one of the original Muppeteers. I bring it up, a) because not enough people seem to understand the gravity of this news (honestly, I felt rather gutted this morning when I found out, even though he was quite old and worn. But he's been still doing his famous Announcer voice until very very recently, if not To The End!), but also b) because whenever I think about shedding this restrictive outer self I shut myself into all the time, to become Somebody Who Makes a Difference in the World, I think about the Muppets. Mostly I think about Jim Henson telling everyone in the Fraggle Rock planning meeting that he wanted his show to end war forever. That he wanted to leave the world a better place for his having been here. That's what I want to do. I sense, within me, that I have that kind of peace and love to offer.

And yet I can't convince this outer shell of me to let it out. I can't even get it to write blog entries most of the time! I'm so, so far in the hole and I'm not SURE where to start getting out.

But every so often it happens. So maybe I'm getting better? I just need to convince myself that I do have a unique voice that is needed. That I'm not nobody.

rockinlibrarian: (hi maddie)
Dear, dear neglected blogreaders. It's been a fascinating few weeks. I just haven't had the time to sit and type up a proper blog entry. Sure, I've been READING blogs-- or skimming-- but I can do that on my Nook. I've been Tweeting and occasionally Facebooking, but those are those in-between short-attention-span things you can do while, say, manning a reference desk or parenting small children. Within reason. At least much more than typing a proper blog entry is. So let me catch you up on the past, um, month. Ish.

In Which I Give You a Real-Life Update

First, the personal news: Jason has a new job, finally-- if you know anything about him, you've probably figured out that this has been something he's been looking for for a LONG, LONG TIME. It's still just machine operation, but the pay, benefits, working conditions, and apparently management is SO much better that we can't even fault it (much) for being 2nd shift. I'm working out a new work schedule-- since mine is based around him being DAY shift-- and if the 5-year-old goes to afternoon kindergarten in the fall (likely), we'll have mornings as our family time and lunchtime as our Dinner. At least until first grade.

In MY workplace, on the other hand, we have a new director coming in. I met her last week, and we pretty much laughed the entire time, so... that's possibly a good sign.

The bad personal news is I've had a mysterious and horrendously painful sore throat for the past week and a half, which two different doctors have looked at and determined that I, well, don't have any DISEASE that they can see, and the strep test was negative. The second doctor decided I probably just have something STUCK IN MY TONSILS which is being irritating, and I'm just supposed to gargle a lot and take painkillers when needed. This is NOT SOLVING ANYTHING. If it's still a problem by Monday I'm calling for a referral to an actual ear-nose-and-throat specialist. Jason said, "I hope you don't have tonsillitis," and I said, "I hope I DO have tonsillitis, so they can just take those tonsils out and BE RID OF THEM." Better than "gargle a lot and hope it goes away soon." good personal health news, my antidepressants are back to being Straightened Out. Actually I'm not even sure I mentioned to you (on any of my social media outlets) about the week I got a dosage increase and started having anxiety attacks. Yeah, fun stuff. Told you, it's been an interesting few weeks.

In Which We Wander Into the Bizarre Depths of My Imagination

I had this great nightmare last night about a satanic cult posing as a church (of a completely different sort) camp, and there were exploding snakes and bloody demons and people who appeared to be nice who WEREN'T and undercover sabotage-of-their-facilities and rescue missions and dramatic escapes by boat and antique car and a secret meeting posing as a premature labor. It was really scary! But it was so very plot-filled that I really didn't mind, once I woke up.

See, my brain chemicals are balancing out, but I haven't quite rid myself of the Negative Thought Processes. I SEE, logically, that I can make up stories, that my subconscious mind is CONSTANTLY making up stories, but then real life intrudes and I can't justify it. There's always so much else I SHOULD be doing, and none of my story ideas is calling to me SO much that I can make myself sit still and focus. My husband, frankly, doesn't understand. He's not an artist, so can't believe that writing is anything more than a hobby, and why should I write when there are so many other things not getting done? His mother is even worse. And I just don't believe in myself anymore, period. I'm too scared to start again. I can't devote the time and energy to it because nobody really wants me to be a writer. That's one of those negative and probably wrong thoughts, but I have lots more concrete evidence to support my No One Needs Me To Be a Writer stance than I do concrete evidence that Anyone Cares For My Point of View, or even that Anyone In My Real Life Understands. But at least I can see where the problem is, now. Maybe that's a start.

In Which I Go Off on Librarianish Topics

On the other hand, I've been oddly aware of an actual skill I DO have, lately-- I'm a dang good reference librarian. I still feel awkward and like I ought to be coming up with more programs and that I'm just not AMBITIOUS enough (I've got a younger coworker, just starting library school, who is SUPER ambitious and is always starting projects and I always feel like she's looking at me thinking "Why aren't YOU doing all this?"). But someone needs help finding something? I am good. Not just talking a quick catalog search and a call number lookup. I'm saying, for nonfiction or topic-based searching, coming up with lots of different ideas of where to search and what to use. For fiction, excellently helpful readers advisory-- I find stuff people LOVE. In general, giving people a little more help-- and a lot of friendly respect-- than they're expecting (it's one of those times I'm actually good with people-- because I know what I'm doing). One thing about my new work schedule coming up-- I hope to still get to work some evenings, some after-school time, because that's when people really need help with the Finding Stuff... and dang, it feels good to have something I know I'm good with, when the rest of my life is a long hopeless process of convincing myself that I don't Suck.

In Which I Get On The Topic of My TRUE Self, Which Is General Fangirl

Of course, in real life, all these serious real life things take up most of my, well, real life. This is why I often distract myself by thinking about and caring about things that Technically Aren't Important In The Grand Scheme of Things, but Nonetheless Interest and Amuse Me. Take, for example, the subject of my last real post, The Fuse #8 Children's Book Poll Countdown. I am still obsessed with it, but possibly a little disappointed. I should have seen that coming, because I DID change my votes around from last time, and the WAY I changed them around was by adding MORE OBSCURE stuff I'd discovered, and stubbornly still voting for Ghosts I Have Been even though I was the only person who voted for it last time. But we're up in the 30s now, and there are a LOT of my votes I know I'm going to have to give up on showing up by this point. Now, there are votes I KNOW are going to show up later, way at the top of the polls-- I suspect about half my ten novels will end up in the top ten of that list (Wrinkle, Secret Garden, Anne, Holes, and Harry Potter, specifically. They were all in the top ten LAST time, at least), but so far not only have I only gotten ONE of my votes on that list (at #31... which still seems low to me. How is Alice not Top Ten for EVERYONE? This may be my own brain issues), and even my Almost-votes have been few and far between. Though, there's also been more titles I've never read... which may mean more exciting discoveries!

Anyway, I've had much more luck with the Picture Book list: I've had at least three votes make it already, and lots more I love. Though I know by now I probably need to give up on seeing my biggest new pick, Barbara Lehman's The Red Book, make it, and though I was shocked to see Daniel Pinkwater's Big Orange Splot actually make the list last time, there's no way it's getting past #30 this time. But that's only two of the picture books. The others I suspect I'll be seeing eventually.

...of stuff I've read lately...

But speaking of good books, I've had good fortune in the reading department lately, after my long dry spell of being burnt out. The LAST FOUR BOOKS I'VE READ have all been getting-caught-up-in, not-wanting-to-put-down, attempting-to-get-away-with-reading-at-more-times-of-day-than-just-before-bed books. It's been awhile since I've encountered even ONE of those in a row. Granted, it's still taken me an entire month to get THROUGH these four books, and actually I'm still not done with two of them (one's nonfiction, one's fiction, one's on my Nook, one's a real book from the library-- so they're two completely different reading experiences. That's how I can read them both at the same time).

There was, of course, The Dark Lord of Derkholm, which neatly encompassed everything that is so great about Diana Wynne Jones, and I have a bit of a new literary crush on Derk. Which is funny because my other DWJ crush is Chrestomanci, who, aside from being a magic user and a father, is UTTERLY COMPLETELY DIFFERENT. But Derk reminded me a bit of a character of my own that I've had brewing-- for that possibly turning The Pipeweed Mafia Saga into something Useful-- and in general that whole idea felt oddly DWJ-ish-- so as usual, she sparks my imagination. I LOVE THAT WOMAN. I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE HER.

There was Akata Witch by Nnedi Okorafor, an upper-middle-grade fantasy that REALLY needs more attention, because it's so delightfully unique-- actually, speaking of which, it was blurbed by Diana Wynne Jones, and you can see why. It's thoroughly CREEPY (the bad guy is a serial killer, and there's something so REALISTIC about that in the middle of a fantasy that it makes it a thousand times scarier than some fantastic monster would be) and yet laugh out loud funny at times, full of unique magical twists. Also, it takes place in Nigeria. The only other SFF I've read set in Africa and incorporating African mythology (not counting Egypt-- Egypt gets done) is another of my favorites, The Ear, the Eye, and the Arm, which as I've said also makes me say "Why on earth is there not more SFF set in Africa?! It's so rich with possibility!"

The two books I'm in the middle of reading are actually adult books, because that happens sometimes. The one on the Nook-- which I try to confine myself to little bits of off and on, to make it last longer-- is the ever-delightful, unbelievably hilarious, kindredly (and vocally-supportively) mentally ill Bloggess's memoir Let's Pretend This Never Happened. And look, people, I was never AGAINST eReading-- using the Internet is, after all, eReading, and I do a lot of that-- but after only the INTRODUCTION I regretted not having the book in hard copy, if only because a hard copy is much easier to throw at Jason (maybe not literally) and say "READ THIS. Just this chapter at least. And the next chapter." Not so easy to share on a Nook. Unless the other person has a Nook. So somehow actually OWNING an eReader has made me MORE of a luddite about paper books. (Though I do love it for Internet reading, and interesting apps. I got a thesaurus app. It's pretty awesome).

The other book is kind of ironic because it's by Shannon Hale, who mostly writes YA, but somehow I've NEVER read any of her actual YA books (except the graphic novel Rapunzel's Revenge which is debatably Middle Grade anyway), but I've now, counting this one, read ALL her ADULT books. WEIRD. And this one is probably my favorite of said adult books, even over her Austen-themed ones: The Actor and the Housewife, which is, *ahem,* frighteningly similar to, uh, some of my own fantasies, only involving very different characters. Actually, just recently Hale blogged that the main character was probably her "most controversial character" and that lots of people didn't like her because she was "hard to relate to" or something. As I started READING the book just a few days later, I thought "WHAT?!" I friggin' LOVE Becky Jack! Granted, she might be a little much to take in person in real life (I would feel utterly inadequate in her presense), but as a book character she is hilarious and unique and I love her SO THERE, WORLD.

...and of film and such lately

Speaking of *muttering* inappropriatefantasiesinvolvingactorsandhousewives */endmuttering,* you do realize what television thing happened in this past month, right? I'M AFRAID MAYBE YOU DON'T. Sherlock series 2 finally made it to PBS! And now it's over again! It zipped by in three weeks with entirely not enough fanfare. Where WAS fandom? Oh, right, they'd all already pirated the show or bought UK DVDs for their Region-Free players. :P I felt utterly lonely-- once more, it was like nobody cared but me. BUT, somehow, I managed to get Jason hooked too. He probably STARTED watching just to poke fun of Martin Freeman whenever possible (he never stopped with that)-- also he claimed he was there to keep me from licking the TV-- but after very little time he was actually enjoying it properly, laughing in the right places, exclaiming about plot twists, and NOT BEING DISTRACTED BY ANYTHING ELSE, which in itself is amazing for Mr. ADHD. And no matter what Jason says, MARTIN WAS AWESOME. He was SO UTTERLY PERFECTLY WONDERFUL. That's how I review things, all balanced and objective, like. Anyway, I don't know why Jason was so offended when I burst out how desperately I wanted to hug John Watson at the end. WHO WOULDN'T WANT TO HUG HIM? I'm just saying. Anyway, so if you, once again, MISSED IT, I'm pretty sure PBS is still streaming it on their website. SERIOUSLY I'M NOT KIDDING, GO BASK IN MY IMAGINARY HUSBAND BEING AWESOME. And everyone else being pretty much awesome, too, but that's just a bonus.

Okay, right, in other TV news, sort of, did you know The A.V. Club is now retroactively reviewing Animaniacs? It is even MORE AWESOME THAN I EXPECTED, bringing back so many laughs I'd forgotten about. Like this one somebody brought up in the comments: "Okay one time, see one time, Randy Beaman's aunt was sitting on her porch, and she felt her dog licking her feet, only it wasn't her dog, it was some crazy guy who liked doing that. Okay, bye." I'D COMPLETELY forgot about the Randy Beaman bits, PERIOD, and THAT one was like my FAVORITE LINE EVER. I laughed so hard reading that comment that I was forced to de-lurk myself just to comment how excited I was about it. Seriously. Best cartoon ever. NO ARGUING.

In Which I Try To Wrap Things Up

So, is that it? Is that the past month, or at least, everything you need to know about it? Kids are all right. So's everybody. We's getting on at least. And now I'll go make sure the kids aren't destroying anything or each other. Maybe, MAYBE, I'll post more often after this.
rockinlibrarian: (beaker)
This is going to be one of those posts where I just ramble a lot, because that's pretty much all I have the brain capacity for doing right now and I'm out of things to read (says I, in a library, with Internet access)-- actually maybe I lack the brain capacity for reading and that's why I'm writing, but it's rambly writing because I lack the brain capacity to make sense.

See I was GOING to write you my belated Valentine's Day post on the romantic elements of A Wrinkle In Time-- YES, THEY EXIST, just ask the billions of Calvin fangirls who are all apparently coming out of the woodwork for this 50th Anniversary thing. While plotting THAT out in my paper journal, though, I started thinking about a DIFFERENT love story-- the one between ME and THE BOOK. And I decided to write an ADDITIONAL post about the experience of Falling In Love With Ones Geekdoms. But could I write EITHER of these when I actually sat down at the computer this afternoon? No, I could not.

I never know exactly how honest to be, emotionally, online, because on one hand I feel there's an inherent NEED TO BE MODERATELY ENTERTAINING in my online presence, because why else are perfect strangers reading what I have to say unless there is something moderately entertaining about it? And if you're going to be depressing, you ought to at least be a bit snarky or ironic or at least beautifully poetic about it. But sometimes you don't have the energy for that, and you realize that you talk to all your friends, whether Real Life OR Strictly Online, through social media, and when you want to say Hey, HELP ME, I'm dysfunctional, to your friends-- or SOMEBODY, just in case somebody CAN help you, or maybe just so you have that CONNECTION, that SUPPORT SYSTEM that everyone's supposed to have-- what else are you going to DO but post something online? If you're the kind of person who is deathly phobic of the telephone, that is, and has no friends in your actual town.

So then I get hung up, torn between the need to make a connection and the need to Not Be Whiny. And end up not typing anything.

But it's later now-- quieter here-- and I've napped and private-journaled a bit since this afternoon, so it could be safe for me to talk in public again. Keyboard-talking. Actual verbal talking is hindered by me being REALLY FREAKISHLY THIRSTY AND I LEFT MY WATER-BOTTLE AT HOME. But keyboard talking is easy enough because there's not much I have to do except keep signing off on this girl's AR quizzes. Sixth grade, reading a pile of picture books just to rack up points by the half point. Oh, AR, how I still loathe thee. I haven't complained enough about AR in awhile.

But at the moment I'm still mostly preoccupied by how freakishly thirsty I still am. There IS a water fountain. Way at the other end of the hall. By the time you get back, you're thirsty again. AND THERE IS PIZZA WAFTING FROM THE TEEN PROGRAM ROOM. WAVES OF GREASY, SALTY, NITRATE-LADEN NON-THIRST-QUENCHING AIR. And Maureen Johnson and Kiersten White keep talking about milkshakes on Twitter. I should stop looking at Twitter. Until it comes with a milkshake dispenser. I did mention this library is named after a man who made his fortune selling chocolate and ice cream? Which includes milkshakes? They're good milkshakes. We don't actually sell them at the library though. I got a spontaneous Frosty with my Wednesday Wendy's Lunch Stop yesterday. It was just one of those days where you say, "You know? Today I just REALLY WANT A FROSTY." So I did.

Now that I've gone off on my stream of consciousness posting, I'm obviously required to tell you what I dreamed about last night at some point now. EXCEPT I CAN'T REMEMBER WHAT I DREAMED ABOUT LAST NIGHT BECAUSE I FORGOT TO WRITE IT DOWN FIRST THING. AND SO NOW IT'S GONE. Also it probably wasn't as interesting as usual. Oh, that reminds me, does anybody remember the name of the Indian professor/scientist from Heroes? Because he was in my dream the night BEFORE last, and the fact that I CAN'T REMEMBER HIS NAME has been bugging me ever since. I kept bumping into him and accidentally kicking his jacket which had fallen on the floor, because I was stuck in a time loop that kept having me run down the stairs that he happened to be walking up, and it always seemed to loop back to just that spot. I was stuck in a time loop in order to prevent some revolutionaries from detonating some weird little bomb in this shopping mall, except every time time relooped it turned out a DIFFERENT revolutionary had the bomb, and it was all very confusing, and I kept kicking Dr. Whatshisface's jacket, who by the way didn't have anything to do with the revolutionaries, he was just there. Before that they'd let the giraffes out of the zoo to rescue people who'd been stuck in an avalanche. They cleared the snow with the heads on their long necks, much like backhoes.

Now my friends, I have passed enough time with idle banter. I have to start closing up shop. So I'll leave you with this: which post do you eventually want to get first: the Actual Romance IN A Wrinkle In Time, or the Romance I Have With Things I Love In General, which will include discussion of the Hierarchy of Geekitude? Or, would you like me to ever rant about Technology vs. Ecology, which I intended to possibly a month ago? Or, some other post I said I might type but never did? What would you, dear friends, ACTUALLY READ?
rockinlibrarian: (librarians)
The past three days I have had SO much stuff that I wanted to write posts about-- well, specifically, there was one issue on Sunday I wanted to post about but didn't have time to (I still might, it's a meaty topic), and then MONDAY hit, which was ALA YOUTH MEDIA AWARDS DAY, which as everyone knows is the most exciting awards show of the year, take that, movie stars. Which meant I had something ELSE I NEEDED to post about, except that my personal opinions are not as important as, say, me creating a display for all the Award-winning books and their announcements thereof at the library. That used up the rest of my Monday. So let's try to get it in on Tuesday again before it becomes Very Old News and boring.

First of all, the most NEGATIVE part of this day, as someone who works in a library, is when you compare the list of winners to your catalog and there are HUGE DISCREPANCIES. Okay, maybe not so negative for libraries with book budgets. We acually did all right with the Caldecotts: we own 3 of the 4 winner-and-honorees. We got the two Coretta Scott King author honorees, both middle-school Schneiders, ONE Alex, two Silbert honors, the Stonewall winner, two of the Geisels, two of the Nonfiction for Young Adults (somebody put their name on that award already). But, most heartachingly for me, NONE of the Newberies, Printzes, and Morris-shortlisters-- the last two, especially, I am distraught about, because THAT'S MY SECTION. BUT TECHNICALLY IT'S NOT MY FAULT: several of those books were on my list of BOOKS I TRIED TO ORDER BEFORE WE RAN OUT OF MONEY. THIS, this is why I don't want my budget money used up on book vendors instead of proper ordering-through-reviews. When we have a budget for even that....

But I'm being bitter and whiny! We must move on. Let me tell you my thoughts on yesterday's results.

By far the Caldecott results were most pleasing to me, because, well, I'D ACTUALLY READ ALL THE BOOKS. I ran a Mock Caldecott program last week at the library-- the same night the news kept trumpeting SLICK ICY ROAD CONDITIONS, so we got two families and a girl whose teenaged brother had dragged her to the library so he could hang out in the teen room. But those eight people had a lovely time, and more importantly, they had pretty good taste in picture book art. The real Caldecott winner, A Ball for Daisy, was one of their Honor books (their winner was Swirl By Swirl and their other Honor was Queen of the Falls, neither of which actually won anything, but what). One grandmother TRIED to make a case for Blackout but nobody else would be swayed. And NOBODY there showed any interest in Grandpa Green, so what have you. Me...Jane is the one we don't own, but I'd seen it at another library or a bookstore... or, you know what, it might have even been a book vendor. BUT I'M NOT IN CHARGE OF PICTURE BOOKS SO IT WASN'T MY CALL. UGHHHHH!... anyway, but I'd loved it, wherever it was I'd seen it, though I wasn't sure looking at the Caldecott criteria (for ALL ORIGINAL work) that it would make the cut. Nice that it did!

Also, I should mention that my parents' dog is named Daisy and looks a bit like the one in the book. I bought them A Ball for Daisy for Christmas just for fun. Glad to pass on the news that it's also now award-winning!

Newbery: Well, I'd given up trying to read the Newbery ahead of time. None of the much-buzzed books seemed interesting enough to me, at the rate I was not-getting-reading-done-- though I was leaning to maybe trying Inside Out and Back Again. But Dead End In Norvelt must have not been available, or not buzzed enough, because now that I look at it I can't figure out WHY I wouldn't have been interested? Funny AND morbid? YES PLEASE. I was kind of tickled to see Breaking Stalin's Nose's honor, only because the only place I ever heard ANYTHING about it, ANYWHERE, was Roger Sutton going on about it and wondering why nobody had noticed its awesomeness but him. I was kind of hoping he'd let out more of a triumphant Told-Ya-So over it.

Printz and Morris: Congratulations to John Corey Whaley for sweeping the YA fiction awards-- wow, I can't imagine the pressure and pure SURREALNESS for a first-time author to get that all dumped on him at once. But mostly I just feel like being pouty about the SORRY INCOMPLETE STATE OF MY YA COLLECTION. *pouts* I also haven't READ any of these except Girl of Fire and Thorns which I am actually in the middle of RIGHT NOW and enjoying quite a lot, but there's a lot on these lists, as usual, that I wouldn't be interested in ANYWAY. Though I've already, as I said, TRIED to order quite a few of them for the collection.

Other YA awards: Thank heavens for Junior Library Guild-- that IS where most of the award-winners we DO have came from. Both the Silbert Honors we own-- Drawing from Memory and Witches! -- are both actually shelved in our YA nonfiction section, along with Wheels of Change from the YALSA Nonfiction shortlist-- and Bootleg is actually in our Adult collection. Maybe because it involves alcohol? Like I've said, I don't catalog 'em. Anyway. Junior Library Guild was also the source of Putting Makeup on the Fat Boy, whereas the Stonewall honor books I've never even HEARD of. Is that saying something ominous about the coverage of GLBT books in book-buzz-land? Glad we've got the Schneider Family "Middle School" books (for some reason, one is in our Intermediate Fiction section and one is in the Teen Fiction section. I have NO IDEA why they put Wonderstruck in Teen instead of Intermediate. LIKE I SAID, I DON'T DO THE CATALOGING! ...Can you tell I may have a bit of a recurring issue with this?), but never heard of the Teen book. But anyhoo, speaking of Schneiders...

Other Awards I have something to say about: As for the Geisels-- GEE, I love the Geisels. Easy Readers are so hard to do awesomely, and it's lovely to see them get lauded. I adore Mo Willems and I Broke My Trunk was probably my favorite of the Elephant and Piggie books released last year (though my kids didn't find it as funny as I did. They prefered Happy Pig Day, which I didn't like nearly so much). And I Want My Hat Back is fun. I don't know the third honor book. But the winner? I just get a kick out of that because of the author's name. I went to college with a Josh Schneider. He totally does not write children's books. I think I may, when I first discovered the existence of children's-book-writer-Josh-Schneider, have pointed out said existence to college-friend-Josh-Schneider on Facebook... I have not yet informed him that his namesake just won a major award. I should probably do that. That's just awesome.

And the only other thing I have anything to say about is Susan Cooper won the Edwards lifetime achievement bit-- yay! Although for some reason Sunday-Monday night I kept dreaming about Jane Yolen-- all night long! She just kept turning up! --so I fully expected her to win the Edwards or maybe the Arbuthnot Lecture or something. Not that I have anything against Cooper winning, because she's awesome. I just don't know why Jane Yolen insisted on spending so much time in my subconscious the night before.

So the kids have decided naptime is over and they might go play in the sink, so I definitely can't write any more today. I might get to my Fascinating Issue About Environmental Activism and Economics But Mostly About How I'm Mad At My Printer eventually. I actually have my next Year of the Tesseract post all written, just not typed, but I have to spread those out a bit. It's a long year after all.
rockinlibrarian: (beaker)

Now that we've got that out of the way, I'll elaborate:

Blerg. No, apparently I can't think of anything better to say than that.

Guess what. We've been informed by the library board that we don't have any money in the budget for new books. I've still got a list of a hundred-some titles I wanted -- one could say NEEDED-- to get LAST year that were not purchased. Now I'm looking at all my usual book review blogs and I want to say WHAT. WHAT IS THE POINT. YOU ARE ALL SO MANY INTERESTING TITLES IN A THEORETICAL WAY, BUT YOU ARE NOW MEANINGLESS TO ME. TOO MANY BOOKS. TOO MANY BOOKS I HAVE NO PRACTICAL APPLICATION FOR.

Because of course I'm still having my weird aversion to reading-- this phase I'm going through (I can only assume)-- when I just look at books which previously I would have been all "I can't wait to dive into that!" over and say "eh." (Although, Mark Flowers, you will be pleased to hear that the first Bartimaeus book came up in a return pile this morning and I immediately checked it right back out to myself). So I can't even read book reviews for my OWN interests. Because all of a sudden they're not my own interests.

Though I think I might want to go on a nonfiction binge. Rereading A Briefer History of Time inspired me. It seems to be just narrative fiction that I'm suddenly burnt out on-- facts and history may be a refreshing switch. Anyone want to recommend some good, readable nonfiction? Note that this can be for any age level-- while I do mostly read young people's fiction, I also tend toward adult NONfiction, so you don't have to feel limited in any way. Normally as a librarian doing Readers Advisory I would not remotely settle for a request such as that without asking follow-up questions, like, "Well, what subjects are you INTERESTED IN?" But I honestly don't care about the subject: I'm a well-rounded nerd. I just like learning things. If it's presented in an engaging way, I'm interested. THAT'S what I'm looking for.

But talking about half-my-favorite-blogs-feeling-inapplicable-to-me-all-of-a-sudden, I had a similar thought yesterday morning. WRITING blogs seem to be all about PUBLICATION. Finding agents, editors, Getting A Break, marketing, so on so forth. Five years ago that was all interesting to me. Now, well, you've written a book? Good for you. YOU'RE ALREADY AWESOME. I wrote a book or two before. None of them are anywhere close to publishable. They need work. And I'm not sure they DESERVE the work. I could write something NEW. But what?

I think I have no ideas. But my morning journal tells me I have LOADS of ideas, crazy wonderful things that come to me in my sleep, and obviously they'd need quite a lot of work to be at all useful, but there's HUNDREDS of them, nonetheless. Why, last night there was this thing about smuggling people across some kind of checkpoint in a forced-hybernation state in the luggage compartments of tour buses, and I was afraid somebody would forget they were there and just leave those poor people asleep with the luggage FOREVER-- and that? That's got STORY potential, right there and obvious. Also, there was this traveling saleslady, and she had this poster-thingy divided into bulls-eye-like sections with FABULOUS PRIZES in each, and you were supposed to chuck these cardboard tokens at it to see what FABULOUS PRIZE you could win, and I suspected it of somehow involving magnets so that nobody ACTUALLY ever won the cruise or the king-sized air mattress and everyone ended up with the devotional bookmark. That, also, has story potential. Also also, I actually-instead-of-imaginarily married Martin Freeman, and somebody sent us John Green's new book as a wedding present, even though said book is about terminally-ill teenagers, which isn't exactly wedding present material, though if I was marrying Martin Freeman I don't think I'd care. I am not sure that one has as much story potential, though perhaps book-about-terminally-ill-teenagers-as-wedding-present has potential as symbolism in some obscure potential story I can't think of at the moment. Also also also, I was weeding and watering African violets with flat ginger ale, and that doesn't really have any story potential at all, but my point is, this was all just ONE NIGHT of dreaming for me, and not a particularly eventful night, at that!

When I started writing, as a child, EVERY one of my stories was based on a dream. It's possible that therein lies the start of overcoming my writer's block: going back to my roots, you might say. When I feel BRAVE enough to take writing seriously again, I will pull out my morning journals, grab a few dreams, and just SEE WHERE THEY TAKE ME.

Because the other thing, I was thinking about yesterday morning, is I'm too hung up on getting the right answer. I'd pulled a writing prompt out of my box for the first time in months, and I noticed it was one I had skipped once before (it was, if you're curious, "What song best expresses the concept of love?" or something worded slightly differently, and I wasn't able to answer it until I split it into at least six different KINDS of "love," and even then... well, let me get out of this parenthesis)-- AND I'D SKIPPED IT BECAUSE I WASN'T SURE I KNEW THE RIGHT ANSWER. In my personal journal which no one will ever see, until I die and become famous and people care about its existence. So after I had rambled about possible songs that MIGHT answer the question in ALL six-or-so connotations of Love, it occurred to me that even though I STILL didn't know if I'd actually picked the best answers, THAT WASN'T THE POINT. The point was WRITING about it.

And that's one of my major blockers. I feel like I must write the RIGHT thing, instead of just writing and writing tons of crap until I discover something wonderful. I don't NEED to decide what to write, I just need to keep writing and pick out what clicks.

Still, I'm still not ready to take that step. First I need to get my life sorted out and organized and calm a bit where I can DEVOTE time to writing crap. I've promised myself that, when Maddie starts preschool two mornings a week in the fall, I will use those mornings for writing. NOTHING ELSE. No errands, no Internet, no housework, NOTHING I could be doing NOW without that child-free time. That's quite a few months away. But if I can't manage anything before then, I at least know I have something to look forward to.
rockinlibrarian: (Default)
[Note: I started writing this yesterday, so the dates don't line up. So you should think of this paragraph beginning as "YESTERDAY morning." I'm not going to change it because I'm just like that]

This morning, just before I woke, I was having what seemed at first glance to be a remarkably realistic dream: I sat down to write for you all a yearly-retrospective blog post,* and the date was even today's date-- how often do dreams actually get the date right, let alone remember that this is also the birthdate of one of my best college friends and J.R.R. Tolkien, which it also acknowledged? Good calendar-following, subconscious. "I am sitting in a lovely new house," I typed-- it was, it was gorgeous, and there was a game room and a Jacuzzi and the kitchen was large and warm and homey-- "and I've just discovered an extra bag of Sarris' pretzels I had no idea we had. That about sums it up: 2011 was a pretty good year."

In the light of morning-- or the twilight of near-morning in January, when before the sun had even risen I'd already had my morning journaling interrupted by a small girl wailing about an ear infection and a call from the husband warning me that the roads were awful and I'd need to plan ahead to make sure the driveway was clear before attempting to take small girl to the doctors'-- this dream was utterly puzzling. 2011 a good year? Really? Off the top of my head I would have called 2011 a pretty Sucky year, seeing that I spent over half of it in various degrees of depression and pretty much nothing got accomplished. For the most part, listing what was great about 2011 seems primarily listing the stuff that at least didn't go wrong. We have water. We're all relatively healthy. We're not starving. We're not living in a war zone. No one I cared about died tragically... except Diana Wynne Jones and the unborn child I only knew about for three days... but that tips us precariously toward the "things that outright Sucked about 2011" side of the issue, and certainly isn't helping me figure out what my subconscious was thinking by "pretty good."

So how was what, at first glance, was a pretty crappy year pretty GOOD instead? THIS IS AN IMPORTANT EXERCISE IN POSITIVE THINKING. We'll start with a biggie: the Beautiful New Library. The Beautiful New Library for which I now work COMPLETELY in the children's and young adults departments, my specialty. For which I am now IN CHARGE of the YA collection! Why, this summer I ran delicious teen cooking programs and introduced elementary-school kids to the joys of gory fairy tale retellings! If we ignore the stresses from confused job duties, and the juggling of child care, and juvenile delinquents on my watch, that's a pretty good thing, is it not?

On the homefront, my son started preschool and appears to be thriving. My daughter got herself potty-trained which means I NEVER HAVE TO WORRY ABOUT DIAPERS AGAIN.

And while I'm inclined to put my writer's block on this year's list of Suckiness, the objective truth is I've actually written more THIS year than I did LAST year. Granted, most of that was journaling, and most of that journaling was whining about how I'm too tired to journal. But I did have a bit of fun writing to prompts for awhile, and actually, the twenty-some pages of Pipeweed Mafia Saga I managed to squeeze out (while completely useless and Utterly Wrong in an able-to-share-with-the-world sense, and I've had TWO separate episodes halfway done for months without finishing) were SO much fun to write and in the end brought me so much insane joy-- and I honestly think I MAY be able to turn them into something useful, someday, if I can figure out a way to not tie them so closely to real people, movies, and books (though SOMEHOW I have to keep the Aslan-in-a-Bucket. I MADE MYSELF A DATABASE OF CONTEXTLESS ASLAN QUOTES just to help me write the Aslan-in-a-Bucket. That's dedication for a story that only one other person has ever read), I think that may be one of the highlights of the whole year. It made Andy Serkis admitting his pipeweed problem in the latest Hobbit production video THAT MUCH MORE HILARIOUS (Oh, I have done such horrible fictional things to Andy Serkis. This is why the Saga is not fit for public consumption). Speaking of, HOBBIT TRAILER! Definitely among the year's Awesomeness. Also all the trailers and clips released for Sherlock Series 2! Okay, basically anything I saw this year starring Martin Freeman. Or, just him, period. Definitely part of the Awesomeness of the year, and the Awesomeness of the universe in general for his existence, though the universe is not so Awesome for refusing to acknowledge that we are Soul Mates. Stupid universe. (It's debatable whether having the World's Hugest Stupidest Crush on a movie star is Awesome or Sucky in and of itself, though). *AHEM*

Speaking of Awesomeness Achieved Through Movie Trailers, we'd be amiss not to mention OMG THE HUNGER GAMES TRAILER, which is impossible to refer to without tagging that "OMG" onto the front. Perhaps I'm setting myself up for a Sucky Birthday 2012 (I've decided to celebrate my birthday a week early by going to the movies. Who wants to go with me? We'll make it a PARTY) by getting my EXPECTATIONS SO TOTALLY BLOWN OUT OF PROPORTION, but as far as 2011 was concerned... dude. Did I mention I COULDN'T GET MY HEARTRATE DOWN FOR FOUR HOURS AFTER WATCHING THAT TRAILER?! And yes, that's evidence of "Awesomeness" not "Suckiness" in this case.

Though that brings us back to the subject of books, which has been a freakishly Sucky subject for me this past year. Not that the books were Sucky, just my ability to enjoy them was. But there were SOME moments of glorious book-loving, so we'll be sure to mention Those Good Times here, too.

Of course the Awesomest book-related event of the year was probably Michelle Cooper sending me an autographed, personalized book. From Australia. For no reason other than she thinks I'm Awesome. This actually has been a fun year for interacting with authors, period. Partly this is the result of Twitter. Hmm, Twitter. Where can I put you on the Awesome-to-Sucky continuum? On the one hand, you are so dang addictive. On the other hand... you are so dang addictive. *AHEM AGAIN*

But this reminds me that I have made a lot of very nice online friends-or-at-least-acquaintances this past year-- particularly [ profile] elouise82, @easyqueenie, and @beckiezra. The Internet is nice in the Virtual Friendship department, and it has been very nice indeed this past year.

Finally... I got awesome Christmas presents. Is this worth listing? Probably. Whatever it takes to highlight the Pretty Goodness of 2011.

So in the end, this is a rather long list of decent-to-Awesomeness found in 2011. And whatever the true Awesomeness value of the past year, it's this NEXT year that matters, anyway. And we all know that, at least on this blog, 2012 will be a VERY GOOD YEAR INDEED, because it's THE YEAR OF THE TESSERACT!!!!! I'm halfway done with next week's post, and I do believe it rocks. At least, I think it rocks. And if I am the only person who actually enjoys The Year of the Tesseract, well... I WILL HAVE THOROUGHLY ENJOYED MY YEAR.

So all is well. Have a Virtual Sarris' pretzel.

*(Do you remember when every year people would post a survey that was supposed to be your yearly retrospective post? I miss surveys, but looking at this one it's clear what I have done here is a much more interesting and productive retrospective. Who really needs me to waste space on how I continued to not hate people and have no one-night stands?)
rockinlibrarian: (love)
It's that time of year again: time to realize that you probably should have been giving thanks all year long, but since you forgot to, you might as well hurry up and do it all now.

So let me say Thank you to all my readers, for taking time out of your busy Internet browsing addictions to slog through all my ramblings here. I offer particular thanks to: [ profile] elouise82, [ profile] vovat, [ profile] iamdamanda, Mark Flowers, [ profile] riki_kiki_taco, [ profile] ozma914, Charlotte from her Library, easyqueenie, [ profile] punterschlagen, [ profile] katecoombs, DawnStarlight, [ profile] magnolia___, [ profile] grrlpup, and [ profile] rockonliz127, who have all left comments in the past month, which is awesome a) because that means I know you READ this stuff!, and b) I love continuing the discussion-- so THANKS for discussing! It means a lot to me to have this connection, that other people are reading this stuff that comes out of my head and thinking about it long enough to even RESPOND. THANK YOU.

So let me give thanks to other stuff now. Thank you to Shop and Save and BIC for supplying me with my wonderful ergonomic journaling pens which I have stocked up on just because I am afraid they might disappear and I will be stuck using pens MUCH INFERIOR FOR JOURNALING, and thank you also to my journaling pens, who are sentient and reading this, for being so awesome to begin with.

Thanks to my lovely dream last night, which was about me going to Fairyland and becoming a proper denizen thereof and being assigned to a Legacy which turned out to be about the Legacy of my grandfather who died a year ago today, so apparently I'm under a geas from Fairyland to carry on the Blankenship Legacy of being a Good Person who Speaks for the Trees, so thanks also to the fates of heredity for allowing me to be born into a family of Good People Who Speak for the Trees in the first place. And thanks for Trees for being Awesome and making oxygen and creating shade and slowing erosion and smelling nice and looking really pretty against a blue sky and eerie against a gray one, and for climbing and for wood and fruit and paper, and also just being Awesome.

Thanks to my parents and inlaws, who, speaking of grandparents, have been so Awesome at providing lots of childcare. And in my parents' case, also have done much to help keep my house from turning into a complete and utter disaster area. Now it stays pretty safely in the realm of minor disaster area instead.

Thank you Velma Jeffries, RIP: I have no idea who you were, but you left a bunch of money to the Children of this town, which they used to build a playground, which sometimes I think is my children's own personal playground, and WHAT kind of kids get a personal playground that is QUITE THAT AWESOME, all to themselves, although when other kids show up, that is also fun. Thank you other kids for showing up to play with my kids. And thank you Ms. Jones for being my son's teacher and helping him to have made GREAT STRIDES SOCIALLY in the past few months. It always makes me slightly giddy to see him so enthusiastically making friends with other kids at the playground.

And speaking of dead people who've given things to the community, thank you, Frank Sarris, for that lovely big new library, even though you probably should have sprung for us to get an ejection button for the teen room, where whenever someone's being too obnoxious you just push the button and the trap door opens and they slide right down out the side of the building into the dumpster, but perhaps we would have just spent that money on getting the back lot paved anyway, so we'll forgive you for that; and anyway thank you for having made your fortune on chocolate and ice cream in the first place, because I LIKE being able to say my benefactors made their fortune on chocolate and ice cream (and possibly pipeweed, though only [ profile] punterschlagen would know about that), and I like that our library can claim, beyond all the other awesome things all libraries claim, SELLING HIGH-QUALITY CHOCOLATE BARS at the desk, because DOESN'T EVERY AWESOME PLACE NEED TO DO SO?

Thank you, songwriters who aren't satisfied with Good Enough, who take the time and thought and artistry to take your music and lyrics just that LITTLE BIT FARTHER into Completely Awesome, because when such a song comes on the radio amid the jumble of Good Enough, Rather Dull, and Outright Annoying songs, it JUMPS OUT and makes one want to shout with joy, or whatever that Rock and Roll feeling is, which is possibly more anti-authoritarian than joy is, but positive shouting has taken place whatever you call it. Thank you particularly to the Beatles (who are HALF-dead), for doing this ALL THE FREAKIN' TIME, AND INSPIRING OTHERS TO DO IT; I had Abbey Road on the other day and was SO STRUCK with this feeling that I HAD to go grab my paper journal and awesome ergonomic journaling pen and write about it (possibly also the pen may have been whispering seductively "WRITE WITH ME!" at the same time, so I was being pushed into it from two directions), although I had to keep stopping writing so as to zone out into the Awesomeness completely for awhile; and let me send out a special thank you to Mr. Richard "Ringo Starr" Starkey, because you totally don't get enough credit as a musician, because every drum lick of that album is so EMBEDDED IN MY MUSCLE MEMORY that I can't even listen without playing air drums the whole time, and I decided that Playing Drums In a Beatles Tribute Band need NOT necessarily be one of my UNATTAINABLE Life Goals, because who SAYS all Beatles Tribute Bands have to be impersonators, and I'm totally going to start an All-Girl Beatles Tribute Band, Lovely Rita and the Meter Maids, once I, you know, actually learn to play the drums.

Thank you to whoever invented the word "awesome," because I don't know how I could possibly express my love and admiration for most of the world without it. Am I overusing it? NO! Because if you think that, then you DON'T UNDERSTAND WHAT AWESOME IS!

I'm sure there are lots of other people I can thank, but I'd be going on forever, and I still need to make deviled eggs for tonight. Thank you to my aunt for assigning me deviled eggs, which I totally can make, and not turkey, although that would be dumb anyway because I don't have enough ovens to make turkey for 45 people, nor enough room in my house anyhow, so also thank you to my aunt for inviting everyone to her much larger house on days like this.
rockinlibrarian: (librarians)
[Note: this was written over the course of several days, so the meaning of words like "last night" and "today" and so forth varies as you go, and it's not really worth keeping track of which days refer to what. Just roll with the general concepts]

Mostly I pay attention to/keep track of my dreams (the kind you have while you're sleeping rather than the kind you make while awake and not paying attention) just because they're so dang entertaining. Maybe it comes from being a life-long bookworm, maybe just from having an overactive imagination, but my dreams have always been (excepting some rare dull periods usually involving antidepressants) colorful, plot-filled, and twisted, and have been the inspiration for many an actual written story. Other people will say, "I had such a strange dream," and then describe something so utterly run-of-the-mill that I must force myself to smile and say, "Yes. Strange. Right," and wonder if I should mention that I had a similar dream myself the other night, but didn't bother to write it down because the one about the vampire hunters flying kites outside the funeral home was just that much more interesting.

But I'm aware that many people who keep track of dreams do it for the psychoanalytical aspect, to study the symbolism and see what it says about their life and anxieties and dreams (of the daytime wishes variety) at the moment. Personally, I enjoy dream analysis, if it's used properly. It bugs me when people talk about it like it's something New Age-y and mystical, when all it really is is a game of Word Association ("flowers make me think of blooming make me think of growing so this dream about flowers is about something coming to fruition," etc). It's a matter of figuring out the connections your brain is making. But usually my dreams are so complicated and interesting in their own right that I don't CARE what they symbolize, though occasionally I do discover weird meanings in bizarrely complicated dreams (ask me what battling a giant demonic chicken with an umbrella has to do with September 11 sometime. Go ahead, ask). But sometimes the symbolism is just so blatantly obvious that I don't even have to think about it. Which brings us to last night.

In the dream, my Teen Fiction section (which, granted, is not in a library in this dream, but in a large multipurpose sortof-cafeteria-without-food room at what is probably a busy university, judging by most of the people swarming around and by all the tables and by everyone talking about my radio show and by the fact that some guy who was apparently the guy I was madly in love with in high school even though he looked absolutely nothing like him just told me that he liked listening to my radio show. "REALLY? You listen to it?!" "Well, I admit you lost me when you started talking about your kids' experiments with electrical circuitry." Which was how I knew he really had listened to it, because I apparently had done that, although I had no kids in college) anyway, though, so it was MY Teen Fiction section, wherever it was, looking rather exactly like my Teen Fiction section; BUT, I discovered, half the books were MISSING, and somebody apparently couldn't figure out whether to alphabetize by author or title, and the missing books had been replaced by toys and games -- although THEY were, politely enough, alphabetized.

So here is this CHAOS in the section I thought I had organized so nicely! The good books have disappeared and been replaced by games! And nobody told me before making these changes!

Is this not obviously an expression of my anxiety over WHAT MY ACTUAL JOB DUTIES ARE?

At first I saw it in a general light, about the changing landscape of public librarianship: how we're expected to be community centers offering programs and activities that may not have anything to do with books. I could stand back and be philosophical about it: where do we draw the lines? When does focusing on one aspect of public librarianship cause other aspects to suffer?

But tonight I was definitely looking at it from the specific situation at my library.

Our director had a dream (of the daytime variety). A dream about teenagers HANGING OUT AT THE LIBRARY. Imagine, they'd be off the streets and in somewhere INTELLECTUALLY AND CULTURALLY STIMULATING INSTEAD! Brilliant plan! We have this huge new library with, not one, but TWO ROOMS FOR TEENAGERS-- one for the collection and the computers, one --strategically positioned in a corner above the tech offices and blocked from the rest of the library by restrooms and empty board rooms, so noise wouldn't disturb the other patrons-- for programming and hanging out.

Except it didn't quite work that way. We got the teenagers off the streets and into the library to hang out-- it's just the ones we got? Are only using us for a place to get off the streets. And check Facebook. But mostly just to congregate. They have no interest in the books or the programs. But they repeatedly RUN RAMPANT, running, fighting, vandalizing, intimidating other patrons. When the fighting and vandalism isn't happening and it's just rowdy instead, we try to herd them into the Teen Programming room. But then the staff working downstairs in the offices complain of the noise.

And then there's today. Today we had this large but really nice group of teens playing some kind of card-collecting game in the Teen Program room-- exactly the sort of thing we WANTED to see happen at the library. The usual swarm of rowdy kids shows up, so we go with our usual rule, that if you're not going to be sitting and relatively quiet (ie we shouldn't hear you on the other side of the building), you need to keep it in the Teen Programming room. But that OTHER group of kids is already there, minding their own business, and these rowdy kids pile in and start being obnoxious to them. So what the heck? The kids who are being respectful obviously should have the priority-- they were there first, and they're behaving properly. But what are we going to do with the rowdy ones now-- send them to any other room in the building, it's going to bother other people. And yes, we have kicked kids out entirely before. But not for general obnoxiousness. General obnoxiousness we just try to contain to the Teen Program room. When there aren't already other non-obnoxious people there. Can you MAKE a rule against General Obnoxiousness? Can you make a rule like that that can be consistently ENFORCED? Can we kick them out for that? Our director has PRIDED herself in our being a No-Shushing Library, but this rowdiness is going a little too far. It's keeping the people who WOULD actually USE the library resources AWAY.

The actual desk for library workers upstairs here is in the children's room next door to the teen room-- the two rooms are separated by huge windows but the desk faces away from the teen room. But when the rowdy teens are a-swarming, we're supposed to be In There, instead. Doing what? (WHERE, exactly, is another question, on busy nights like these when every spare seat-- and several laps-- is taken, and there's nowhere really useful to stand, either). I am a small woman with a quiet voice and the kind of face that people either ignore entirely or just assume belongs to the ineffectual non-authority that I am. My presence is of no consequence to teenagers who don't give a crap and two-thirds of whom are also, incidentally, taller than me.

Which is exactly why I gave up working in schools.

PUBLIC library, I said! AH! One-on-ONE interaction! People who are there of their own free will! NO CLASSROOM MANAGEMENT SKILLS NEEDED!

But somebody's gone and messed up my properly organized shelves. Figuratively. I thought I was in the position I was made for. But nobody's interested in my deep and broad knowledge of YA literature (hence all those titles that have mysteriously disappeared); I'm supposed to be offering games and entertainments instead, and not only is everything OUT OF ORDER, but there seems to be some kind of mix-up regarding WHAT that order is supposed to be in the FIRST place.

Now I feel lost, wondering what I'm supposed to be doing, wondering if I can really use the excuse "I'm just no GOOD at this sort of thing, and it's why I left that higher-paying career-path in the first place!" (Which, incidentally, says something about the pay rates of public librarians, when teaching is considered the HIGHER paying career-path) (not that they don't TOTALLY DESERVE EVERY PENNY OF IT AND A LOT MORE, mind you). It's not that I expect to be an old-fashioned sit-behind-the-desk-putting-books-in-order-and-never-talking-to-anybody-but-to-say-Shh librarian. I like doing programs. And I really like interacting with patrons when it means I'm helping them to find something. But I don't like being a disciplinarian, and I don't like being forced to cater to people who aren't interested in anything we have to offer beyond a building and a place to access Facebook.

And there are all these teens who WOULD hang out at the library, and would USE it-- would be interested in programs, would check out books, would start clubs based around their interests (like the card-gamers we get on Thursdays), if they weren't SCARED AWAY by the gang that's in here all the time doing next to nothing but bothering people! I want to see teen writers' groups gathering here, and more gamers of various types, and people working on projects, and reading clubs, and people ACTUALLY USING THE RESOURCES WE HAVE HERE! But instead we're supposed to babysit the troublemakers whose very presence is keeping THOSE kind of kids out.

Soooo... this is where I need to write some kind of concluding paragraph to this thing, except I can't think how to conclude it. It just sort of peters out here, inconclusive and unanswered. Obviously, figuring out what my job is actually supposed to entail is something that bothers me even in my sleep. There are always general arguments in the library world over What the purpose and mission of a library ought to be in a community, and those who want to de-emphasize books in favor of programming, and those who think it's about archiving information, and those who think it's about giving people what they want, and those who think it's, well, whatever. Personally, I think the role of the public library is offering Enrichment and Education. Whether that's through books, movies, games, programs, computers, whatever. But if the kids who have taken over the Teen section even WANT Enrichment, they're certainly not interested in any Enrichment I can give them. So what am I actually supposed to do?


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