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

THE STUFF THAT ACTUALLY HAPPENED LISTS

Top 5 Biggest Life Events of 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

CHRISTMAS GIFT ROUNDUP

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

OTHER STUFF I WROTE THIS YEAR FOR YOU TO REVISIT

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

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

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

And then we realized what we’d gotten into.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So pass it on.

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

rockinlibrarian: (christmas)
I am going to add a cut here for archival-scrolling purposes, but I do want to encourage you not only to click through and read, but also to comment, because there are lots of fun things to comment on! Let's trade opinions and junk!
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  • I got actually, officially, medically diagnosed with ADHD-Inattentive Type, which in retrospect is so obvious I keep being amazed no one thought of it years ago. Indeed, it's been sort of comforting to realize how many weird and/or stupid things I do are actually extremely common among women with ADD. I have noticed I've been a lot less depressed this year, too, and I suspect a lot of it is that the voices in my head who used to put me down all the time, "You never learn from your mistakes, you're a wash-up, how can you be so smart and fail so bad at life?"-- well, now there's a voice going, "oh, that's totally ADHD, there. You know what you're doing."
  • I took the plunge and did Weight Watchers, and annoyingly enough I totally felt better. Turns out this may only partially have to do with the loss of excess weight, but as an added bonus, cutting simple carbs back is, it turns out, really important for making an ADHD brain work better, too. So I'm not on Weight Watchers anymore, but I've been trying to keep in mind many of the things I learned through the experience. Also I lost about 35 pounds.
  • ...which has its drawbacks. Apparently being overweight and then suddenly losing a lot of weight can make ones gallbladder FREAK OUT. So round about June I got violently ill and it turned out to be a wonky gallbladder. So in July I had surgery-- my first major surgery ever-- to get the nasty thing removed. The doctors messed up my expectations by calling the outpatient procedure a "band-aid surgery," because it then took a lot longer for me to recover than I expected it to. Like, a month. At least. But by now, I am indeed feeling much better all around. Thank you for leaving, gallbladder.


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

OTHER POSTS I WROTE THAT YOU MIGHT WANT TO REVISIT
:

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

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

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

rockinlibrarian: (portrait)
It’s time for the yearly roundup, and while 2016 is pretty universally known to have been a pretty crappy year, it’s had its bright spots too. As I’ve done for the past few years, I’ve rounded up events and reviews into Top Five lists for your perusal. It makes for a long post, but I’d love for you to read it, and chime in with comments on anything you see that you agree with, disagree with, or feel enlightened by, because I do these things to talk to people, you know.

Cut for length and pictures )
So yay! I hope you've stuck with me through this long, long post! Drop me a comment!
rockinlibrarian: (roar)
So, unlike people living in Bubbles of Blue, I was not shocked. Disappointed, absolutely, but not surprised. So why did it hurt so much? Why was I crying? Why have I been unable to shake off the tears that keep coming all day?

I mean, there's the usual. The stuff I've already explained, about why I was voting the way I did in the first place. I want to thank those who voted differently but acknowledge that they're not necessarily happy about it, or who even, plain, don't gloat at all, because for some of us this IS genuinely not just a matter of the-one-we-liked-lost, but the-one-who-won-gives-us-literal-panic-attacks-and-it's-going-to-be-rough-for-us-to-watch-the-news-for-the-next-four-years.

But as I tried to explain to the kids, doing a very bad job because my own emotions belied every "it's going to be all right" I said, it's not like the world is suddenly going to erupt into nuclear war this afternoon.

Besides, WE are lucky. WE don't have to deal with systematic racism. OTHERS are much more directly fearing for their lives.

I began to get the sense that there was something slightly selfish about my grief. It felt so personal, like I wanted to shout "But look what you've done to ME!" at everyone who voted. What HAD they done to me? Voted for a guy who triggers my bully-anxiety, so what, it's not like my health care or marriage legality or right to freakin' live in this country is in danger. Sure I could TRY to nobly insist it was all alturistic, that I really felt so bad for EVERYONE ELSE, but no-- I mean, yes, I DO feel bad-- but no, this personal grief IS INDEED personal. What bugged me so much?

Eventually I unearthed it. It's because I always started crying harder when I read inspiring messages like this:










And most notably, this:


Because THAT is one of my ABSOLUTE FAVORITE QUOTES OF ALL TIME. I was keeping a quote book when I first read Fellowship, and at that I'd jumped up and ran to grab the dang thing because I needed to write that one down. It hit me hard in the chest this morning, like J.R.R. Tolkien had taken me by the shoulders, given me a little shake, and said, "How could you have forgotten what I told you?!"

"I'm sorry, Professor. I hear you. I hear the others. I'm just having a really hard time believing you right now."

WHO NEEDS MY VOICE. I worried for ages that my voice is useless because I'm too Privileged, because I'm not from a population that's been historically silenced. Ah, but then I found it again. I found it not enough to feel that I had any FICTIONAL stories worth telling, but I at least had, not just the right, but the DUTY, to speak up for those who AREN'T as privileged as me. So I started getting political. I started getting BRAVE. I started making statement after statement and long essay after long essay.

And I voted. Because Every Vote Counts.

Yeah, but I look at the returns for my county, and although it was obvious from the signs along the road, it just felt disheartening to see that MY vote, in my county, had been outnumbered two to one.

And I thought about my essays. My impassioned pleas here and on Twitter and Facebook, and the time last week I finally absolutely BLEW UP at my husband for his continued insistence that both candidates were awful so he'd stick with the one who "wouldn't take away [his] guns." And I thought, did it even matter?

Who even reads what I write except people who already agree with me? Who even CONSIDERS what I have to say? WHOSE MINDS HAVE I CHANGED by writing these things? Nobody. Nobody cares. I have no effect. I've failed.

Writing has failed.

So I had a well-timed counseling appointment this afternoon. By that time I'd pinpointed this problem, this stupid selfish thing that was upsetting me. As I said last time, my therapist was unsurprised by my general anxiety about the thing because that was going AROUND in her office. "What can help you from getting stuck here, though?" she asked. "What are you going to do in your own life? What do you have control over?"

She was paraphrasing Gandalf. I smiled.

But my eyes teared up again. "It's just that nothing ever changes. No one listens to me. I spoke, but I didn't change anyone's mind."

"Maybe you've got the wrong goal. Maybe you're going to fail if you go into it thinking, 'This one beautiful essay will CHANGE PEOPLE'S MINDS.' That starts to sound kind of nasty, actually, wanting to CONTROL WHAT OTHER PEOPLE THINK, you know?" She looked hard at me. "Instead, make the goal to be strong in your own beliefs. Believe in yourself enough to put your beliefs out there. You've done that. You've made something beautiful. It may seem like a small drop, but it's something. A small drop still makes waves.

"Besides, no great social movement happened overnight. Do you think it took just one pamphlet to win women the right to vote? Did Martin Luther King go out and make one beautiful speech and suddenly win equality for all? I bet all the great leaders had days where they came home, said to their families, 'Why do I bother? No one is listening.'

"But what did all those great heroes have in common?"

I grinned sheepishly, because again J.R.R. Tolkien supplied the answer, popping immediately into my head:


Why SHOULDN'T that answer have been ready in my head? I NAMED MY SON AFTER THIS GUY BECAUSE OF THIS SPEECH.

Heroes have lots of chances to turn back, but they don't. That's all. That's what makes a hero.

I could actually feel light seeping back into the wrinkles of my brain, sitting there. I started to believe in the inspirational messages again.

"So, what are you going to do now, so you don't slip back into that stagnant water?" she asked me at the end of our session. "What action are you ready to take, to keep things moving?"

"I--" I started to laugh. "...I actually want to write about it."

The Lone Power is always trying to get me to SHUT UP, one way or another. I've said it before and I'll say it again, because over and over It feeds me excuse after excuse, why I should just give it all up, stop trying to write, stop trying to be heard. It's always something new, but it's always the same in the end: "SHUT UP, AMY, NO ONE NEEDS YOUR OPINION." And it always results in entropy taking over, which is how I KNOW it's the Lone Power's doing.* You'd think I'd be able to catch It in the act quicker now. You'd think I'd recognize it sooner. But I guess that's how It works.

I need the reminders, every so often, that the only thing that makes a hero different from everyone else is that they don't turn back.

Don't. Give. Up.


*God bless you, Diane Duane, I don't know how you so deeply infiltrated my own personal theology, but it sure is handy for expressing my dilemma.
rockinlibrarian: (eggman)
1. I feel kind of guilty about expressing my discomfort with the We Need Diverse Books campaign in the past. I want to make it clear that my discomfort is COMPLETELY PERSONAL, not ideological. I never want to give anyone the impression that I think it's "reverse racism" or unfair to me as a really-boringly-undiverse writer in any way people have industry control over. IT'S NOT. IT'S COMPLETELY FAIR, AND AS A LIBRARIAN I AM ALL FOR IT. It's only me as a struggling writer with low self-esteem, every time I see it The Lone Power whispers in my ear "NOBODY NEEDS YOUR WRITING, YOU'RE BORING, GIVE UP TRYING TO WRITE NOW." And obviously, considering I'm attributing the voice to The Lone Power, I know it's wrong, I know it's a lie, but the part of me that knows this can't think of a good comeback. "I SO TOTALLY DO HAVE A UNIQUE VOICE AND AN OUTLOOK THAT NEEDS TO BE SHARED! I'M GOING TO WRITE...uh...okay I have no idea what I'm going to write." And the Lone Power goes "SEE?!" and I go waste my time reading TV recaps instead. So what I'm saying is DIVERSE BOOKS=GOOD. SUPPORT THEM. I DON'T WANT ANY SPECIAL TREATMENT FROM PUBLISHERS. I'M NOT AFRAID OF HAVING MY CHANCES TAKEN FROM ME BY PEOPLE WHO HAVE LESS REPRESENTED VOICES. I'm only afraid of having my chances taken from me by my own internal doubts.

2. ABC, you can't CANCEL Agent Carter. I'm not saying this as a rabid fan who doesn't personally WANT you to cancel Agent Carter. Well, I AM, but that's beside the point. No, it's just, and I've said this before, Agent Carter is a MINISERIES and theoretically you can bring it back at any time, stick it in anywhere you have a break. The word "cancel" is too FINAL for something so flexible. Just say, "Not in this next year, but hey, maybe some other time!" I mean it'll WORK, we've got YEARS to explore, with the exception offinding out what happened to Thompson

there's no reason we can't pop back into the history of proto-SHIELD several years later. Don't be all "CANCELLED" about it! Be "on indefinite hiatus!" COME ON, KEEP YOUR OPTIONS OPEN!

3. Speaking of Marvel TV, Jason has decided he doesn't care about Agents of SHIELD anymore. Part of me's like, okay, I'm fine with that, I don't need to worry about making it to the TV every Tuesday at 9, I can watch on my own time the next afternoon or whatnot (I work Wednesday mornings), but another part of me is like YOU DON'T REALIZE WHAT A HUGE BLOW THIS IS TO OUR MARRIAGE. It was our DATE NIGHT. That's one of the few things we really enjoy doing together, watching superhero shows! And I have a feeling I want to see Civil War more than he does. Which if we could only get babysitting he'd be okay with, but his parents are in the middle of moving and my parents live farther away. Part of me's like, gee, I could totally go by myself some weekday afternoon, but then I'm like, "NO, AMY, THAT'S THE EQUIVALENT OF ADULTERY. Not just because your Imaginary Husband has a small part in it. IT WOULD BE SUCH AN UNCARING MOVE TO GO SEE A SUPERHERO MOVIE WITHOUT JASON." Seriously. There's more at stake here than watching a movie.

4. I'm kind of mentally cluttered at the moment. I've got gardening to catch up on, on account of being down with the flu all last week. I have a lot of GeekMom articles I want to work on, but I feel guilty sitting down to write long enough to do so. The house is, of course, a wreck. And I still have to feed three picky eaters and myself, which is still the bane of my existence. Sometimes I just want to shout "ENOUGH! FROM NOW ON I AM ONLY MAKING SALADS AND YOU WILL EAT IT OR YOU WILL MAKE YOUR OWN FOOD WITHOUT WHINING!" But I have a hard time cooking for myself.

5. Now I am running late for work, so bye. Excuse the lack of editing and links that I would have done had I had more time.

rockinlibrarian: (christmas)
This format worked really nicely last year, so I'll stick to something of the same:
Long and Full of Pictures )

When I was talking about the GeekMom thing with some relatives on Christmas Eve, I said kind of bashfully that I shouldn't let my writing confidence be affected so much by how many people read and respond, because writers write even if only for themselves, but a couple of them said, No, it makes sense, because while that might be so, a written work technically isn't complete until it has an audience, because it TAKES A READER. So please, indulge me, and chime in in the comments with your opinions on any or all of the things discussed here, because I like being heard!
rockinlibrarian: (christmas)
For as far back as I can remember, my dad has made a big pot of New England Clam Chowder every Thanksgiving. Sure we have the turkey and stuffing and the rest of it, but the clam chowder is his particular contribution to our large extended-family feast. He always said it was more likely to have been eaten at Plymouth Rock* than turkey and stuffing, anyway.

Some years we'd show up and there'd be no other appetizers out, and we'd skipped lunch BECAUSE, and I'd be SOOOOO STARVING because I was a kid and had no sense of LATER, but clam chowder was gross. GROSS. Still, every once in awhile I'd get desperate enough for a few spoonfuls and a lot of oyster crackers. And over the years it grew on me and my tastes matured and the spoonfuls got bigger and the oyster crackers got less.

Today when I tasted it, "gross" it was not. It wasn't even soup I tasted. I tasted a cozy festive space that blocked the cold outside. I tasted a house crowded with love and laughter. I tasted football games blaring out of every TV even though no one particularly CARED who was winning (unless the Steelers were playing). I tasted the anticipation of a feast and a vast table of desserts and even of the Christmas season itself.

I had seconds of the clam chowder that tasted like so much more than clam chowder. Turkey and stuffing, well, anybody can have turkey and stuffing, any feast day. But New England clam chowder actually tastes like THANKSGIVING now.

So I give thanks for clam chowder, for the family that shares it, and for the man who makes it every year, whose birthday, coincidentally, is also today. Happy Birthday, Dad, and Happy Chowder Day, Everyone!

--


*Although, please people, can we stop with that association already? It's an offensive association, but that doesn't mean THANKSGIVING should go the way of offensive (unlike, say, Columbus Day. WHO CELEBRATES COLUMBUS DAY?!). We don't need to drag Thanksgiving down with it. Thanksgiving is about giving thanks, and that never goes out of style.
rockinlibrarian: (portrait)
Back in the day I could write an entire post JUST ABOUT THE BOOKS of the year. Not happening anymore. But I can write about the WHOLE year in small Top FIVE lists, so I'll do that instead:

Top 5 Real Life Things That Happened. In My Life. Not The Outside World. You Can Go Read About the Outside World Anywhere Else

1. A tree fell on our house. This isn't exactly a TOP thing that happened, as in "Best," but it was certainly the BIGGEST thing that happened, and we did end up with all new roof and siding, which insurance covered MOST of, though paying the difference did knock out our budget for the rest of the year. But now that we've gotten that out of the way, let's move onto the actual GOOD stuff:
2. Seeing FREAKIN' SIR PAUL FREAKIN' MCCARTNEY IN FREAKIN' CONCERT, FINALLY! Just read the post if you don't understand.
3. I actually managed to complete an entire draft of an early-chapter-book. Granted, I haven't managed to get around to REVISING it yet. At all. But it's better than I've done in a long time.
4. I successfully Outreached to loads of small children, who excitedly pointed me out to their parents in public while squealing about the "library lady" and lots of their favorite stories. This is the best kind of famous, you know. If I'm going to be accosted by fans every time I go out in public, I much prefer to be hugged around the knees by a three-year-old than shoved about by paparazzi.
5. My son brought home a couple of guppies from the class fish tank on his last day of first grade. I never expected them to last as long as they did, but now they are officially our first family pets. Actually, one of them died a couple months in, but the other one turned out to be pregnant, and gave birth to eleven more. She ate all but one of these. The survivor got by on her (we think it's another her) speed, so earned the name Zippy. Her mother never actually got a name, so is now Mama Fish. We also have two snails now. One is growing. We think it might turn into a monster and take over the tank.

Top 5 Presents I Got For Christmas

1. A New Dishwasher. Our old dishwasher sprung a major leak that we weren't able to fix, and it never cleaned very well anyway, so our two sets of parents went in together to get us a new one. It's AMAZING. It makes things not only CLEAN, but SHINY! And it does so QUIETLY, and WHILE KEEPING ALL THE WATER INSIDE IT!
2. A Good Set of Kitchen Knives. While we were camping this summer, I went to chop up a potato only to realize I hadn't brought a knife, so J whipped out his hunting knife, and WOW could that thing slice. "It's not because it's a hunting knife," he said, "it's just because you're used to using those crappy knives that won't hold an edge." "Oh," I said. But this exchange inspired him, and he bought a set of GOOD kitchen knives actually made by the same company that made his hunting knife. THEY CUT WITHOUT YOU HAVING TO PUT PRESSURE ON THEM. Which means I really have to watch my aim.
3. A bunch of other kitchen supplies I never would have suspected, back in the day, would one day make me so excited to get. I got a big tub of storage containers, a couple of chopping boards, and a new spoon spatula. Granted, I bought that spoon spatula for myself and just stuck it in my stocking, but it was still exciting.
4. This scarf. Appropriate, no? Also a much cheaper leopard-print scarf from Old Navy that EVERYONE got-- okay, at least four people in my extended family-- so now we might start a cult.
5. My sister saved the day and got me Desolation of Smaug, because for some reason Jason didn't. Actually he didn't get a single thing off of my wish list. For me. I've had the complete set of Animaniacs on there for years, so he did get that, but he gave it to Maddie, our own Dot Warner. That was actually a very appropriate move on his part, though.

Top 5 Presents I Gave Other People For Christmas

1. My daughter wanted an Ariel costume. I looked it up: all the Officially Licensed costumes kind of sucked, so I decided to make one myself (note: sometime in October I also got a new sewing machine on account of my old one kind of breaking beyond repair. I thought of considering THIS a Christmas present, but Jason said, no, you just need a new sewing machine, you can have OTHER presents!) I found THE most PERFECT fabric at Jo-Ann's, so LOOK:
SAM_0538 I did not make the wig, though.
2. Also for Maddie: her artistic expression CANNOT be hemmed in by silly things like Personal Property. Not only does she draw in my journals, she's also always absconding with my camera to take pictures and video. Well, among Amazon's Cyber-Monday deals I spotted it: a kids' camera/camcorder. With Hello Kitty on it. For thirty bucks. It was MEANT TO BE.
3. The boy needed pajamas, and I found a pattern for boys' pajamas in his size among my grandmother-in-law's sewing stuffs, so I bought some appropriate fabric along with the mermaid fabric. Well, almost appropriate. It's a train print, and trains are still Sam's Favorite Thing Ever, but I didn't know if it was SLIGHTLY babyish for an almost-8-yo? But it was the most insanely soft material, so I figured, eh, he's just wearing it to bed, anyway. Then, the last day of school before break, they had Pajama Day. "Okay, Sam, I'm going to give you a present early, just in case you might want to use it tomorrow. But I won't be offended if you don't." Well, he did. He's pretty much been living in those pajamas ever since. He's only put on clothes when we've had to go someplace.
SAM_0536
4. In other things I sewed, I also found some insanely soft fleece, so made some cute sweatshirts. I'd tried making a sweatshirt for my brother last year but made it too small, so this year I tried again: SAM_0511
I was so paranoid about making the KIDS' too small that I actually made them too big, SAM_0542 but they'll grow.
5. I got J an Agents of SHIELD (see below for more) wallet as a sort of joke, because we started playing a SHIELD RPG campaign and I said this way he has proper identification. He loved it way more than I expected him to.

One Present Other People Gave Other People That Is Notable
A funny thing happened to presents people bought for Jason this year: they kept getting lost in the mail. Actually, ONE of those incidents turned out to be a misunderstanding: his sister, who lives in Spain, had bought him something and shipped it here under my name, but this happened to be one of the things I'd strongly considered getting him myself, to the point that I FORGOT I hadn't actually purchased it even though I bought something ELSE to go along WITH it, so when the thing from his sister arrived I thought I'D ordered it even though it came way before everything else in the order, so I wrapped it up for Santa, and... anyway, that's where that confusion came from. My sister ordered him a few things that never showed up, as well, and printed him a copy of the order which she stuck on a pack of beer. He would have been happy with the beer. My brother had bought each of us these little figure thingies to go with our Wii U which we don't actually understand yet, but for some reason only Jason's, again, didn't show up. So my brother called and asked if I thought it would be all right if he gave Jason something he'd originally bought for himself, only to decide he didn't really want it after all. "Does he like Back to the Future?" he asked me. "Uh, yeah, but... okay, whatever you want to do, Dan." So he ended up giving J this model DeLorean. Of the time-machine variety. And it's really detailed and awesome and kind of insane of my brother to buy only to decide he didn't want it and yet NOT send it back for a refund. BUT it came with a card with information about the real DeLorean Motor Company, which Jason looked up, and contrary to popular belief it actually IS still in existence, and now he won't stop talking about how he wants a real DeLorean. So the substituted gift was actually WAY more appreciated than the intended gift, in the end.

Top 5 Programs I Did At The Library
Because it's my calling and junk.
1.The Beatles Family Night!
2. Marble run!
3.The Spontaneous Time-Travel Program
4. Magic-- as detailed a bit toward the end of this post, because it impressed people, had a good turnout, and everyone learned something, so yay.
5. Rory's Story Cubes-- that wasn't the name of the program. It was just one of the Grimm brothers' birthdays, so I decided to do a storytelling theme for Library Explorers. And we'd been kicked out of our usual room for a special event, so we didn't have much space, so I grabbed these cubes I had never before actually tried, to see what we could make of them, making up stories in a circle. And they were such a huge hit I needed to write down what they were called for all the grownups there, who wanted to buy their own sets.
Bonus: Chocolate Covered Anything Day. There wasn't really anything all that creative about it as a program, and I didn't have any great tie-in books or stories, but WE GOT TO DIP THINGS IN CHOCOLATE, so surely this belongs among the top programs of the year, no?

Top 5 New Picture Books
My new regret in life is that I'm not a decent illustrator. Picture books are my new favorite kind of book and now I want to make them. I suppose I can still WRITE them, but my heart wants to be able to do it all! Anyway, here's my favorites of the stuff we got in at the library this year:

1. Rules of Summer, by Shaun Tan. I WANT TO LIVE IN SHAUN TAN'S BRAIN. Have I mentioned that? I probably have, because it doesn't stop being true. Here's a nice interview about the making of this book, too.
2. Battle Bunny, by Jon Scieszka, Mac Barnett, and Matt Myers. Technically this came out last year but we only got it at the library THIS year. And it's just notable, because you would think it'd be a one-joke book and get old after awhile, but somehow it only got BETTER as it went, and it's ready-made for creative spin-off activities that really work with kids. That might have made my Best Library Programs list if MY kids hadn't been there that day to drive me nuts. ("I AM NOT YOUR MOMMY RIGHT NOW I AM THE LIBRARIAN PLEASE SIT DOWN AND BE QUIET.")
3. Quest, by Aaron Becker. I actually bought Journey for myself at my kids' book fair this year. Sure, kids, I'll buy you each a book, too, but this one's Mommy's. Anyway, I smuggled this out of the tech room as soon as it came in. I don't love it QUITE as much as Journey but it's still dreamy-perfect and we had fun exploring it together. I think my "Too bad I'm not an illustrator" problem is that WORDLESS picture books are REALLY my favorite thing.
4. Flashlight, by Lizi Boyd, speaking of which. Like on the surface this is so much simpler than, for example, Quest, but there's still so much going on, so much to see, so many little surprises. I JUST LOVE WORDLESS PICTURE BOOKS SO MUCH GUYS I CAN'T DEAL WITH IT.
5. Sam and Dave Dig a Hole, by Mac Barnett (again) and Jon Klassen. Barnett and Klassen came to speak at the Carnegie the other month, and I'm almost embarrassed to admit how long I fretted about having no one to come with me to see them, only to realize at the last minute that I HAVE KIDS IN THEIR TARGET AGE GROUP. It was great for all of us! And it was much more fun listening to the KIDS talk to them than it would have been for me to think of something halfway interesting to say. Mac Barnett enjoyed meeting someone with the same name as one of his heroes (both the BOOK'S "hero" Sam, AND the original Sam-and-Dave-the-blues-duo!)SAM_0329 And Maddie told Jon Klassen all about our cannibal fish! It didn't occur to me until later that this was fitting, as she WAS talking to the man who wrote This Is Not My HatSAM_0331 They were awesome. I've always had a crush on Mac Barnett, but in person I liked Jon Klassen best-- he totally seemed like a guy I could hang out with. If I was in the habit of hanging out with Caldecott Medalists.

Top 5 Older (than this year) Picture Books I Only Just Discovered Are Awesome for Reading Aloud This Year

1. Chloe and the Lion, by Mac Barnett DARNIT MAC BARNETT STOP BEING SO ENTERTAINING YOU'RE HOGGING THE LISTS and Adam Rex. I just really like Meta. And Mac Barnett likes meta too, which is why he keeps writing books I like. But please let's not ignore Adam Rex in this discussion because the illustrations really make the book. And that's also kind of the point of this book. They're two great tastes that taste way greater together.
2. What Floats in a Moat? by Lynne Berry. Some very handy blog post about Books You Might Want For a Fizz Boom Read Summer Program Storytime alerted me to this fine title, which INDEED fit with a Things That Float program I had planned. Funny and clever AND educational! Thank you, fine blog post!
3. My Lucky Day, by Keiko Kasza. A different blog post somewhere named this a sure-winner for read-alouds, and it happened to be in one of my outreach bags, so I said, Hey, I'll read THAT one to this group! And guess what. It IS a sure-winner.
4. The Really Really Really Big Dinosaur, by Richard Byrne. I mentioned this one in the above-linked all-the-programs-I-did-in-October post. I just enjoyed me and the mom and the little sister cracking up while the older sister rolled her eyes and tried not to laugh while complaining that she wanted a SERIOUS dinosaur book instead.
5. The Buzz Beaker series by Cari Meister. It looks like there's also some older titles by a Scott Nickel but I haven't read those ones so as to guarantee their quality. These are, as possibly evidenced by their having multiple authors over time, leveled readers out of one of them there book packagers in Mankato Minnesota. Which means I wasn't expecting them to be nearly as entertaining as they are. Again I stumbled upon them for summer reading programs, because they're a treasure trove for actually-fun-stuff-to-read-aloud on STEM topics!

Top 5 Longer-Than-Picture-Books Books I Read This Year, aka The Only 5 Longer-Than-Picture-Books Books I Finished Reading This Year

1. Dangerous, by Shannon Hale. As indicated by my movie list (see below), I love a good superhero story, but I can't get into comic books. Shannon Hale, who is truly one of my very favorite people on the Internet btw, decided to address this-- people who read better in paragraphs than in panels-- by actually writing a great superhero story entirely in prose. It is EVERYTHING I love about, say, watching a Marvel movie-- and even better, solid female representation!-- but in novel form!
OH I FORGOT TO MENTION-- we'll make this 1.5, though it's not much longer than a Buzz Beaker book-- Hale's The Princess in Black, an easy-chapter book about a princess who sneaks out to battle monsters in her spare time, because this is SO MADE for my daughter, and that's why I bought it for her for Christmas:
SAM_0535
2. Brown Girl Dreaming, by Jacqueline Woodson. It's the Young People's National Book Award winner, which me being on top of things actually read before then! Mostly because Woodson's editor kept tweeting the most beautiful lines from it, so when it showed up with our Junior Library Guild subscription I said, "I've got to give this a try." It's a verse memoir, and it's LYRICAL. It IS dreaming!
3. A Corner of White, AND
4. The Cracks in the Kingdom, by Jaclyn Moriarty. Apparently pronouncing your first name like that gave you a better than average chance of getting your book read by me this year. But Jaclyn Moriarty gets special attention for being just so dang unique. She's done some crazy worldbuilding for this series (which in a dear-to-my-heart way is called The Colors of Madeleine, AWWWW) about a couple of kids who start to communicate through a crack between their two parallel worlds, and I have to say there have been several twists that I absolutely did not see coming, only to look back and find the evidence had been there all along, and I quite appreciate that. I think the next author would have appreciated that, also:
5. Dogsbody, Diana Wynne Jones. Only last because it's not new like the others. I did buy The Islands of Chaldea for the library, but I haven't gotten around to reading it, yet. It may be HER last, but I still have lots of DWJ to track down still, so that isn't what's keeping me away. More like my usual reading problems.

Top 5 Movies I Saw

1. The LEGO Movie: Officially my son's favorite movie, when the rest of us finally caught up (he'd gone to see it at the theater with his grandparents) we were utterly charmed, too. It really holds up to rewatching and quote-reciting. I don't know why the catchphrase this household has most adopted is "Honey, where are my paaaaaaants?" though.
2. Captain America: The Winter Soldier: We don't get out to the movies much, J and I-- when we do it's usually for a special occasion, like our anniversary (see below). But after seeing a certain episode of Agents of SHIELD (see further below) last March, we decided we needed to go see this AS SOON AS POSSIBLE just to find out what had happened. It was worth it-- I think this is my favorite of the Marvel movies now, and I do like Marvel movies (I think it was watching this that I realized I get a thrill of excitement when the comic-book opener comes on screen, like the opening notes of the Star Wars theme). I particularly like the themes of friendship throughout this movie, I love the friend-chemistry between all the characters-- particularly the platonic friendship between the Cap and Black Widow-- SEE? Platonic CAN BE DONE!
3. Frozen: I know this movie is technically from LAST year but we only just got it for Christmas. We figured we'd watch it as a family sometime this week, and I had a lot of other stuff to do Christmas morning, but my daughter insisted on putting it on, and I found myself sucked onto the couch beside her. I thought the characters were particularly great, and the themes hit on a lot of near-to-my-heart issues, so I was teary-eyed a lot.
4. The Hobbit: The Battle of Five Armies: We went this weekend for our anniversary, natch, and I feel like I ought to do a longer review than most of the ones in these lists. :P Far from the best of the movies, but hardly a disaster, either. Having seen all three now, I DO think it would have worked better as two movies, just with really really long Extended Editions (with basically, you know, ALL the same footage of the current Extended Editions, just two proper movies for theater viewing). This movie felt a little bit arc-less in a way that I don't think it would have if it had merely been the long climax of a movie that started when they'd first arrived at Laketown. This movie is also made up of the chapters in the book that I always manage to completely forget about, which might be saying something. Still, like any Middle-Earth movie, it's gorgeous-- though this movie seemed to involve a LOT of high and precarious walkways that were making me QUITE nervous thank you-- and, like any Hobbit movie in particular, it features my very favorite actor/Imaginary Husband in the title role, and do I even need to mention anymore that he was brilliant? He was brilliant. As usual. The scene when he was saying goodbye to the dwarves was my very favorite. And I was really glad he spent a lot less of this movie unconscious than he does these chapters in the book. Not that the movie couldn't have still done with more of him.
5. Guardians of the Galaxy: we did slip out to see this one this summer while the kids were at their grandparents' for the week. I didn't think it was as great as a lot of people seemed to think, hailing it the New Star Wars or whatever, but it was a lot of fun, and I appreciate a storyline that weaves a great classic rock mix tape into the plot.

Top 5 Things I Watched On TV, Or At Least Things That Were Aired On TV That I Watched On The Computer

1. Fargo, The Series! GAH I LOVE THIS SHOW. WHY AREN'T MORE PEOPLE TALKING ABOUT THIS SHOW? Every time I think about it, I miss it. I suppose I could watch it again, considering I bought it on iTunes. I had the DVD set on my wishlist but I guess everyone knew I bought it on iTunes and doesn't believe in the power of Bonus Features.
2. Agents of SHIELD, which is formally called MARVEL'S Agents of SHIELD, but half the time we just call it SHIELD anyway so nyah. Jason and I started watching this when it first came on, and even though it wasn't brilliant at first we kept watching because we both enjoyed it enough and it made for a nice little weekly Date Night, to cuddle on the couch watching "our show" each week. Then suddenly, this past spring, it got GOOD. WHOA PLOT TWISTS and WHAT'S GOING TO HAPPEN NEXT WEEK?!?! and sublimely unhinged birth-fathers and heartwrenching brain-damaged Scottish nerds level-good. This fall I've finished each Tuesday evening with the loveliest sense of satisfaction, and a bit of pity for everyone who gave up on the show before it got to be SO MUCH DANG FUN.
3. "Crumby Pictures" on Sesame Street. It's "Monsterpiece Theater" for a new generation, and it's brilliant, and I really wish I worked in children's television yet again.
4. I almost forgot that Community season 5 happened this year, but it did, way back early on. I also always forget how much I love that show until I get reminded. And there were some brilliantly funny bits this season and some perfectly touching bits too. You're a monster if you didn't cry during a certain goodbye scene with a certain absolutely perfect celebrity cameo. Oh, that got me.
5. Okay, okay, Sherlock season 3, even though the fandom drives me crazy. I can't REALLY skip mentioning it out of spite, when "The Sign of Three" was probably my favorite episode of the show ever. And still, Martin. Because he's brilliant. As usual. Which reminds me:
BONUS #5.5. When Martin Freeman hosted Saturday Night Live. Was he awesome? Of course he was awesome. The "Office: Middle Earth" sketch was brilliant, and did seeing him play his two most lovably adorable roles somehow wrapped up in one character make me sappy? Yes maybe. But he was brilliant even in that dumb talk show sketch where he BARELY HAD ANY LINES EVEN, his expressions just made the whole thing. To be honest, though, he wasn't even in one of my favorite sketches of the night, the commercial for going-back-to-your-home-church-for-Christmas, which was so dead-on St. James that I had to love it. Perversely, another of my favorite things about that show was that they DID NOT MAKE A SINGLE REFERENCE TO SHERLOCK OR BUMBLEPANTS CUCUMBERSAUCE. I'm just a little sensitive. Hey, while we're at it:

Top Five Pics of Martin Freeman That The Internet Kindly Gave Me
1. Okay, this isn't the greatest picture of Martin specifically, but it's such an insanely mindblowing circumstance that it has to be #1:

WHO PUT THOSE TWO MEN ON THE SAME COUCH? HOW IS THAT METAPHYSICALLY POSSIBLE? HOW DID THE AWESOME NOT EXPLODE THE WORLD?
2. From that same talk show, here's Martin doing a Paul McCartney impression.

But he can't fool me. I've long suspected he's been doing an extended Paul McCartney impression for most of his life. I'M ONTO YOU, FELLOW MACCA GEEK.
3. Try not to swoon:

4. I love Martin being Martin, but there were lots of lovely in-character pics this year as well. I'm torn between the "Bilbo does Not Approve" shot:

5. ...and the "Lester is a Conniving Weasel" shot:

PLUS! One moving .gif to make your life happy:


Okay, what's left.
Top 5... Music? Um, maybe not a Top 5?

1. I SAW PAUL MCCARTNEY... I may have already mentioned that.
2. Honestly, I have no clue.
3. OH, this year DOES mark the discovery of the [Sarah's] Husband's Stupid Record Collection blog, which has continued to be fun. Also, Sarah-of-said-blog followed me back on Tumblr and sometimes she even Favorites stuff I reblog there, which makes me feel marginally famous.
4. I wish I was still a music geek who actually was on top of musical discoveries.
5. Well, I do find myself exposed to Hit Pop Songs nonetheless, and actually there were several Hit Pop Songs this year that I ACTUALLY LIKE. I'm quite fond of "All About the Bass" and "Shake it Off." There were many more Hit Pop Songs that I DIDN'T care for (and why the heck do Maroon 5 suck so much now? They were so GOOD ten years ago!), but this isn't really news. I think I spend more time listening to PBS Kids songs than I do the radio, anyway.

Top 5 Songs From PBS Kids Shows I Sing Along To Incessantly

1. The Dinosaur Train Theme Song
2. The "Splashing In the Bathtub" song on Peg+Cat
3. The Peg+Cat Theme Song
4. The "Problem Solved" song from Peg+Cat. I really like Peg+Cat songs
5. Anything from Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood, which is sort of cheating because they were mostly all originally from Mister Rogers, anyway.

Anyway.

Let's wrap things up with a little bloggy retrospective.
Finally, Top 5 Blog Posts I Didn't Already Link To In This Post, Which Mostly Leaves The Philosophical Ones
1. In which I finally understand what it means to examine ones privilege
2. A tribute to an influential teacher
3. In which I examine the darkest depths of my soul
4. Humanity's only hope is to stop trying to change the subject
5. EVERYTHING IS REAL!
And bonus: I wrote a poem once.

So... have a lovely new year! We have no plans because we're boring. How about you? What were your Top Whatevers of the year?
rockinlibrarian: (love)
Twenty-one years ago approximately exactly (it was sometime in the first half of the summer) I had a life-changing experience. It was one of those things where all the evidence had been slowly gathering over the course of your life, and you enjoyed the bits and pieces as they came without thinking too hard about it, but suddenly one day one final piece makes all the others snap together and NOTHING IS EVER THE SAME AFTERWARD, like watching the UK Office and finding yourself suddenly Imaginarily Married, for example. It's part of your very identity taking shape, never to be cast aside, never to be just a passing fad, but a permanent HI-I'M-AMY-AND-THIS-IS-WHAT-I-LOVE, and it becomes half your Internet alias, once the Internet becomes common enough that you need an alias for it.

So my Bucket List gained an item: someday I MUST experience that When-Everything-Gelled-Moment again, but Live In Person. But it seemed like it might never happen, because the guy was getting OLD, you know? And he kept not coming to Pittsburgh. But it turned out, reportedly, that this was only because Pittsburgh's venues could no longer support his stage set-up, so when we built a new arena a few years ago that could, he was the FIRST artist to play there. And a few years later, putting together his current tour, Pittsburgh was one of the first two US cities booked. I think he missed us.

Then a month or so ago he got sick and cancelled the rest of his gigs in June. WE WOULD BE ONLY HIS SECOND SHOW AFTER THIS HIATUS. What if he was still sick? (I'd tried to see his old bandmate Ringo in concert once, but HE'D gotten laryngitis the day of the show and cancelled a few hours before. Can you blame me being a little nervous, here?) As the day got closer, and reports from the front assured us he was doing well, cancellation seemed less likely. But what if we were setting ourselves up for disappointment, here? What if he was well enough to perform, but not quite well enough to give it his all? I'd seen him do an appearance on a talk show last year where he must have been under the weather, because his voice didn't sound quite right, and the ENERGY wasn't quite there, and it made me sad, like maybe he WAS getting too old. But apparently he WAS just sick, because the next performance I saw on TV was right back up to standard.

IT'S THE PRINCIPLE OF THE THING, I decided. I have his music and I've seen him on TV so many times, if at THIS concert he's not quite up to snuff, that's fine, because the point is I'm IN THE SAME ROOM as my Musical Hero, watching him make music in person for once. Just to say I was there.

cut for pictures and length )

EDIT: Here's a nice interview he did the day before this concert, which is extra-interesting to read in light thereof. Now we know what goes on in his mind... that's kind of a cheap Beatles song reference when it's neither a) one of his songs, nor b) a good song at all, but never mind.
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: (love)
Dear J,
Eleven years ago last Tuesday you gave me a little crystal bell ornament-- well, "crystal" in quotes, not leaded, not even blown glass, just a cheap cut glass bell ornament, cheap because there was a not-cheap-at-all diamond ring attached to it. Cheap as it was, I still wouldn't have expected whatever adhesive that had been holding it together to COMPLETELY DISINTEGRATE in the past year: for, when I pulled it out of its box, the brassy ribbon-shaped loop at the top to have fallen to the side and the two little balls that had been (decorative, they didn't actually ring) clappers rolling away entirely, without a TRACE of glue or an indentation or ANYTHING to show that they'd ever been attached at all. It struck me as ominous, but I'm an imaginative type-- heck, though, even from a practical standpoint, it probably DOES say something ominous about the Mysterious Dampness in the attic. But no, these were our wedding bells, and the glue had disintegrated.

How frightfully symbolic! What if the glue of our marriage had disintegrated? True, it is not what it once was. The honeymoon is long over. Can I even call you my best friend when there's so MUCH we just SO vastly disagree about: housekeeping, childrearing, politics, the relative importance-or-lack-thereof of Art vs. Firearms, how to behave in a post-apocalyptic society, music, vegetables? IS it terrible that I feel more fluttery-swoony over a man in a hobbit suit than I do the man I'm sleeping with?

But dangit, I wasn't going to throw out that chintzy little ornament. I didn't know how to fix it with what I had, so I did a little research. Ended up buying a clear kind of super glue that claims to work on glass. Also claims to be water-resistant, which would help against the Mysterious Damp in the attic, and may have been the downfall of the original adhesive. I glued that sucker back together, and now it looks perfect. Like it had never been broken. And, if those water-resistant claims hold, stronger than ever.

So it's ten years ago today that we said "I do," as if that was a magic moment, a one-time permanent bond. People tend to think that way. That "I do" is some big, one-time adhesive application and They All Live Happily Ever After, stuck tight. If that was true, every marriage would end in divorce within a year. That adhesive DOES disintegrate. It dissolves away in stress and poor health and economic woes and existential crises and sleep deprivation and whose-family-when-where tug-of-wars on holidays and the tedium of trying to find something for dinner that will make you both happy every night.

There have been so many more "I do"s since then. I Do when one or the other of us is sick and the coughing keeps the other one up at night. I Do each time I decide to pack your lunch for you the night before even though you're perfectly capable of doing it yourself, just because I know you won't bother to pack a fruit or vegetable if I don't, just because I know sandwiches somehow always taste better when someone else makes them. I Do when I'm so distracted by all the thoughts I'm pondering and all the things I have to do that your trying to get my attention just annoys me, until I fall into your arms and realize a hug was what I'd needed all along. I Do when I'm embarrassed by your political opinions, by the Armory in the basement, but as soon as any of my Cool friends or people I admire says something implying that People Like You Are Evil, I take your side, because I know you and they don't, and I may admire them, but I love you.

Marriage is ACTIVE COMPASSION, a true partnership, a working relationship. FALLING in love is not a choice. Lust, sexual orientation, attraction, these things are not choices and I hope never to imply that they are. But LOVE, ACTIVE love, Love-as-a-Verb, is a choice that is made over and over and over. You always have a choice, when the relationship breaks-- when cracks and dents appear or bits and pieces fall off-- to throw it away. To leave it to continue to disintegrate. Or to grab the Ultra Liquid Control LocTite and patch it up. The glue is in your hands. Love is choosing to use it.

I am yours, you are mine, you are what you are, as a band you would never purposely choose to listen to would say.

Happy Tenth Anniversary of the most public of many, many "I Do"s,
me
rockinlibrarian: (christmas)
Well, time is tight, and I have so much to write about, but I don't want to let today (my favorite day of the year! Yes, Christmas Eve is actually more my favorite than Christmas Day, that's just the way it works) pass without wishing you, my Internet friends, my friends and family I WON'T be seeing this week, and my lovely random strangers who happen to be reading this, a very Merry Christmas. I'm going to get back to that by the end of this post, by way of a lot of other stuff that's been on my mind the past few days, so... be patient? Or get your internal scanners ready?

About this past weekend

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

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

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

A Quick Response to The Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug:

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

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

About Kindness

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

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

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

So Now for my Christmas Wish

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

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

*(the commenter struck me as male, but I could be wrong. He's a he in my head. If she's not, and she/you are offended, you can set me straight.)
rockinlibrarian: (christmas)
I knew there was something significant about today's date, and now I remember: it's the 95th anniversary of the birth of the woman who wrote my favorite book and the 12th anniversary of the death of the man who wrote my favorite song. That's a lot of significance for one day. (Just listened to the latter sing the words "All the world is birthday cake" which could be for the former. IT ALL TIES TOGETHER).

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

---
*That links to a post that links to almost every OTHER post I've ever written about Christmas, so it seems most convenient. Except for the post I wrote last year, since it hadn't happened yet.
rockinlibrarian: (roar)
So I'd been meaning to post pictures from other events this summer, but this time I must NOT let it slide. There is far too much to see. See who Maddie is pointing to?

That's right! Even the three-year-old knows the Statue of Liberty when she sees her!
massive amounts of photos under the cut )
rockinlibrarian: (roar)
Our town, as I've mentioned, time and again, likes to go overboard for the 4th of July. This year I decided I'm posting some pictures.



This, for example, is a horse-drawn hearse:

Because you need a picture of a horse-drawn hearse. It was the coolest thing in the parade, after all.

But what you really need is video of my daughter dancing to a polka band:

Click, I can't get it to embed without it ERASING HALF THIS ENTRY for some reason

--

Okay anyway, so remember when I went to my friend's house the other weekend and it was awesome? I'll give you some pictures of THAT, too!

Here's my crab cake sandwich meal:


And here's the frog that had to be rescued from the pool while "Rainbow Connection" was TOTALLY PLAYING:


There. Now your day is made. Carry on.
rockinlibrarian: (eggman)
I’ve been nominated by [livejournal.com profile] vovat (but on his Wordpress blog) for the Versatile Blogger Award.

Here are the rules:

If you are nominated, you’ve been awarded the Versatile Blogger award.

Thank the person who gave you this award. That’s common courtesy.
Why, thank you, Nathan!
Include a link to their blog. That’s also common courtesy — if you can figure out how to do it.
Next, select 15 blogs/bloggers that you’ve recently discovered or follow regularly. (I would add, pick blogs or bloggers that are excellent!)
Nominate those 15 bloggers for the Versatile Blogger Award — you might include a link to this site.
Finally, tell the person who nominated you 7 things about yourself.


Right. But lots of my favorite bloggers have huge followings and professional formats that make them hardly likely to care about such a meme. So this is more a chance for me to share with YOU some awesome-- and versatile-- blogs I follow that YOU should check out, or even possibly follow, if you don't already. It's advertising for great blogs, which I think is the point in the first place.

1. The Bloggess is my new favorite. I can't stop talking about her, and I thank [livejournal.com profile] iamdamanda profusely for pointing her out to me. I am THANKFUL for the Bloggess, for being simultaneously a great advocate for folks with depression and anxiety, AND unbelievably freakin' hilarious. Seriously, funniest blog you will ever follow.

2. A Fuse #8 Production is my classic favorite blog. Granted, as far as "Versatility" goes, the subject IS strictly children's literature, but within that general topic, my #1 blogger girl-crush Betsy covers everything with gusto and humor. And of course THERE ARE THE COUNTDOWNS.

3. E Louise Bates -- shout-out to a smaller more-likely-to-get-an-Award-Meme blog (and it's not only both versatile AND likely-to-get-the-award, I'm pretty sure it already DID relatively recently), run by my dear virtual friend [livejournal.com profile] elouise82. Louise not only has excellent taste in both literature and television and an occasional tendency to post recipes, she writes about everything in a compelling way, encouraging responses and conversations, and coming up with fun lists.

4. Bookshelves of Doom is definitely versatile, covering pretty much whatever catches her fancy (or raises her ire). There is of course (with a name like "Bookshelves of Doom") a tendency to be about books, with frequent reviews, links to book-and-library-related news, and librarian jokes. But they'll be bits about movies and TV (it's her fault I started watching Sherlock-- also, she agrees that Martin Freeman is the most awesome person on that show so that makes her worth following right there) and musicals and her cats and random geeky funny junk that really can be appreciated best by geeky bookish girls of our generation.

5. Nine Kinds of Pie --if Betsy Bird is my #1 Blogger Girl-Crush, my Blogger Straight-up Crush is definitely Phil Nel. He's a children's literature professor/scholar (ie, geek) who takes the name of his blog from my (and his) favorite picture book. Any time he's not discussing children's lit on his blog, he's posting playlists and talking about music (loved this recent post about musical taste). Seriously, MY USERNAME IS ROCKIN. LIBRARIAN. How is it we're not married already? (Kidding. You know I'd never abandon Martin. ...Jason, I meant. I'm married to JASON).

6. Screwy Decimal is a snarky public librarian in Brooklyn. You may just need to follow her on Twitter for the full effect, but even if you only follow the blog, you'll encounter stories from the trenches that are simultaneously hilarious, heartbreaking, uplifting, and ridiculous.

7. Kiersten Writes... speaking of people who are hilarious on Twitter. But author Kiersten White is hilarious across the board. Her posts range from purely silly, to realistic with a lot of humor in the execution, to quite serious on occasion (but even those are leavened by her unique outlook).

8. [livejournal.com profile] sarahtales is someone whose hilarious Livejournal I discovered even before she'd published a book, but now that Sarah Rees Brennan has a whole popular trilogy under her belt, she STILL writes a hilarious Livejournal (though a little less frequently). Lately, in anticipation of the "new Gothic" novel she has coming out in the fall, she's been writing laugh-out-loud retellings of classic Gothic novels monthly. Check them out!

9. Writer's First Aid is a writing blog NOT for people who want tips on getting published or landing an agent or doing school visits, but for writers who are STUCK. Kristi Holl has written books on the topic (I have one-- occasionally I remember to use it), and here she keeps up a steady stream of encouragement, advice on boosting creativity or managing time or just getting your writing head on straight. What's sad is I've been so blocked in the past few years that even THIS advice feels beyond me-- but I'm getting there, and every so often I make progress.

10. Book Aunt for book reviews, and sometimes poetry, and sometimes ruminations on literature or authors or whatnot. [livejournal.com profile] katecoombs is a genuine author friend and I like her. Also I gave her new picture book of poetry, Water Sings Blue, to my mom. Anyway, her reviews give you a true flavor of the books in question (she's won me over to books I hadn't thought I wanted to read before that way), and she's open about the good, the bad, what things certain people might like about it, what things might bother others. And she has good taste.

11. Slow By Little --another small one that could use an audience. My college roommate keeps this picture-filled blog of homelife and travel. See and read about her adventures in Germany last December, and if you scroll down a few posts-- you see that swimming pool? I spent all last Saturday afternoon in that pool. Personal trivia!

12. Happy Opu, in the Whodathunkit category: Canadian actress Jewel Staite is best known for playing one of my favorite TV characters ever, Kaylee Frye. When I found her on Twitter, I was delighted to discover that she also keeps a blog-- one that is not only funny and well-written, but is also almost entirely ABOUT FOOD. Not just any food. Fancy unbelievable Foodie-type food. She describes it in luscious detail, and yes, there are lots of pictures. It's food porn, really.

13. A Chair, a Fireplace, and a Tea Cozy: what's great about Liz Burns' reviews/takes-on-things is that she can be critical but never judgmental. Her book reviews have a section called "The Good," but not a section called "The Bad": she tells you WHY someone MIGHT like something... although when SHE loves it, she does let you know! But she also covers current events in the publishing/library/blogging worlds, movies, TV shows, and ALA policies. Okay, so the ALA policies part may not be roping you non-librarian-types in. But MOVIES and TV SHOWS!

14.squeetusblog: Author Shannon Hale is a wise, well-spoken (okay, WRITTEN) woman. She ponders questions about the elements of story (in any format) and stereotypes and life... and occasionally is just plain silly. She also does this while raising 4 small children including toddler twins. Besides, you know, the whole writing career thing.

15.Memoranda, a blog which once hadan ode to my awesomeness on it (actually, there may have been more to the post than just that). Naturally, I had to keep following Michelle Cooper and the fascinating glimpses into her mind-- historical, geographic, and scientific facts she's discovered, books she's been reading, thoughts she's been having, important things like when the next FitzOsbornes book is coming out... you know.

Honorable Mention to GeekMom, which is one of my very favorite-- and incredibly Versatile-- blogs, but as it's a group blog with many different bloggers, it doesn't quite qualify.

Happy reading! Like you can keep up with any more blogs.

So then, seven things about myself... that I assume you don't already know?

1. Last weekend I had a reunion with college friends that ROCKED MY SOCKS. Even though not much actually HAPPENED, but that's NICE when you're a grownup. The most eventful thing that happened was a night out eating crab cakes and singing karaoke. I did a pretty good Carole King and a not-nearly-warmed-up-enough Ann Wilson. Also, in the "nothing happening in a good way" portion of the weekend, we had to rescue a frog that had jumped in the chlorinated pool. Almost immediately, guess what song started playing on the stereo*? "The Rainbow Connection." Go Kermit.

2. I have gotten involved, over the Internet, in an international project that is so WRITTEN FOR ME that I'm pretty sure it's fate. An actual spiritual Calling. Here's the Tumblr for it (I know, Tumblr. Insanity. I just pretend it's a regular blog). First she offered to write a real handwritten letter to anyone who asked for one. Of course, hundreds of people (including myself) asked for one, so she recruited helpers. We had to apply for the job... but I wasn't really surprised to get it, because, like I said, FATE.

3. I finally, after weeks of protesting that it was much too hot to attempt, weeded the garden today. We thinned the carrots and the kids had the baby carrots at lunch, which thrilled them. Discovered my sprinkler sucks and has been missing whole swatches of garden. All my basil dried up and died off. Tried to buy more, but the hardware store was out. No fresh basil this year. :(

4. My Windows Media Player has randomly downloaded a whole bunch of SONGS I DIDN'T PUT THERE. It's kind of cool, because so far all the ones I've heard have been kind of awesome. But is this a nifty new feature of Windows Media Player-- picking new artists for me it thinks I might like judging by the rest of my collection?-- or have I been HACKED? It's kind of like the coolest computer virus ever if it is.

5. It's Summer Reading Club time! After creating and data-filling a spreadsheet of all participants and what programs they're coming to, I am... not as involved as I used to be. I'm just there on Wednesdays, reading stories and doing booktalks. We've got an awesome set-up though-- one of the small meeting rooms has been turned into a campsite, with a light-up campfire and everything. Then I believe I'm chaperoning the field trip, but we're only doing one this year, at the end of the summer. So... less with the stress.

6. I'm wearing this skirt I made when I first got my sewing machine. It's an awesome blue batik print with bright yellow and pink highlights, which is so awesome I keep wearing it even though I made it lopsided.

7. Sometimes I like to wander down the office supplies aisle at the grocery store and JUST STARE.

*Technically, it wasn't a stereo. It was a playlist on an iPod hooked up to speakers. But that takes too long to say.

PS-- I also can't remember if I mentioned my determination to take drum lessons as soon as Jason's new schedule gets straightened out/paychecks start flowing in. I bought myself a set of 5-dollar drumsticks as a promise to myself. LOVELY RITA AND THE METER MAIDS COULD ACTUALLY HAPPEN. In theory. A vague, unsubstantial theory.
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."

...in 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: (roar)
Just quickly here, I'm bursting with pride this morning in the light of the last post I wrote. This morning the kids burst into my room in effort to either wake me up or get into all the fun stuff we keep hidden from them in there-- probably the latter, because that's what they DID. Anyway, my three-year-old picks up her dad's emergency flashlight and shines it on the piece of paper sitting there, and begins, with a dramatic flourish, to "read."

"Once upon a time, there was a Madeleine walking to the park with her Mommy. They were going to see Sammy at school. Sammy... Sammy again. THERE'S my name! There's my name AGAIN!" because at this point she'd gotten distracted trying to find words she knew on the page (neither of those names were actually on the page, incidentally).

Then she got back on track, but wasn't pretending to read anymore: she was just excited to tell everyone her story. "Madeleine and Mommy went to the park with THE EASTER BUNNY! The Easter Bunny wrapped up EGGS for them for a surprise!" And then her speech dissolved into gibberish while I quickly grabbed my paper journal to write this story down for posterity.

Meanwhile her brother, the future engineer, was systematically deconstructing my sewing machine, so I realized I'd better get moving and herd them out of there.

Look, I'm not trying to force my kids down any particular career paths here. I'm just making the observations.

Anyway, so I was mightily impressed with the structure of that story, made up off the top of a three-year-old's head. So that's my brag for today.
rockinlibrarian: (roar)
I have had the BEST birthday-- weekend-- in many years. I'm not even sure where to begin-- if there's some overarching introductory paragraph I can make, or if I should just go in chronological order. Or I'll do it in order of What People Want to Read About, so they can drop out whenever they feel like it.

Part 1: My Reactions to the Hunger Games Movie, So I Can Get That Out Of the Way for People Who Don't Actually Care About My Real Life

Getting back to our discussion of what makes me accept or not accept a book adaptation, I have to admit I never thought I would actually fault a movie for sticking TOO close to the source material, but in this case I'm pretty sure that's my only problem with it. It felt a little TOO much like it was illustrating the book, scene after scene after scene, to the point where I felt like the story arc was suffering, and I actually thought, "I think I would be getting more into this right now if I HADN'T read the book, because then I wouldn't already know what's happening." Some of my favorite bits were scenes that WEREN'T technically in the book-- the times they would switch to showing the things happening outside the arena, with the gamekeepers and the sponsors and the districts and the TV commentators. I thought I even wanted a little more of that. I thought maybe the plotline SHOULD have been chopped up a bit more, just to make it feel more movie-arc-like.

On the other hand, my ACCEPTING of an adaptation DOES require a trueness to character, and here the movie EXCELLED. Any fears I originally had about casting were completely unfounded. Even Haymitch wasn't as off as I feared-- Woody Harrelson had said some things that made me wonder if he COMPLETELY DIDN'T GET the character, but he wasn't distractingly off after all, though I do think he was a BIT too comfortable with the Capitol folks still. But for the most part, right. Peeta nailed the stuff that makes Peeta so awesome, without actually being cute enough to make me have disturbing thoughts about a sixteen-year-old, so that's good. And Jennifer Lawrence CLEARLY joins the ranks of People Who Have Completely BEEN The Book Character They Were Portraying EXACTLY PERFECTLY RIGHT. And Rue. Oh, Rue. I remember when they first showed the non-character photos of the people they'd cast, she was the only one of whom I immediately said "YES. That's her. That's the one in my head." (Which is ironic when you hear about all the weird racist talk going around about her. I DON'T KNOW WHAT BOOK THEY WERE READING! This was TOTALLY the girl in my head!) But she didn't just LOOK right, she WAS right, and there was totally not enough of her. They needed to find a way to add more Rue. More!

So on the whole, I give it a thumbs up. It's not my favorite movie or even favorite adaptation, but it serves the book well enough for me.

Part 2: In Which I Become The New Owner of a Nook Color, So Can't Continue Pretending I Am Far Behind The Rest of The Free World Technologically

My parents babysit on Fridays, so when I came home from work that day I found a feast of cheese lasagna, colorful garden salad, and Italian bread all prepared for me. There was also ice cream cake (to be fair, Jason got that, not my parents), a balloon (which Sam had picked out), and the house was all clean. Also, my parents were TAKING THE KIDS WITH THEM FOR THE WEEKEND. Then they handed me a present, and this turned out to be a refurbished Nook Color.

I DID NOT SEE THAT COMING.

To be honest, I did not see much of ANYTHING coming. My parents give me birthday presents all year long on fridays. They have fixed so many things in the house that need fixing, put up new shelves, CLEANED, gardened, brought me plants, done laundry, made dinner, and of course just taken care of the KIDS every week. They are giving me PRACTICAL gifts all the time. They are awesome. But they went for FUN for my birthday this year. TOYS. NOT QUITE SO PRACTICAL, aside from being, you know, still mildly practical.

Admittedly, I want it more for magazines and blogs and Twitter and junk more than for books. I'm still a paper-book person. But coincidentally in the past week I'd been recommended TWO, TWO separate works only available as eBooks, and now I have the opportunity to GET those! Also, it automatically came with a couple sample books, and I thought it was very considerate of it to give me Pride and Prejudice. OBVIOUSLY it was thinking of me personally, and not just randomly giving me one of the most widely regarded novels in the public domain or anything. I found myself distracted by about five chapters of that while I was trying to set everything else up.

Some people say multi-format readers distract people from book reading. The books on my multi-format reader were distracting me from doing the other junk I wanted to do.

Like it came preloaded with a Pandora app. I haven't been on Pandora for about four years, since I worked at the branch library nobody ever came to until we closed it so I ended up playing music on my computer to keep me company. But I logged in and it immediately launched into Pink Floyd. IT'S SO SWEET THAT PANDORA REMEMBERS ME AFTER ALL THIS TIME. So I spent most of that first evening listening to Pandora and reading social media sites. Yeah. Books. Whatever.

Of course, touchscreen typing is extremely annoying. Actually the touchscreen is finicky in general. It keeps thinking I'm tapping when I'm trying to scroll, or not tapping when I am tapping, or tapping more than I actually did, or otherwise being obnoxious. Which means I may COMMENT less if I'm reading stuff on the Nook instead of the computer. That might be... WEIRD.

But who knows, it might become something I get quite handy with once I start toting it around, which I'm afraid to do before I get a case for it. I'm determined to get a cover that says "DON'T PANIC" in large friendly letters on the front. SERIOUSLY, THIS HAS BEEN MY NUMBER-ONE REQUIREMENT FOR AN E-READER SINCE WAY BACK WHEN E-READERS WERE MOSTLY THEORETICAL. I KNOW someone makes them, somewhere, on Etsy or something. THEY MUST EXIST. But because they are not in the Barnes and Noble online store, I haven't found one yet.

Part 3: In Which I Finally Get My Long-Needed Mini-Vacation

So as I said, my parents took the kids with them for the weekend Friday night. So I awoke Saturday with no kids, husband off at his weekend morning job, and NOTHING REQUIRED OF ME FOR THE WHOLE MORNING. I spent extra time journaling, even pulling a writing prompt, which turned out to be making a writing-inspiration playlist, which ended up inspiring me less to write and more to play the piano, so I ran downstairs and PLAYED PIANO for quite some time, which is really something I can only get away with when I'm the only one home, because I'm terrible at it. I play piano for ME. I hurt the delicate sensibilities of anyone trying to listen in. Then I grabbed some cereal and caught up with Community on the computer while eating breakfast. Then I did bills, which sucked, but that was pretty much the only thing that sucked about the day.

Jason came home and made me an omelette-- it was a pepperoni omelette, one of those shockingly greasy concoctions only a man could come up with, but dudes, he MADE ME AN OMELETTE-- and then he had a Skype date with his friends for gaming, which was fine because just a short while later I left for a movie date with my friends. Even driving the long distance in my car all alone was enjoyable, because I had my Imaginary Husband on audiobook to keep me company-- did I mention that? Awhile back someone pointed out to me that, speaking of the cover I fully intend to get for my Nook, Martin Freeman had done audiobooks of books 2-5 of the Hitchhikers series, SERIOUSLY WHY DID NO ONE TELL ME ABOUT SOMETHING SO PERFECT SOONER?-- and so I've been ILLing them and listening in whatever moments I actually get to myself in the car, which is mostly my Wednesday commutes. (And guess what, not only is he STILL Absolutely Perfect as Arthur Dent, it turns out he's PERFECT AT EVERYONE ELSE, TOO. Because he's JUST THAT AWESOME). Or this very long drive to the movie theater.

I picked a very large theater just on the other side of the city, because it was a fairly central location to all the friends of mine who are also scattered around the Greater Pittsburgh Area, who also wanted to see The Hunger Games because they'd all read the book when *ahem* I told them to way back when. Also, it was right next to a bunch of nice restaurants. It was a mini college reunion. Even my old roommate who now lives in Baltimore showed up, because she happened to be in town for family stuff this weekend.

Honestly, I think I may have to thank the Prozac for this going as well as it did. I found myself ANNOYINGLY tongue-tied a lot, because my brain and mouth don't connect properly (I say this as explanation to the people who only know me online. The REASON I don't shut up when I'm typing is because I'm TERRIBLE at talking out loud. I have to let it out where I can let it out. Which is not out loud. That's where the whole WRITING thing came from). Now the old, non-drugged me would likely have become very nervous about this, and started to worry that maybe this whole idea was a disaster and I wasn't meant to have real-life friends, and then I might have panicked and possibly got all teary-eyed if I managed to talk myself into enough of a funk before someone distracted me. But drugged me could roll with it, and realize that EVERYONE WAS TOTALLY HAPPY TO BE THERE.

REALLY happy to be there, in fact. The only ones who could stay to do dinner with me afterward were two other mothers of two young children, and we all so, so needed that afternoon off. With other geeky friends. Everyone kept thanking ME for putting it together, and we kept saying we REALLY needed to do this more often. I actually thought of, and mentioned, [livejournal.com profile] elouise82 at this point-- she's another mother of two young children who could really use an afternoon off with geeky friends, but is very far away and I've never actually met her. But I think she belonged in that one empty seat at our table, in spirit. Definitely fit our theme.

The table, I'm sure you would like to know, was in a Bravo! Italian restaurant. I had a creamy pesto rigatoni dish that was quite nice, and then they brought me gelato with a candle for dessert. We'd actually originally tried to go to a Chinese place, but even though it was only 4:30ish, they already had a two-hour wait. The Italian place sat us right away. Still good!

Jason and I just hung out the evening watching The Two Towers while playing with the Nook-- okay, I was-- and eating leftover ice cream cake. Then this morning I slept in. I REALLY slept in. I am still torn between whether this was a WASTE of another Morning To Myself, or just what I needed. Because when do I ever sleep until nine?

Today was a much less luxuriant day-- I had church, which was Palm Sunday and so Extra Long; and I had to go to the grocery store. But then I went off to my parents' to get the kids (listening to my audiobook again on the way), and they made meatloaf with mashed potatoes and carrots and homemade hot spiced applesauce, which was seriously just like apple crisp without the "crisp" part. So that was nice too. Sam fell asleep on the way home, so they went straight to bed when we got here, and I've been typing to you ever since. NOW I think I'd better go to bed myself. It's back to the same old same old tomorrow.

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