Monthly Archives: September 2015

Oh yeah. I turned 23 last week.

I’m sitting here, racking my brain for something to blog about, when suddenly I remember…I had a birthday last week.

The celebration lasted practically all week.  We started the Saturday before.  My best friend Emily woke up SUPER early to bake me a chocolate rum cake (Thanks Em).  She and a few other girl friends came over that night.  We had a few drinks, ate the cake, and watched Scooby Doo until we fell asleep.  We were also cuddling with kittens that night, so that was fun.

The next night, my boyfriend made me a steak dinner.  It was SO good.  I wish we had the opportunity for him to cook me dinner more often.  He’s really great at cooking.

I picked Mom up from the airport on Wednesday and then met Jennifer at Freeman’s for some birthday drinks.  I finally got to try an Old Fashioned cocktail, and my boyfriend, Jennifer, and Heather (my favorite bartender) sang me “Happy Birthday” exactly at midnight.

On the morning of my birthday, we went to breakfast like we always do on my birthday.  It’s the same place we used to go with my dad, and they would cut my pancakes into the shape of a horse.  They also have excellent coffee.

And then we went to T.G.I.Friday’s for dinner.  Mom let me have a $3 margarita, plus I LOVE their Jack Daniels sauce.  It was all good.

So all in all, my first week as a 23-year-old has been pretty good.  Here are my goals to reach before I turn 24:

  • Finish my novel to the point where I can send it to agents.
  • Get a full time job.
  • Move out of Mom’s house.
  • ACTUALLY learn to play guitar.
  • Get the amount of books I own but haven’t read below 100.
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Kittens and Scooby Doo and Work, oh my.

I’ve kind of been dreading this blog post.  I haven’t really written in a couple weeks now and everything feels all…jumbled.  I thought I’d have a ton of time to write, since my mom’s out of town, but I’ve also worked 10 extra hours a week, PLUS gone on two interviews, PLUS had people come over to celebrate my birthday.  Between all of that, I’ve been too physically tired, not to mention emotionally exhausted, to really try to write.

Oh, and I started cleaning my room again.  Basically, I don’t feel like I’ve really sat down or been alone in two weeks.  At least, not simultaneously.

Of course, that makes me really nervous because I’m trying to get a full time job, and if I can’t write while working 30 hours a week, what am I going to do working 40?  (Still, I hope cleaning up and making my “writing corner” a comfortable place is going to help.)

Hopefully, in the next few weeks, I will tell you how that goes, plus have an update on the job search.  In the meantime, who wants to hear about kittens and Scooby Doo?

Scooby Doo: I binge-watched the 2010, Mystery Incorporated series recently.  As such, there are spoilers ahead.  I have mixed feelings about the characters in the beginning, but I love how they develop and I love their friendships.  I love Daphne, who is mostly danger-prone because her idea of a good time is hanging out in creepy places and when there’s a scary noise, she’s the first to walk in and investigate.  I like that Shaggy and Velma start off together but end as friends.  It proves that guys and girls can be friends and just because there are four of you and two are dating doesn’t mean you aren’t all close.  I firmly believe that Velma in this series is bisexual and the ending proves that she belongs with Marcie.  I really love all the call backs to old Scooby Doo shows and movies.  The only thing I have mixed feelings on is the “reset” at the end of the show, and the fact that there really is something supernatural going on.  On the one hand, they made for great story.  On the other, they kind of go against the idea behind Scooby Doo.  Although the way the gang ends up is perfect for them.

Kittens: Allison’s friend brought them over.  Her aunt was going to drop them by a lake or in a lake or something.  I am my father’s kid and told her we’d keep them until Mom got home, and we’d work on finding them homes.

Of course, now I’m completely in love and don’t want to give any of them up.

They get into everything and still haven’t learned that they don’t belong on the counter or the table.  Their claws are sharp, and I have more than one spot that bled from feeling it.  They don’t get along with Allison’s cat.  And I had to give them a bath today (exacerbating the clawing problem) because Leslie found some fleas on them.

Joy.

But man are they adorable.  They play together and sleep together and sometimes will cuddle with me.  I’m trying to get them to sleep in my bed, but closing my door at night is a hard habit to break.  I don’t know what’s going to happen Wednesday when Mom says two have to go.  I may cry.  Although the fact that she is considering letting us keep any is kind of a miracle.

Mostly though, I’m worried about splitting them up, because they do play and sleep together so well and so often.  But Leslie said they’d be fine, so I’m going to believe her.  IF I have to give two of them up…well, they’ll all be okay.  Still: how do you choose just one?

Nap time!

Nap time!

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Cathy’s Book

I’m still behind, but I’m getting caught up.  At least, this week I am.  This week I have a lot of energy, AND I’m prioritizing with a to-do list.  It’s no longer “read when I feel like it,” but “read for 30 minutes per day regardless.”  Might sound bad, but it actually does feel good.  Plus, with this book, I got so into it that I would read longer than my allotted time.  It just shows that getting into something is half the battle.

I read Cathy’s Book  by Sean Stewart and Jordan Weisman, which I have owned for years now.  This book scared me for two reasons: 1, it had a lot of “evidence” in a pocket in the front, and I wanted to read it when I could pull them all out and examine them without having to worry about losing them; 2, if you look at the cover, you’ll notice…a phone number.

And it isn’t one of those “555” ones.  It’s an actual number.  The story is an interactive mystery.  Visiting the websites wasn’t a problem at all, but calling the numbers?  With my phone anxiety, the first few were almost impossible.  I know they can’t use a phone number that isn’t “555” unless they’re using it for the book, and in that case they probably wouldn’t reach a life person, but part of me kept worrying.  It’s been nine years since this book was published.  Could they have reassigned these numbers by now?

(They haven’t, in case you’re wondering.)

Solving the mystery was fairly satisfying…but also, a little not, since it isn’t exactly a plausible explanation.  And of course, it’s the start of a trilogy, so I feel like there’s more to the story that I can’t get my hands on yet.  But it really was engaging, and it was definitely different than any other book I’ve read recently.

My most favorite thing about this book:  I am so, SO glad that (spoiler alert) he wasn’t a vampire, in the end.  Thank God for that.

My least favorite thing about this book: That it does seem like a shallow mystery and to dig deeper you have to read a second book.

Who I would most like to recommend this book to: Probably 8th graders who like mystery novels.  Or Twilight.

Where this book sits on my bookshelf:  It will go on the shelf in my bedroom, which is the only one unaffected by Mom getting custom shelving in the bonus room.  It will be after my pretty copy of The Winter of Our Discontent and before The Help.

Book Challenge

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Prisoner Rights with Alexander Solzhenitsyn

One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich by Alexander Solzhenitsyn is a “slice of life” novella that describes a single day in a Serbian labor camp through the eyes of a single prisoner who is only a few years away from the end of his ten-year sentence.

Generally speaking, when an author (or a movie) is trying to introduce a brand new world, they use an audience stand-in, a new person who is going to ask all the same questions the audience has.  Using Ivan Denisovich, or Shukhov, as he is usually referred to in the book, was better in this instance because he knew all the nuances about the prison and how the system worked.  He would occasionally comment on them or suggest someone else was violating an unspoken norm.  When we hear about his former life, they are only vague glimpses, and he acts as though it is another world long dead whereas a new person may still be hopeful of going back to it.  Mostly, this highlights the cruelty of the system.

He also does this with his descriptions of the setting.  Obviously, the area is below freezing, and describing how quickly the mortar freezes is an indication of how difficult it is for people to work like this.

The people in the prison make it even worse, as the policies are designed to turn the “zeks” (prisoners) against each other and to give power to the guards, who treat them more as cattle than people.  This results in a world where everyone is distrustful of everyone else.  You have a small group of people you look out for but, otherwise, you must do what you can to help yourself.  The authorities will not ensure you have enough to eat, warm clothes, or that your possessions are safe.  Only you can do that.

The most important thing to remember is that it is titled “one day.”   The book is less than 200 pages long, but the single day fills every one of them, showing how long it is.  Most writing advice you will hear when beginning a story is, “What makes this day different than all of the others?”  But Solzhenitsyn chose a different path.  “There were three thousand six hundred and fifty-three days like that in his stretch.”  This further shows the cruelty of prison, if this is the work they have to do every single day.  In fact, Shukhov calls this a “good day” because he did good work and got a little extra food.  If that is considered a good day, who wants to imagine the bad ones?

The reader is almost halfway through the book before they are told what Shukhov was arrested for.  We have already seen his cold, aching back, and grumbling stomach so that we are sympathetic towards him and his condition before we find out that he didn’t even do anything wrong.  This is Solzhenitsyn’s way of showing how truly inhumane the system is: that the punishment is unfair regardless of the crime.

This is obviously a cause close to Alexander Solzhenitsyn’s heart.  The book is told in omniscient 3rd person, but, with less than 30 pages to go, he breaks that barrier and joins the prisoners.  “That’s what everyone used to say: ‘Going home.’  We never had time to think of any other home.”  It pulls you out of the story just enough to cause you to think about who is telling the story, and whether or not it could be more memory than fiction.  Reading the author’s description, you see that he did experience life in a labor camp.  Adding in this personal tone solidifies the problem for the readers, and forces them to consider it in terms of real life rather than fiction.

It is a short book, but it is a huge statement, and every word in it works towards that purpose.

(It’s also the book I used for the “set in another country slot.”

Book Challenge

My most favorite thing about this book:  Towards the end, Shukhov looks down his nose on someone for being nice to people but not trading favors the way prisoners have to do, and then turns around and is nice to the guy anyway.  I think it sums up his character: cynical, hardened, but overall good.

My least favorite thing about this book: The format.  Even in a book as short as this, not being separated at all makes it seem longer.  Of course, this also goes to show how long the day is and works towards the author’s point of the system’s cruelty, but it makes it a difficult read.

Who I would most like to recommend this book to: My poli-sci nerd friend, Caroline!  (Mostly because we discussed this already.)

Where this book sits on my bookshelf:  Well…it’s going to go between The Egypt Game and The Talking Eggs, but…my shelves are kind of in chaos right now, so at the moment, I’m going to stick it in front of The Library Card, until I can get the chaos in order.

(Mom’s putting in new shelves, so my books are a bit homeless just now.)

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How the Turntables

So here’s the big thing going on in my work life right now: the libraries are gaining full-time hours.

A few years ago (I think it’s been six now), the county commissioners cut library funding so that each branch could only afford to be open 24 hours a week instead of 40.  To ensure people still worked a full-time week, branches were paired.  A team of librarians would work at two separate branches.  When I was hired a year ago, I joined the Belmont/Lowell team, although I spend most of my time at Belmont simply because Lowell isn’t busy enough to need four librarians at a time.

Even after all these years, we have patrons complain.  We’d be checking out their books and the would sigh, telling us that they simply can’t keep up with which days we’re open.  We didn’t much like it either, to be honest, and at the Staff Development Day in February, the party line was “We hope the county commissioners give us our hours back.  Maybe this is our year!”  And you know what?  It was.

(Our theory is that, after the scandal where the commissioners tried to pass a bill so they would have health insurance for life even after they were voted out of office, which had everyone angry, they were looking for some good press.  Hence, our library budget being passed.)

So, yay.  Libraries will be open 40 hours a week.  Now what?

What I expected: to be promoted to a full-time position, maybe move to a different branch, but ultimately for the library’s growth to result in my own career growth.

I think, to some extent, we all expected that.  One of my coworkers applied for a supervisor position.  The other, however, was very happy in her position and expected to stay where she was.  The main point is that this was something we, as a group, had been wanting for a while, so we, as individuals, expected it to be good for all of us.

In reality…it hasn’t been so great.  At least not for me personally.  I didn’t get the full-time position, and I’m being moved to a different branch.  A lot of people are moving to different branches, which will be a lot for us to get used to.  Patrons have complained about it also, saying that they’ve gotten to know us and like us and don’t want to come to a familiar place and see unfamiliar faces.

The actual changeover is in mid-October, but the chaos itself has already begun, bringing confusion and frustration to a lot of us.  The positives could outweigh the negatives but, in the meantime, we’re losing people and morale.

All of this to say…sometimes what you thought you wanted isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.  Or maybe it’s because we only imagined the good side and never considered the obstacles.  In a year, maybe this will be a vague memory and people will simply enjoy their full-time libraries.

I guess, in that case, we could consider this…chapter one.

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One Day…

I work in a library…and yet, finding time to read is nearly impossible.  What’s up with that?

Anyway, I’ve been working on One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich.  It’s such a short book that I didn’t expect to have a problem finishing it, but finding the time to read (when I’m not completely exhausted) has been a challenge lately.  Even my days off are filled with to-do lists and expectations.  The fact that I feel like I have to read every week makes it feel more like a chore than a joy and I feel like I’m back in school.  The combination of the two means that I’m doing less reading now than ever before.

I have set the 2015 Book Challenge for myself, and so I will find a way to accomplish it.  But next year, I’m not going to worry about how much I read.  Instead, I’m going to focus on enjoying every minute of it.

In the meantime, I am still working on One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich.  Here are my thoughts on it so far.

  • I realize it’s a short book, but I HATE when there are no chapter breaks at all.  I just need a little something to break it into chunks for easier reading.
  • Showing us the main character’s life in prison before telling us what he is in there for was genius.  I was already feeling sympathy for him, and now I’m angry at the system.
  • There are a lot of details, but they’re so vivid and fascinating that I never feel like Solzhenitsyn is oversharing.
  • I still can’t pronounce either Denisovich or Solzhenitsyn to my satisfaction.
  • But every time I read the word “gulag” I think about Tina Fey and the Muppets.
  • The structure of the prison community is interesting to consider, because the “higher-ups” obviously designed it for easy control, but it also promotes camaraderie, which probably wasn’t the goal.

Anyway.  Trying to do better.  But I’ve been so busy…

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Five Things I Know About Myself

Last Saturday, I was at my friend’s house watching Girl Meets World.  There are a lot of people who think it’s dumb or Disney shows in general are dumb.  I’ll give you this: every Disney show is not automatically worth watching.  But Girl Meets World is one of those shows that makes me feel very uncomfortable, in the “I’m now going to question who I am and what I’m doing with my life because these kids are figuring that out and, well…do you ever really stop?”

I’m 22 years old.  In fact, later this month, I will turn 23.  So here are some things that I definitely for sure know about myself based on 23 years of living with myself.

  1. I want to be a writer.  I didn’t exactly lie to my mother when she asked what I want to be when I grow up.  I told her “I want to work in marketing.”  That’s mostly true.  I think it would be a really cool job that would introduce me to interesting people and challenge me creatively.  But, when it comes down to it, what I really want to be is a writer.
  2. I am an introvert.  When it comes to people, there is some correlation between how much I like a person and how much time I can spend with them.  In the end, though, there is a point where I’m just done, no matter how much I like you.  People exhaust me, even when I’m having fun, and at the end of it, I feel the need to be by myself.
  3. My greatest fear is entrapment which is probably why I’m not too happy with my life just now.  I’m never happier than when I’m travelling, and all of my worst nightmares involve being locked in a house or compound of some sort.  The quote that best sums me up? “I haven’t been everywhere, but it’s on my list.”
  4. I am a Gryffindor, and welcome back to Hogwarts everybody!  No, seriously though, this is a huge piece of my self-perceived identity.  Am I brave?  Probably not.  But God do I try to be.  And that is something I value in anyone: courage.  So yes, I belong to the noble house of Godric Gryffindor, and I’m proud to say so.
  5. I am constantly changing. Who I am now is not who I was in middle school or high school or college.  And I’m okay with that.  Actually, I’m pretty happy about it.  Let’s be honest: I’m not who I want to be yet.  I want to be consistently creative and resilient; I want to be inspiringly bold and compassionate.  I want to be my favorite heroines from my favorite stories who take care of people, or don’t take shit from people, or who take risks and make things happen.  I am none of those things…  But I also understand people better, am more open-minded to other points of view, and am more aware of the world in general.  I may have fewer friends, but the ones I have are people I trust not to judge me, who I can relax and enjoy myself with without pretending to be someone I’m not.  I have more stories under my belt and think more deeply about them.  I’m learning.  I’m always learning.  It’s part of the growing.  And I hope to do a lot more growing in the future.

But I don’t believe these things are going to change.  Then again, some things I thought were essential to my being have changed completely.  Who knows who I’ll be in another five or ten years?  Not me.

That’s a little bit terrifying, but it’s also pretty damn exciting, if you think about it the right way.

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