Archive for January, 2011

January 31, 2011

January Reading Round-up

There was a lot of reading going on this month, 95% of it Required Winter Break Reading of Young Adult Classics.

Wait a second. Make that 100%.

What does this mean? That I should have been keeping a Death Count. Seriously, people are dying/going crazy/trying to kill themselves all over the place in historic YA!

1. Forever… by Judy Blume

I forgot how much I FREAKING LOVE this book. It’s 200 pages of amazingly raw first romance, gratuitous drama, and of course, sexy-sex. RALPH!!! Judy Blume is my hero.

2. Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry by Mildred D. Taylor

I was assigned this book for my Reading class in 7th grade… and I remember very clearly not finishing it on time and failing a reading test because I didn’t know what happened with some fire at the end of the book. I felt a little better when, 13 years later, I still didn’t quite understand what happened with that fire. I mean, I get it now, but it took me a few read throughs. Other than that, I was disturbed by how annoyingly didactic this novel is. “If you just go to school and save your pennies, you can rise out of poverty and racism and oppression, kids!” “Be one of the GOOD black people (Logans), children, not the BAD black people (T.J.) 1977 Newbery Medal.

3. Unleaving by Jill Paton Walsh

Rich, pages-long descriptions of the ocean. Thick, pages-long conversations between professors and students about the meaning of life and morality. If that’s what you’re into. Titled after one of my favorite poems. 1976 Boston Globe- Horn Book winner.

4. I Am The Cheese by Robert Cormier

Did I tell you that Robert Cormier’s daughter works at my school… and last semester, she worked withe ME for a few weeks? How bizarre, how bizarre. Much like this book! A psychological thriller with two competing timelines. I’m not sure I figured out what was going on by the end of the book.

5. The Language of Goldfish by Zibby ONeal

Really enjoyed this book. It’s a short, delicate story of a stressed out 13-year-old girl, a budding artist, who can’t figure out how to grow up and may or may not be going crazy. I wish I had time in my busy reading schedule to give this one another read-through.

6. Jacob Have I Loved by Katherine Paterson

Read this one during my hellish day of air transportation. A certain classmate of mine *cough* Kristina *cough* hated it and called the main character silent, self-pitying, and self-loathing. I suspect this particular classmate is not an oldest child with gorgeous, spoiled younger sisters. 1981 Newbery Medal

7. Annie on My Mind by Nancy Garden

Love, love, loved this book. I wish that 95% of people writing mainstream, heterosexual YA romance/high school stories right now would read this and take extensive notes. It’s really pitch perfect.

8. Annie John by Jamaica Kincaid

A literal coming-of-age novel. Each chapter is an unfolding of Annie John’s life in Antigua, beginning with early childhood memories of idolizing her mother, through the social challenges of high school, and ending when she boards a boat for college off the island. Pretty readable, but I wasn’t in love.

9. House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros

I read this using my patented, completely ineffective method of Wii Reading. Meaning – Read 10 pages, play one level of Donkey Kong Country Returns, Read 10 pages, play one more level. Consequently, I don’t remember much about this one.

10. Fallen Angels by Walter Dean Myers

This is a book about teenage soldiers in the Vietnam War. I expected it to be vaguely horrifying. It was. But I did not expect to actually enjoy the story. I did.

11. Remembering the Good Times by Richard Peck

Okay, there wasn’t anything WRONG with this book, plot-wise, content-wise, whatever. It was fine. However, all three main characters suffered from acute Dawson’s-Creek-itis, constantly waxing poetic about the Difficulty of Life, the Strength and Duration of their Friendships, the Horror of Growing Up. The three main characters are constantly running around talking about how close a friendship they have, how the three of them grew up together and have an unspoken bond of eternal trust. However, all three characters seem to have forgotten that A) They met A YEAR before the book’s main plot takes place and B) THEY ARE FOURTEEN. THEY ARE TOO YOUNG TO BE TALKING LIKE THEY ARE 50 YEARS OLD. /rant

12. Stotan! by Chris Crutcher

I forget that I like Chris Crutcher’s books so much… but there you have it. I do. Teen male camaraderie at its finest, and sports so well-rendered you’ll forget you hate sports.

13. The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier

Yet another case of the I-Swear-I-Read-This-Book-But-I-Really-Can’t-Remember-Anything-About-It. I was dutifully impressed, however. So impressed, I would prefer not to write a paper on this book. Unfortunately, the syllabus begs to differ.

14. I Hadn’t Meant to Tell You This by Jacqueline Woodson

Ever read a book whose plot relies on some character revelation midway through the novel, and then you read it again and catch all the foreshadowing you missed in the first half of the book? Yeah, that happened here. Such a sad, sad book.

15. A Step From Heaven by An Na

Lyrical prose, vignette-style narration, depicting the suckiness of family life as a new immigrant. 2002 Printz Winner.

16. Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson

Reading this for the umpteenth time, still tickled by Anderson’s wit and Melinda’s survival tactics. Will be spending a significant chunk of the semester thinking and writing and presenting about this novel… 2000 Printz Honor.

January 30, 2011

virus alert

I am really not very good at being sick.

I don’t have much practice, I guess. I never noticed, but according to my mother, I was one of her least infirm children. I had a few days off for the chicken pox. A stomach flu or two in grade school. Strep throat once. A mild case of mono in eleventh grade. A few sinus infections in college.

That’s about it.

So when I get a cold – and living with a second-year elementary school teacher, there are a lot of colds to be had – I tend to muscle through. I’m not even much for over-the-counter remedies: is there really anything of a more disgusting consistency than cough syrup? And what good is Nyquil if you’re trying to “muscle through” and not fall asleep at your desk?

So yeah, I often underestimate my… um… stamina. Like a few Thanksgivings ago, when I was getting ready to head to Lapeer to spend the holiday with Lance’s family. I felt like crap, sure, but I was pretty surprised when the nurse at my allergist office asked to take my temperature before giving me an allergy shot, and – lo and behold – I was fairly feverish. And no, that didn’t stop me from driving three hours to Lance’s house, or letting him drag me to the bar where his ska band was playing. At that point, I decided I was just going to lay in the backseat of my car and wait the night out… but THAT didn’t really stop me from doing the whole Zero Sleep, up at 4:30 to go Black Friday shopping an hour away, or whatever…

Gah, I am an idiot.

Which is why I went grocery shopping yesterday morning, even though I seemed sick enough for Lance – Lance who hates grocery shopping with a fiery passion – to offer to go without me. I could barely stand upright while I waited for my Starbucks and was pretty worse for the wear by the time I made it home. To make matters worse,  my sickness has taken a pattern of slow, spiraling descent. I spent one day thinking I was getting sick and feeling grumpy about it, then two or three days thinking I wasn’t getting sick, or at least it wouldn’t be that bad, then a few days feeling kind of lousy with a persistent cough and intermittent fits of sneezing, and then yesterday, when I ran a slight fever and just plain felt like shit. This kind of sickness enables my Magical Thinking

Okay, so you get it now? Here’s a game.

After coming home from shopping, Jessica does not curl up in front of the TV or take a nap like a normal sick person.

What does Jessica do?

a) Walk a mile downtown and a mile back, in the cold, tromping through snow in rubber rainboots

b) Visit two restaurants, two thrift stores, a liquor store, Trader Joe’s, Crate and Barrel, Barnes and Noble, and the Apple Store?

c) Climb all three flights of spiral stairs at the Apple Store?

d) Agree to entertaining friends in my apartment?

e) Drink 80% of a bottle of wine by myself?

f) Walk to three bars in the cold dead of the night, including one that is a snowy mile’s walk from her apartment?

g) Go to bed at closer-to-five-than-four-o’clock?

h) Carry a roll of toilet paper in her purse all day for nose blowing?

i) Go to work even though I sit at a Reference Desk and am obviously just infecting the masses and my coworkers?

j) All of the above?

The moral of the story:

It’s a good thing I don’t get sick very often. I suck at it.

January 27, 2011

Snow Morning

What do you do when life gives you a sort-of-you-don’t-have-to-go-to-work-until-four snow day?

Watch Skins (UK, not MTV)

Make pancakes.

Play Yarn Kirby!

 

 

January 26, 2011

Library (Student) Day in the Life, 2011 edition

It’s that time of year again… read my past Library Day in the Life entries here and here!

6:30 a.m. “Jessica!”

“What are you doing here? How is it possible for you to have ANOTHER snow day?”

“I’m sick! I’m taking a sick day!”

“—-”

“What! I get 20 sick days a year.”

“I hate you.”

7:00-9:00 a.m. A little alarm clock snooze, followed by an egg sandwich, shower and blowdry, and generally readying myself for the day. Boyfriend wakes up too and insists upon driving me to Starbucks before work. Well, I mean, if you REALLY WANT to, I guess we can go… Am very excited to avoid taking the damn 39 bus. Every day, I leave earlier and earlier and the bus gets later and later, and – of course – the temperature outside gets colder and colder. The day before, I shivered for so long – knees locked – at the zero-degree bus stop that once I boarded, I had to ask a lady to let me sit down before I passed the heck out. And the bus died. I hate the 39.

9:00-10:00 a.m. Boyfriend texted his friend saying, “Hey, I’m home today if you want to hang out later,” and he of questionable sleep habits replied, “Do you want to hang out right now?” Swing by his apartment on our way, debating whether he actually went to sleep the night before or not. Park in front of the Starbucks – have to shimmy over to the driver’s seat to get out of the car because of severe snowbankage. Order my usual – double tall two pump mocha with skim, and sip while we talk about circular time.

10:00-noon Job #1. Sent about 50 emails, made a few phone calls, and listened to two undergraduates debate where you should and should not study abroad and what majors you should or should not attempt. Briefly discussed Eyes on the Prize and how once you’ve seen the whole series and read the reader, it’s pretty much impossible to speak about race to anyone who hasn’t done the same.

noon-2:00 p.m. Job #2: Reference Desk! The desk is double-staffed at this time of day, so while the library foot traffic is heavy (never fewer than 5 girls huddled around a Laser Printer for two straight hours), I have few questions. I help a student from the Massachusetts School of Pharmacy get set up to search for and borrow books and help a GSLIS student find our secret gratis databases over chat. My boss then puts me to work looking up Choice‘s Outstanding Books of 2010 in the library catalog, and making a list of what we don’t own in Books In Print. Which is exactly the kind of busy work that soothes my soul. Ahhhh. And a friend came to visit me at the Ref desk, too, and we exchanged strategies for pub trivia that evening.

2:00-2:30 p.m. Wait in the interminable Laser Printer Line for some articles to spit out, then headed over to my First Library Class of the Semester! Chat with a few friends before class started, mostly about how much work we will have this semester, how little time, how little money, and how little health insurance.

2:30-5:00 p.m. Programming for Young Adults. The second class of the semester that opened with the question “So what exactly IS a young adult?” Uhhhhhhh. Went over the syllabus – booktalks and observing teens in their natural habitat and critiquing teen library spaces – then went over a brief history of adolescence and library services for teens. Feeling like a bit of a seasoned pro when I can identify the name drops – G. Stanley Hall, anyone? – and random Printz and Newbery winners.

5:00-5:30 p.m. The godforsaken 39 bus…. a;sij;ansdjfkljngksdfa. Call my best friend who I haven’t spoke to since she had a baby last week, and try not to speak too inappropriately while she recaps labor and other gross baby things. Have to squeeze myself out of the bus like a sausage at my stop.

5:30-7:15 p.m. Help my Delinquent Boyfriend make the chipotle corn chowder from Mark Bittman’s Food Matters cookbook, although he took his friend and our roommate to an Indian buffet for lunch and isn’t even hungry enough to eat. Chill out on the couch for a bit before bundling back up and out into the cold for a little pub trivia.

7:15-10:00 p.m. The Brendan Behan is packed. We can’t get a table – just a few bar stools – but with a seven-person entourage, we put up a damn good fight, and answered some seriously obscure questions about weird Coen Brothers films, European explorers and Sailor Jerry’s rum. We were in third place at the final round, and we decided to just bet 10 on both questions… and if we’d got both right, we would have tied for first! However, we got one wrong: apparently The Color Purple was the Steven Spielberg flick that earned the most Oscar nominations without any wins… not E.T. Ugh. We are annoyingly Gen X (or are we Millenials? I’ll report back after a few more classes)

10:00-10:30 p.m. Frosty cold walk home, sleep in a nice warm bed, dreaming of… the 10 to 12 inches of snow on their way to Boston.

Oh, wait. Those are nightmares.

Maybe a few Library Day in the Life’s from now, I’ll be posting from somewhere a little more temperate.

 

January 23, 2011

Love Letter 2011

Dear Lance,

This is late. This is the first time since I started this little January 22nd tradition that I’ve been late.

Yesterday? There just wasn’t the time.

Yesterday, I woke up next to you on an air mattress wearing yesterday’s clothes. Crashed. Friday night turned from a friendly social call into an all night beer-ponging, FourLoko-swilling, bar-hopping evening.

It was a flashback – quite similar to what we were doing the night we met, or January 22, 2004, or any number of normative evenings at Central Michigan University – but better. In seven years, we have nicer apartments and queen-sized air mattresses for guests, our hosts make us eggs before sending us on our way, and we rehydrate with coconut water from Whole Foods.

The weather was cold but the sun was out. Our legs are still young, capable, healthy… why not walk the 3 miles home from Brighton Center? So we did. We walked and walked and talked and talked – piecing together details from the previous evening, debating the craziness that is the US food industry, talked about setting goals and motivating yourself to complete them. When we arrived home, our shoes were soaked, our bodies still dizzy and hungover, but we had just enough time to shower and put together a grocery list before leaving to run our Saturday errands.

The day unraveled quickly after that – two grocery stores and a library, a dinner reservation at 6:30, cake and presents with friends. After four courses at the Melting Pot and minuscule slices of Chocolate Guinness Cake – not to mention the residual queasiness of the previous evening’s bacchanal – running down the street for birthday drinks wasn’t on the table.

Turned in early.

Went to bed without a free hour to sit and contemplate the past seven years, and to compose this letter to you.

It was the first anniversary out of seven where we had the entire day together.

It’s easy to forget to be sentimental because now, this is our life. We wake up, we try not to shove each other out of bed reaching for the alarm clock, we work, we play, we go to sleep and wake up together the next morning.

I will ask you, every Saturday morning, what you want to eat for your lunches. You will walk through the apartment twice before taking off your snow-covered shoes.

When I’m having a shitty day, I will send you suicidal text messages and wait for you to get home so I can cry. In five to seven days, you will catch my cold.

I’m still processing what happened last semester. Maybe it was our respective workloads, but sometimes I felt like we were on different planets, maybe even revolving around different suns. Our time together was scant, reserved for a few shared meals every week, a few moments awake, lying in bed and staring up at the ceiling before sleep, those harrowing Boston car rides from JP to Brookline to do our weekly shopping.

At a time in my life when I am feeling so uncertain about my place, my future, my career, it’s easy for you and your priorities to seem far away, even as we share meals, bills, laundry baskets, common colds.

But in the end, there are days like yesterday – sweet days when we have nothing to do but take a long walk in the snow and stuff ourselves with cake – and nights when we stare at the ceiling for three minutes and talk about our cat before we fall asleep.

You are still here. We are still here. A lot happens in a year, in seven years, in a lifetime. Sometimes, there isn’t enough time to think about it. But it’s here. It’s still here.

We are still walking together in the snow, holding hands, every day.

Happy anniversary, love.

Yours,

Jessica

January 20, 2011

get used to it

Four days, four books.

Ah, such is life such is life.

Semester starts in three… two… one…

January 17, 2011

three is a magic number

1. I walked into a strange university library today, looking to exercise my borrowing rights as a part of a library consortium and obtain two YA books I need to read for class. The following conversation transpired.

Me: “I’m looking for a few children’s books. I checked the catalog from home and it said they are in, but I don’t have the call numbers or know where the children’s books are.”

Snarky Librarian Who Has No Idea Who He’s Talking To: “Well, call numbers are very important for finding books.”

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2. I am learning to knit!

I do not know what I am knitting It’s too wide to be a washcloth, and I don’t even know how much yarn I have left. Also, when I do run out of yarn, I think I might have to run to my new local yarn store and ask a knowledgeable employee to tell me how to… oh… stop knitting and do whatever it is you do to cast off or something.

3. The Grind is slowly returning. Working 29 hours this week and classes resume in 7 short days. I have a little over a bottle of wine in my fridge, and when it’s gone, I think I’ll have to stop buying/drinking so much alcohol and return to the sober world of early bedtimes and earlier alarm clocks.

Le.

Sigh.

January 13, 2011

How To Travel By Air (or not…)

Step One:

Somehow manage to completely delude yourself into thinking your flight is on Monday, when in fact, your flight is on Tuesday.

Bonus points if the person who informs you of this error is a surly Southwest customer service agent behind the baggage checking counter.

Bonus bonus points if you printed off your flight confirmation email before walking out the door and still neglect to notice the JANUARY 11 staring at your face

Bonus bonus bonus points if your sister had to drive you an hour to the airport.

Step Two:

Put yourself into a mental and physical funk over this misstep.

Spend all of Monday working yourself toward a migraine and spend Tuesday morning sleeping in. You will wake up well-rested, albeit rather groggy and in a certain amount of pain, at 10 a.m.

Step Three:

Have the good fortune of attempting to fly home during a week where there is snow in 49 states.

The second leg of your flight will be canceled at about 10:15 a.m. Talk to oblivious Southwest customer service agents while you shove down your only meal of the day – toast with peanut butter and jelly – and force your groggy brain to figure out how you are going to get back to Boston A) in time to work on Thursday morning and B) without financial penalty.

Step Four:

Be reckless. Be wild! Be totally insane!

Throw caution to the wind. Sure, you could bet on Wednesday’s weather holding out, or even the good graces of your employers, if you happen to end up flying on Thursday and cannot make your shift at the Reference Desk.

But why do that when you can book a 12:40 flight at 10:30, when you are both in your pajamas, half-packed, without a car or a ride, and an hour away from the airport? Oh, and a plane that is flying into a city Southwest has labeled with a weather advisory so severe they are offering free flight transfers ahead of cancellations, and then from there into a city that is expecting 1-2 feet of snow starting in the evening?

Rely on the following for support:

– your tireless mother who leaves her cell phone ringer on during meetings expressly to answer “yes” when you call and ask her if she can drop everything she is doing, come home, and drive you to the airport.

– the fact that because you are an idiot and thought your flight was yesterday, your bags are already 95% packed and your suitcase will only require ten minutes of sitting and stomping and zipping.

– the assurance that even if you are stranded at BWI for anywhere from a few hours to a few days, you have a friend, a cousin, and an uncle who all live nearby and might offer refuge.

– a sister who remembers your energy drink in the fridge and brings it to you for the car trip to the airport.

Step Five:

Open your karmic doors to airport miracles.

Repeat to yourself:

“Traffic and weather will not impede my journey down I-94 in any way.”

“I will successfully check two bags and pose for a naked security photo in 20 minutes or less.”

“I will not be randomly selected for a full-body pat-down cavity-check terrorism search.”

“My gate will be preternaturally close to the airport entrance.”

“My connecting flight will be not be cancelled.”

“My boyfriend will eventually pick up his phone or read any of my frantic text messages and know I will be at the airport about 5 hours ahead of schedule.”

“This whole ‘de-icing’ the wings process will not be so prohibitively slow that I will miss my connecting flight.”

“The gate for my flight transfer won’t be too far from my departing flight, or too difficult to locate.”

“My bags and I will make it to the same location at the same time, and if not, my panic-attack-handwriting on my luggage tags will be legible enough for someone to leave my bags at my apartment, eventually.”

“The zipper on my suitcase that popped open in the middle won’t slowly unzip while in transit, my every belonging spilling into the abyss of airplane cargo.”

Step Six:

Don’t be afraid to run.

The gates might be close, but you don’t know that for sure and yes, your plane is already boarding, so if you get a move on, you might even have the chance to pee before your flight leaves.

Step Seven:

Be prepared.

Carry, on your person:

– Two Touchstones of Young Adult Literature, for productive entertainment (when you control that panicky-fuzzy-brain, finally)

– Gum, for ear poppin’

– Chapstick, for lip glossin’

– Excedrin, for aforementioned migraine

– Three Driver’s Licenses (two expired, one current), because last year you tried to fly with none, so you might as well be cautious

– Headphones and Kanye, for the inevitable chatty passengers who distract you from your riveting Touchstones

– Laptop, for accessing free wi-fi when you are stuck between departures and baggage claim at Boston Logan, due to some kind of security breach, and entertaining yourself while your boyfriend drives all the way from Southbridge after missing all of your frantic calls and texts until after you’ve landed.

Step Eight:

Do not cross your apartment’s threshold before acquiring the essentials.

– Groceries for that pesky snowstorm you barely averted

– Three bottles of wine and a case of Sam Adams

– Take-out pad thai, to make up for a pathetic daily diet of toast and airline peanuts.

Step Nine

If at all possible, schedule a day for recovery immediately after arrival.

Bonus points if you have snow outside and a boyfriend inside.

Bonus bonus points if you play over 2 hours of video games on your brand new HD-TV.

January 12, 2011

is it 2011 yet?

After two days of Epic Travel Adventures/Failures/Constant Panic Attacks, I woke up this morning in my own bed.

In Boston.

So that means it is 2011, and I have to start doing 2011 things, I have to stop being on vacation, I have to return to real life.

Of course, today, real life is a foot of snow, leftover pad thai, clearing a path through my bedroom, and Wii.

…..

I think reality will smack me in the face tomorrow when I have to put on my boots and walk through the mess for an 8 hour shift at the Reference desk.

But I’m not in Michigan and I’m not on a plane.

I’m coming back!

Stay tuned.

January 5, 2011

Best Reads of 2010

10. Making Mischief: A Maurice Sendak Appreciation by Gregory Maguire

9. The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan

8. Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer

7. A Tree Grows In Brooklyn by Betty Smith

6. Push by Sapphire

5. To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee

 

4. The Catcher in the Rye

3. Committed by Elizabeth Gilbert

2. The Creative Habit by Twyla Tharp

1. This Is Not The Story You Think It Is by Laura Munson