Archive for March, 2011

March 31, 2011

March Reading Round-up

Even though I have a week off for Spring Break, March is usually a fairly light reading month for me. Maybe because a week off from school means a week off from my syllabus? But heck, who am I kidding, I am having trouble even attending to my obligatory 2-novels-a-week quota.

Ah, well. Some months are lean, some have books of plenty, their reading cups runneth over, et cetera. Take it easy, Jessica, it will all get read, in time.

1. Alice in Charge by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor

I read my first Alice book in 5th grade, when Alice was a year ahead of me. Now, 10 years later, Alice is finally a Senior in high school, and Lester – her epically older, working on his Masters since I was in middle school, brother – just turned 24.

I am now the most epically old person alive.

Anyway, this year, Alice is going on (underplanned, heavily misguided) college visits, helping a friend report unsavory teacher-student relations, and investigating an undercover hate group that has targeted her friend, a refugee from Sudan.

But, most importantly, she’s pining over Patrick, who has started college a year early (what an idiot). Ah, sigh, Alice and Patrick, Patrick and Alice. Some things just don’t change in 10 years.

2. Real Live Boyfriends by E. Lockhart

I wrote about how much I enjoyed reading this book, but I didn’t go into much detail as to why.

Here’s the quick and dirty: E. Lockhart’s books, without fail, remind me of the sheer complexity of attempting to maintain a romantic relationship with another human being, the triumphs, the pain, the importance of keeping at it. They might be considered “romantic comedies,” but they never sell a single character or interaction short.

These books make me want to hug them. Like, actually hug.

3. Split by Swati Avasthi

Return of the Syllabus… but I really enjoyed this book. The novel begins with Jace knocking on the door of his older brother, who he hasn’t seen in a number of years and who isn’t expecting him for a visit, much less to move in and stay awhile. Christian is miffed, but he understands, since he ran away from the same home years before to escape the domestic abuse of their father… who is a District Judge. The story focuses on Jace adapting to a new life while trying to reach out to the mother he left behind, trying to relate to a similarly emotionally damaged brother, and dealing with a bit of a secret past that could come back to haunt him.

I found this to be one of those books that zips right along, the pages flying by for a few days and when you are done, you don’t feel floored (or prone to book-hugging) but just satisfied.

2010 Cybils Winner – Young Adult Fiction

4. The Rules of Survival by Nancy Werlin

We read this book for class alongside Split, which turned this class period into a Domestic Abuse Extravaganza!! (These books are pretty much all super depressing this semester)

This time around, we have a crazy, occasionally violent mother. Nikki has three kids from two different fathers, and this novel is a letter written from the oldest (Matthew) to the youngest (Emmy). Matthew and his sister Callie have done a great job of keeping Emmy safe from Nikki’s crazy outbursts and drunken rages, but Matthew still secretly hopes that somebody – a Knight in Shining Armor – will show up and save them all, even though he’s not sure that Nikki is really “all that bad.” Matt and Callie see a strong, kindly stranger in their neighborhood and decide that he is the One, and they hunt him down and find his name and address. However, Nikki finds Murdoch first and seduces him, and when their romantic relationship fizzles, Nikki turns her rage towards him.

I’d read this book a few years ago and I definitely enjoyed the re-read, but unlike say, Split, the end of the book felt a little scrapped together, a little disconcerting. Well, the whole book was a bit disconcerting, but I didn’t close the novel feeling resolved – I left feeling a little lost, a little confused… and all the more glad that I have a pair of mentally balanced parents.

2006 National Book Award Finalist

5. Stolen by Lucy Christopher

I’ll say this first – this book has me all sorts of riled up, for a number of reasons.

I feel like I don’t want to spoil much, but I’m going to anyway. In chapter one, the narrator – Gemma – is drugged and abducted at the airport and flown against her will and her knowledge to the remote deserts of Australia where her captor has spent years building a little homestead for the two of them to live.

The novel has two storylines, then:

1) Gemma tries to escape

2) Gemma falls in love with her captor

The second story line bothered me, but it mostly bothered me because it was really obvious that the story line was SUPPOSED to bother me.

I don’t like feeling manipulated…

but I suppose it DID make me think, right? And also we talked about Colonialism in class – Stockholm Syndrome = the oppressors tricking the oppressed into wanting to be oppressed – which I thought was crazy-interesting.

So I’m torn.

2011 Printz Honor

6. Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother by Amy Chua

It was a BPL miracle: this book was getting a lot of hype in the media/blogosphere, I went to put a hold on it, I WAS NUMBER FOUR IN LINE.

Anyway, last week when I was recovering from my terrible illness, I missed out on 12 hours of work on Thursday and thought I would go onto campus and do a little extra on Friday. But first, I had to walk to the library to drop off my overdues and pick up my holds.

The bags were really heavy, though, and I forgot my caffeine in my fridge, and walking a mile was a little exhausting. I did not make it to work on Friday – I made it back onto the couch and read through this book in the span of an afternoon.

I found the book to be not much at all like the media portrayed it – it wasn’t a parenting polemic, it was a memoir. It wasn’t a “This is How You Should Raise Your Kids,” this is “This is How I Raised My Kids and It Kind of Worked and Kind of Didn’t.”

The book revolves around her two daughter’s music lessons and skills – they are both highly advanced musicians because Ms. Chua lorded over their hours-a-day practicing and arranged for them the best lessons available – so I naturally handed this one off to my boyfriend.

However, I didn’t expect him to eat it up like he currently is…

more about THAT later…

Advertisements
March 29, 2011

socially networked

Talking about teens and technology in a room full of library students is a trip.

Most of my classmates are in their mid-twenties, with a bit of distribution higher or lower, which means most of us have used computers since elementary school, the Internet since middle school, Facebook since college, et cetera. We are pretty digitally savvy/integrated although we aren’t quite as “digitally native” as the teen patrons we hope to someday serve.

By the way, if I hear or say the term “digital native” one. single. more. time, I am really going to shoot myself in the eye. Seriously.

Anyway, even though we are online-type people, we still, as a group, have quite a few hang-ups regarding teen use and Internet use in general.

  • It’s great that teens can find social communities online when their human communities fail them, but it can be dangerous….. if you’re not anorexic or suicidal when you first touch a computer, you probably will be before the end of the year, and what about their social skills? Are they just going to meet people and fall in love and get married on Second Life?!?! HOLY MOLEY!
  • The Internet makes things EASIER and FASTER and MORE FUN! But if you read Sparknotes, you might as well put your application in at McDonalds. And you’ll just never learn to write properly in a text message box and with all those windows open all the time distracting you from Deep Thinking, so kiss your English major dreams goodbye.
  • If you’re a teenager, you shouldn’t give your mom your Facebook password. That’s just stupid. But your parents and your school should have taught you “net safety” tips – don’t give out your address, take a hooker-picture in your bathroom mirror, send your boyfriend a naked text – so you can be a responsible Internet user. In other words – you can use technology, but NOT LIKE THAT!

What really got me thinking was our chats about Facebook. The class was open to the idea of Internet as an addiction, as if the existence of technology creates a need to use said technology that was not there before. On a personal level, I completely agree, and I constantly assess the way technology affects my life and my choices and whatever. I try to control the amount of time I spend on the fun Internet things, the number of subscriptions and memberships and tools I use and subscribe to.

But at what point does something “cool” become something “essential?”

The class example was Facebook. Most people in the room, I’m assuming, use Facebook socially. The conversation turned to the weirdness of teens having hundreds of friends on Facebook they didn’t know (“Why is that necessary?”), the weirdness of needing to check Facebook constantly (“I quit for a year, voluntarily, and I found other things to do”), the weirdness of people spreading information “inappropriately” through Facebook (“I found out my friend was PREGNANT! On FACEBOOK. WHAT THE HELL?!” “Somebody posted that they ate a SANDWICH? On FACEBOOK? WHAT THE HELL!?!”), and why do we all NEED to be online so much anyway? (“I barely use Facebook, gawd, you guys are all addicted).

And I started to balk.

So people are checking Facebook too much, and people are putting more and more information out there and the rules of “conduct” for spreading information online is changing.

How can you ask people – especially – teens to “opt out” of technology because you think the whole thing is WEIRD and OBSESSIVE?

Like I said, I’ve thought about this in my own life, about whether I’m “addicted” to checking my email and my Facebook.

And yeah, I probably am addicted to the process, to the clicking and the reading and the feeding boredom perpetually without pausing to think.

But there’s nothing about FACEBOOK itself that is inherently bad.

It’s just the place where my friends are, the place where people “hang out” on the Internet, the place where we exchange information – important and not. I feel connected to my friends and family that live far away by reading a stupid status telling me they are tired because they had to work late, and they feel connected to me. If I didn’t have Facebook chat, I wouldn’t be able to talk to one of my best friends who is stationed overseas, or see pictures of her new baby. If a friend from college was visiting or moving to Boston, I would have no idea, we wouldn’t meet up for lunch or a cup of coffee even though I would probably like to.

If I decided to go the Puritanical route and give up Facebook for good, it would be like closing my bedroom door to the weird community of people in my life, past and present.

Facebook isn’t just a random url, a time-suck, a dirty habit.

It’s a tool.

Well played, Mark Zuckerberg.

March 28, 2011

twenty-something-success

The hardest part about being in my twenties is trying to figure out if I’m doing things right.

I mean, it’s pretty clear when I’m doing things wrong. Usually, failing-at-life is accompanied by some kind of daily dread, a feeling of imbalance, self-doubt, stress, and other objective measures of things-are-just-not-right.

See: last semester.

But it gets confusing when I start feeling good about myself only to realize I’m REALLY not paying attention to all the balls in the air.

Case in point:

This semester, I am doing a REALLY good job on…

  • Not being such a basket case.I am not-so-stressed out all the time, I seem to have enough hours in the day to do most of the things I want/need to do, I have time for relaxing and playing with friends, I am not crying a lot, et cetera. Mood, on most days, is high.
  • Academics. I have caught a Good Grade Wave this semester. Part of the time, I’m thinking,  “Damn, my professors are on crack this semester,” and part of the time I’m thinking, “Hey, Jessica, you are finally catching on here!”
  • Keeping the apartment from being completely filthy. My living quarters are still messy most days, but I don’t walk around feeling like a live in a hell-hole, so we’ll call it a win.
  • Keeping in touch with friends and family at home. Maybe because everyone just had babies, but I’m hearing from my friends with some regularity, which makes me happy. Maybe because my sister just got a job with a commute, but I talk to her a few times a week, and my mom.
  • Feeling on top of things at work. I’ve been at one job for almost 2 years now and the other for over 6 months. I feel comfortable and confident with my abilities and don’t ever dread showing up to make my 12/hour.

So I live most days feeling like a successful human being. I’m twenty-six now, isn’t it nice to feel so in control?

Until something happens – something small, something large – that reminds me that I’ve been too busy feeling great about myself to notice the balls that are dropping.

  • Fitness/Health. Remember that Holiday Weight? Still there. Remember that giant bag of barbecue chips you bought on Saturday? And the one you bought last Saturday? And all that cheese you keep throwing all over your eggs every morning? And running, whatever happened to that?
  • Money. Savings haven’t been great this year, we stopped putting extra $$ toward Lance’s loans for some reason, my personal spending coffers seem to always be running dry…. and don’t get me started on what happens next year with financial aid/potentially losing a job/living situation. I have a 300 dollar plane ticket on a credit card with no immediate 300 dollars to pay for it… that kind of thing keeps popping up.
  • Planning for the future. Speaking of which, what are we doing when, in a year, we are done in Boston? And do we have enough money to make whatever-it-is happen? And why haven’t I thought about that at all in the past six months?
  • Having some kind of meaningful chats with your boyfriend. Sure, we eat dinner together, but now that we aren’t Two People Trapped in a Tiny Apartment with nothing better to do than spill our guts, shouldn’t we be having some scheduled gut spilling? Or at least a date once in awhile?
  • Sleep. Remember when I used to go to bed by 10 and wake up refreshed without caffeine at 6?  Yeaaaah, about that….
  • Immune System. I think you’ve heard enough about that lately.

I know that it’s impossible to juggle everything all the time. Most of the time, it’s nearly impossible to do anything other than Finish My Schoolwork, Show up to my Places of Employment, and Not Kill Myself or Anyone Else. And I know that, in a way, focusing on my academics is also a way of focusing on future plans (I need a degree so I can get a job), which will help the financial situation (Job = money!), and planning for the future.

But it’s still shocking to feel so on top of the heap in some ways

and then, when I least expect it,

so buried.

March 27, 2011

death becomes her

Shortly after writing that last, desperate post detailing my varying physical symptoms and ailments, I almost died.

And by “almost died,” I mean, I just got sicker. Sick to the point that I missed WORK! Classes, I will skip, but work is money and money is bills and even if you are sick, the bills must be paid.

But when, on Wednesday, after sleeping in until 11, dragging myself to and from campus for less than four hours of employment felt like I deserved some kind of medal of honor. I shivered my way home and into the bath and watched my fever climb higher. And when Twelve-Hour Thursday arrived, I woke up without a hint of miraculous recovery. I took some ibuprofen, called in and woke up a few hours later soaking in sweat.

Yum.

I am recovering now. No fever since Thursday night. Some lingering coughing/sinus-ness/feeling-weirdness, but it looks like I will live.

How those bills are going to get paid without my 12 hours of work last week, I have no idea, but at least:

  • I am going to live to see another day
  • I didn’t have to spend 30 bucks going to the doctor and getting antibiotics (unless I have a sinus infection…)
  • I did all that crazy paper-writing/presentation-giving madness already and I had no real work to get done while I was feverish
  • I had a cute furry pet to keep me company while I laid, sweaty on the couch watching Netflix movies all day.

 

March 22, 2011

the sickness

Apparently I am not allowed to go 30 days without contracting an illness.

Illness #1 hit its peak on January 29-30th. Generic cold symptoms: fatigue, congestion, persistent coughing. Tore up the inside of my mouth sucking down cough drops for a few days. It lingered for 2-3 weeks, and then when I was finally feeling better….

Illness #2. Lance came down with this one first: on Friday and Saturday, he ran a fever of 102. Gross cough. Fast recovery, but on Tuesday the fever returned, the cough turned painful, and he had to get a Z-Pack from the doctor and sleep through trivia. The horror!

I didn’t have to take antibiotics for this one, but I was felled overnight, woke up on Sunday with

A) a 101 degree fever

B) 4 hours of work ahead of me

and

C) a paper due on Monday that I hadn’t started,  instead planning on getting up early to write on Sunday morning

Oy. I was sick until Tuesday morning, skipped class, somehow still did really well on the paper.

Miracle.

Anyway, so that was February 27-28. I got better quickly, but for some reason still had this bit of a cough that wouldn’t go away. A cough just disgusting enough to make a nuisance of myself in most classes.

It started to get slightly more annoying on Saturday and Sunday…

and then, BAM

Illness #3.

I’ve been running a slight fever for two days, now. Just enough to make my muscles ache, to make my head hurt, to put me back on the acetaminophen train. And the cough is back with a vengeance, the kind of cough that cough drops do nothing to slow down.

I don’t want to go to the doctor, because I don’t want to be on antibiotics. I spent a few years getting sinus infections and such; I am pretty good at determining if I need antibiotics, and I don’t think I do, so what’s the doctor going to do? Either confirm my viral suspicions – rest, fluids, etc – or give me antibiotics that I don’t need, which is bad for my body and bad for MRSA or whatever.

My roommate is appalled that I don’t want to go to the doctor.

But then again, she also diagnosed me with pregnancy, menopause, mono, and lymphoma over the course of yesterday.

So if anyone’s seen my immune system… would you kindly tell it to come home? I miss it dearly.

March 18, 2011

gorgeous life

Slept through a St. Patrick’s Day hangover,

breakfast of champs,

finished reading Split. Made me want to do things like… write,

cleaned the apartment while watching the latest super-biased, kind of interesting Netflix doc,

ran a mile and a bit in the gorgeous, almost 70 degree weather,

a little quality time with the boyfriend who I love so dearly,

walk into JP for free birthday vegetable korma at Bukhara,

watching roommate and our houseguest play Mario,

and Disaronno, Rosa’s, and Coke.

Maybe some popcorn?

Life can be cool.

 

 

 

March 17, 2011

i came, saw, etc.

My 18th Spring Break ended with a terrifying scramble to

A) recover from birthday shenanigans

B) write a paper on power and ideology and Speak and Ramona Quimby (don’t ask), present said paper, and discuss it during class as it related to two other books which I also had to read

C) write another paper on the teen room of the Brookline Public Library and whether or not I thought some teens that I saw at the Chestnut Hill Cheesecake Factory would want to inhabit said teen room (definitely don’t ask)

D) have a generally busy day yesterday, actually doing all that work at Job #1 that papers were distracting me from and that piled up after being away from the office for a week, going to Job #2, then driving across the state to attend Lance’s band concert

There was too much caffeine and too little sleep.

But I have come out the other side of the tunnel.

And there are a lot of good things waiting for me.

Like this book to read, Split by Swati Avasthi.

It’s one of those books-from-the-syllabus that doesn’t feel anything like a book-from-the-syllabus. I’ve been getting excited to have a seat on the bus so I can read a few pages before my stop. Well, getting more excited than usually. Getting a seat on the 39 at 8:30 a.m. is kind of like finding a five dollar bill on the street; even when you have to read Elsie Dinsmore once you sit down, you are still having a good day.

There’s also semi-good weather and earlier sunrises and less-tight schedules so maybe there can be running.

And we are getting dangerously close to flip-flops and skirts weather…..

Turquoise Havaianas? Please?

I have two full weeks with no homework assignments due. That, my friends, is as good as any Spring Break I’ve ever had. For two weeks, I just get to read books. And articles. TWO WEEKS!!

And in case the semester gets rough again (which is will, it will, it will), I bought something to look forward to once I make it out:

A ticket to Michigan to see this little one GRADUATE HIGH SCHOOL.

 

She is almost 18 and going to University of Michigan’s nursing school in the fall.

I am going to cry a lot.

But until then, no more tears, because the worst of the semester is, perhaps, over.

And it wasn’t really THAT bad.

March 15, 2011

that boy

Saturday night, 12:45 a.m. South Huntington Avenue

Getting off the train

Getting a piece of pizza

Him: What is on your hands?

Me: Huh?

Him: You have black stuff all over you!

Me: Oh! Ah! I always touch stuff on the stupid T. What do I touch! Gah! How am I supposed to eat pizza if I can’t touch it?

Him: I guess I’ll have to feed it to you.

Me: Thanks. I’m really hungry. Maybe I can just wrap the paper plate around it…

Him: Oh, I’m going to steal your coat, by the way.

Me: What?

Him: It’s all dirty. From the train.

Me: But what will I wear? How will I keep warm?

Him: You can wear my coat. And two sweatshirts. And two pairs of socks. And a scarf.

Me: I guess I could do that.

Him: I’ll get it dry cleaned. On Tuesday.

Me: Oh, thanks.

March 10, 2011

twenty-six

I think I feel less old than I did last year on this particular date.

Maybe because I’m, god help me, busy.

When you are busy, you don’t have time to sit around and think about how when your mother was your own age, she had a one-year-old baby named Jessica.

When you are busy, you don’t fret over your stupid gray roots – you have places to go, so you figure out where that magic place is to part your hair, and you get out the door.

When you are busy, you have the following to-do list:

  • Make onion dip
  • Shower
  • Get coffee
  • Return library books
  • Clean the litter box
  • Get a tiny bit of work done on your as-of-yet not started paper
  • Send back Netflix movie
  • Fancy lunch with fancy friends
  • Pick up more lime juice and confectioner’s sugar
  • Take out the trash
  • Once-over the apartment
  • Figure out how to make simple syrup without burning anything or anybody – see this failure
  • Figure out how to make a margarita that doesn’t taste like watery tequila
  • Entertain those friends you keep trying to tell yourself you don’t have, but YOU DO and they are coming over.

So there you have it. The secret to feeling young: don’t give yourself room to feel like an old granny.

Plus, you’d have to have children to be a granny.

And you had a dream last night that you were pregnant and also drinking a large glass of wine, telling your friends how you couldn’t possibly be actually pregnant, because you had the flattest stomach ever, even though the doctor DID do a blood test, and even if you were, isn’t that just one of those old wives tales? You can still have a large glass of wine every night with a flat-stomach fetus, right?

So let’s take it one step at a time.

Margaritas first,

then we’ll think about getting old.

March 9, 2011

a trivial pursuit

Back in late August, before the semester started its steamroll over my weekly schedule, my boyfriend, myself, and our friend Geoff decided to spend a Sunday night playing pub trivia at a random bar.

We came in second place. We were excited, but I wasn’t surprised. I have a good memory for facts. I read a lot of entertainment news and celebrity gossip. I am, perhaps, genetically inclined to do well at games of trivia – my mother is a notoriously good Trivial Pursuit player.

I’m even a reigning Claude S. Larzelere Trivia Challenge Champion.

I used to watch Jeopardy every day with my dad.

I’m a nerd.

The semester got in the way and I don’t think we made it out to trivia again until just before Christmas, when I was done with school. This time, we decided to stay local and hit up our neighborhood hole-in-the-wall on a Tuesday night.

We were cocky.

We got schooled.

Sometime between then and now, trivia has become a weekly ritual. We adjust our schedules around scouting out our favorite corner table, we set aside cash to procure a few weekly PBRs. Then we started getting to trivia so early we didn’t have time to eat dinner first, so we started packing a weekly picnic dinner. We started inviting all of our friends, subbing team members in and out. We started training, playing Scene It and memorizing Oscar winners and state capitals and adding all of those “Man, I really should have seen this movie already” to our Netflix queue. We brainstorm team names with funny, quiz-related puns.

But despite all of our efforts, we still suck.

We lose every week.

And then we start to get grumpy about our inability to perform as a team, and start fighting with each other.

There are a lot of reasons why I think we suck at trivia.

Reason #1: The bar we first visited was in Kenmore Square – an area more likely to be visited by bar-hopping undergraduates than our little hood in JP. The questions are a lot harder, the competition fierce. We’ve talked about switching bars, go back to being the big fish in a small pond… but dammit, the small pond is two blocks from our apartment!! And we can bring in food!! And we have a corner table!! And it’s two blocks from our apartment!!

Reason #2: We have some noticeable trivia-deficiencies. Anything involving sports, history, or TV/movies beyond our generation? We falter.

Reason #3: There’s a bit of strategy involved in pub trivia – you have to wager different point values for each question – and we continuously miss the mark on our guesses. We bet our high values on answers we are certain are right (they aren’t), or save them up until the end and end up guessing right on our 1 and 3 point questions and then bombing the last two. This boils down to our group’s inability to communicate effectively. Somebody is always muttering the right answer and nobody listens, or somebody is dead certain on something that should have been doubted. We are maybe just not a good team.

It’s starting to wear on me. I, for one, am starting to enjoy having a little Tuesday night routine. I like feeling like I live in a sitcom, and I have a neighborhood joint where I can kick back on a weeknight and play a game while I have a few beers and eat a few slices of homemade pizza with the cheese stuck to the inside of a freezer bag we carried over from the apartment. But as the game rolls on, we are always just on the edge of winning or losing, my friends and I get edgy, and then, we lose. We lose, we lose, we lose. Everyone starts griping and snapping at each other and we are just big fat losers.

So maybe it’s just a losing game, trying to become Trivia Champions Of The World.

Or maybe we just need to go beat up on some little undergrads in Kenmore for awhile.