Wednesday, March 31, 2010

notes from my death bed

My Kentucky niece and nephews (known around these parts as Ring, Pinkie, and Thumb of the Handful) are the cutest little carrier monkeys in the world.  I almost don't mind that they gave me some infectious disease because I got to play with them and love them over the weekend.  My Virginia nieces (Pointer and Bird) were equally cute but not contagious, so I don't have any mixed feelings about seeing them.

We gathered this weekend to celebrate Rachel's birthday.  Baby girl turned seven yesterday, and we had an Ancient Egypt party, which was fairly awesome. Someday when I'm not queasy and exhausted by existing, I'll post a picture or something.

But not today. 

Jess is officially the best roommate in the world.  While I languished in my illness today she went back to old apartment and finished cleaning for us.  Remind me of this someday when I don't want to wash a dish she's used.  She's awesome.  Of course, when I die from this wasting disease I've contracted, she'll also have to deal with all my junk at the new place.  Lucky for her, I guess, I've unpacked almost nothing.

I'll feel sad later if this is our last communication, imaginary readers, but I lack the energy or inspiration to do more for you.  Goodbye forever.

Friday, March 26, 2010

an open letter to Penske

Dear friends at the Penske Corporation,

I know you've been following my blog here since it hit the big time back in December.  So I know you've noticed a couple of mentions I've made recently that I was moving into a new place.  I'm sure you also know, because I rented a truck from you on Tuesday, that the big move finally happened this week.

Thank you, Penske folks, for your affordable truck rentals.  Thank you for the concept of the $14.95 half-day rental, because when one is only moving fifteen miles away and one has amazing friends who will show up in droves to lug one's furniture, a twenty-four hour truck rental is just an unnecessary expense.  Thanks also for trusting someone who has only ever owned compact cars and a small SUV to drive a 15 ft truck.  It was the scariest drive of my life, but at least I can cross driving a moving truck off my bucket list.  Your affordable services definitely made my moving experiences better.

Of course, it wasn't all perfect, but none of that was your fault.  I don't blame you for having more than one rental location in the greater Little Rock area.  That's quite a necessary convenience actually.  And it certainly wasn't any fault of yours that I went to the wrong location to pick up my reserved truck.  If you're thinking that I should have made note of the address when I made the reservation, I couldn't agree more.  I'm sorry I didn't have your organizational and planning skills at my disposal because obviously moving brain couldn't handle one more detail.  I take full responsibility for the things that went wrong with my move.  You held up your end of the bargain admirably.

While I've got your attention here, friends at Penske, let me tell you about a unique marketing opportunity.  About six years ago, my friends Paige and Trey created a game known as the Penske Challenge.  They were driving one of your excellent trucks from Arkansas to California, and in those long hours in the car, they developed a game, wherein participants call "Penske" when they see Penske vehicles on the road.  Players score a point for each successful call (three points for the rare white Penske) and lose a point for calling Penske on a truck that isn't one.  There are special rules for calling parked Penskes at a rental site.  I can consult the Penske Challenge commissioner if you want a full description of the rules.  Anyway I think this game has the potential to really elevate your brand.  In the years since its inception, it has caught on with several of their friends and beyond.  And really wouldn't it be beneficial to your business if spotting one of your trucks made motorists and pedestrians yell out your brand name? 

It's genius, plain and simple.  Obviously Paige and Trey deserve significant monetary compensation for acting as Penske ambassadors all these years, but when you go handing out checks, please remember the friend of your company who brought this idea to your attention, giving your the opportunity to take the Penske Challenge global.  I think it's at least worth the cost of a twenty-four hour truck rental--the big truck for next time, I think. 

I'll be waiting for your call.

Your satisfied customer and future business associate,


Tuesday, March 16, 2010

an open letter to the Michael Jackson mime outside my cubicle window

Dear Michael Jackson mime,

I've been working at this desk on the third floor of the library for three years now.  It faces north, so I get a glimpse of the river, but more importantly, I have a great view of the intersection of President Clinton and Rock St., particularly the northwest corner where you station yourself almost daily to do your thing.

In the past three years, I've watched your talent grow and develop.  It seems when I first saw you outside my window, you mostly stood statue-like, waiting for someone to walk by, trying to startle them with your sudden movement.  Sometimes that really freaked people out, and I'd like to think we shared a chuckle over their surprise.  Lately, I see you dancing more and drawing crowds more often.  I don't know if you're making any money, but I can see people noticing you and coming back to see you, taking photos and stopping to admire your talent.  I'm proud of what you're accomplishing down there.  It's entertaining.

One day back in August of last year, some second graders were walking to the library from their downtown school, heading east on President Clinton across the street from your corner.  They were amazed by you.  When they came upstairs to see me, you were all they could talk about.  Everyone wanted books about Michael Jackson because of you and the music you were playing.  Other kids at different times have talked to me about seeing you, and I only hear compliments and positive things about your work.  I'm a little surprised that kids are not more uncomfortable around you.  You have to admit the face paint is unusual, and eyes always hidden by sunglasses and lack of speech would be off-putting, I would assume.  But the kids I know are crazy about you.  Clearly you're doing something right down there.

Once, I was in the Flying Burrito to get a late lunch, and I saw you sitting at the bar with your radio beside you.  Though you were still in costume and make-up, you were clearly off-duty.  It was very awkward for me, seeing you outside of your performance space, sitting down and doing normal tasks, rather than standing on your corner with your robotic movements.  Perhaps it should have made you more real, more accessible, but it just freaked me out.  Please don't do that again.  Don't sit in restaurants or bars or go to convenience stores decked out in your work clothes.  It's hard for your fans to see you that way.  And I do count myself among your fans, though my appreciation mostly takes place from three stories up.

I couldn't help but notice that you weren't over there today.  It is rather gray, but I've seen you out there performing in worse.  I hope you're healthy and that you're off today for a good reason and not something unfortunate.  I hope to see you tomorrow.  My days just make more sense when you're around.

Your sincere fan,


Monday, March 15, 2010

the year in books: the book drought

****Lame blogger's note:  In the "mission accomplished" post from last Monday, I mentioned that my Lost-obsession had led to the neglect of several half-finished post drafts.  Presented here is the first of what should be many survivors, finally rescued from neglect and allowed to see the light of day. ****

I feel completely lame that I haven't read anything since that tiny little Twilight parody a month ago.

Nightlight: A Parody
The Daily Bible: New International Version: With Devotional Insights to Guide You Through God's WordI feel even lamer that blogger lost the two or three paragraphs I wrote the other night on this topic and only kept that lame first sentence, and I know I'll never be able to recreate them as gloriously as the original writing. I remember that I blamed blog-reading for taking away some of the urgency from my need to read.  And I made other excuses and justifications.  I have been reading the Daily Bible (except for the part where I told you how behind I am), and I read some picture books in storytimes a couple weeks ago.
But reading so little (I've completed only two books since January 1 though I've started more than that) is completely unlike me.  Over the past couple of years, I have been reading less and less, and though I can pinpoint the things that are taking up more of my time, I don't exactly know why I'm choosing to devote less time to books. I'm not blaming Jess, but reading at home is harder than it used to be.  When I lived alone, I read so much more and tended to lose all sense of time and responsibility.  But Jess and I watch certain shows together as a family, and we talk to each other sometimes.  We distract each other, and time for getting completely lost in print is harder to come by.  And I think I watch more tv than I did a few years ago, and that commitment eats into my time significantly as well.  And the internet addiction certainly doesn't help, but that's a therapy topic for another day.
I have several books right now that I want to read.  I've had several books lately pass out of my hands because I didn't get them started before they were due back at the library.  And one day very soon (after I pack up and move all my possessions to a new home), I'm going to stop whining about not reading and just read instead.  But not today.  Today I'm going to talk about books that I love and make a list.

The ten most important books/series of my life:

    The Babysitters Club:  Go ahead and mock.  Laugh your fill.  My feelings will not be hurt.  Let me tell you, imaginary reader, about young Ellen.  She didn't like to read, and in her elementary school she went to the library with her class every third day and was expected to check out a book.  This did not please young Ellen.  So after she read all the Garfield books that were in her school library, she was forced to read books with actual words and such.  One day, someone, probably her sweet-voiced school librarian Mrs. Beck, put Kristy's Great Idea into her third-grade hands.  And the rest is history.  Today old Ellen works in a library, has a useless degree in English, and has a relationship with words that began right there, in that third floor school library with Ann M. Martin and the girls of the BSC.

    Lonesome Dove I can't remember exactly when I read this book for the first time, but I think it was in the neighborhood of sixth or seventh grade.  I'd seen the miniseries a couple years earlier and loved the story and characters already.  But this reading experience taught me that the book is always better than the movie, and with very few exceptions, that's a lesson that has stood the test of time.  It's hilarious and sad, full of horses and cattle and cowboy goodness, life and death, snakes and Indians and guns, and characters that will always live for me.  I will say that though the miniseries has its share of grit, it's still something that was made for tv in the 80s.  The book itself is grittier, more vulgar, more real, perhaps more than my twelve-year-old self was strictly ready for.  But in addition to garnering more knowledge about late 19th century western whoring (yes, I just said whoring, hope you weren't letting your kids read the blog) than a seventh grade girl probably needs, I really think this was the first book that showed me how deeply I could be moved by characters, that I could feel their joys and suffer their losses and care so completely about words on paper.  My love for this epic story that has survived several re-readings and about eighteen years.  Lonesome Dove also had the distinction for a year or so of being the longest book I had read at 969 pages.  But I read my moma's copy of Gone with the Wind in seventh or eighth grade, which is lovely 1037 pages, but I don't think it's making the list here.  Consider this sentence its honorable mention.

    Daring to Dance With God: Stepping into God's EmbraceDaring to Dance with God From 1992-1996, I went to Uplift, a church camp at Harding with Robyn and sometimes some other folks.  For most (all?) of those years, Jeff Walling was a featured speaker.  We were and are fans.  The year this book came out , he talked about some of the ideas from the book at Uplift.  And he signed copies, so of course, we bought them.  This is maybe the first book about being a Christian I ever read (not counting the Bible), and it was a huge and important deal in my life.  There are phrases and images that still come to me that I first encountered through Jeff Walling.  And though I didn't learn this from the book, Jeff Walling is solely responsible for teaching me the Beatitudes in the right order.

    The Harry Potter Complete Collection Books 1-7 Boxed SetHarry Potter I would like to be able to tell you that I was with Harry Potter before he was cool.  My dearest wish is to say that I read the first book in 1998 (or even better the British version in 1997) and had a hand in spreading the gospel of HP from the beginning.  It would thrill my soul to not be a bandwagon jumper.  But, alas, in truth, I never intended to read the books.  Ever.  In my defense, I was in college when the first books were released, and I wasn't reading much children's lit.  I also frequently proclaim that I don't like fantasy.  So though I had some friends who were ahead of the trend and reading them, I was staunchly opposed for a long time.  But in 2001, the first movie was released, and in the time leading up to it, lots and lots of my friends were hyped up, and my resistance was wearing down.  I knew, based on the hype, I wouldn't be able to live in the world and not be bombarded with spoilers, so if I was ever going to read them, the time was now (uhh . . . then).  So I read the first four books in a ridiculously short amount of time, and it changed my life.  The story consumed me.  I love a big story, and I love meaty characters.  And though it made me insane, I loved the anticipation of waiting for the end of the story.  I was terrified of Deathly Hallows because there was so much riding on the ending, for me.  I had six years wrapped up in this world, and it could have been heart-breaking.  And it was, in some ways, but it was also very right for me, in most ways.  It was always going to be hard to get to the end, and I knew that beloved characters would have to die.  But overall, I'm satisfied with the ending.  I reread (and relisten to) the entire series on a regular basis.

    Pride and Prejudice Sadly, I can't remember the first time I read P& P, but it was either high school or college.  I had seen and loved the BBC miniseries version (the Colin Firth one) and based on the recommendations of book folk that I trust, I read it.  And it's lovely.  The language is so dense and formal that it creates a reading experience very unlike a lot that I read.  I've read all the other Austens (I think) too, but P&P remains my favorite.  I love Elizabeth Bennett, but who doesn't?  All of the sequels, spin-offs, or retoolings of the book are a testament to its quality.  The number of people who feel such an attachment to this story that they need to write a companion to it, is somewhat staggering to me, but clearly there's an audience for them or they wouldn't get published at such an alarming rate.  I'll admit that I've read several of the knock-offs through various stages of my Jane Austen obsession, but Bridget Jones's Diary is definitely my favorite of these and one of the few that can stand on its own.  Some of them are pretty horrific, especially the ones that are sequels.  It's a dangerous thing to mess with the lives of beloved characters, and you better have your history and style down if you're going to attempt period fiction.  But the point I'm trying to make is Pride and Prejudice is awesome.  It fills my soul.

     Confessions of Georgia Nicolson I picked up the first book in this series  (Angus, Thongs, and Full-Frontal Snogging) the summer of 2002 when I was teaching two sessions of summer school.  The young miscreants under my tutelage were supposed to spend a certain amount of time reading, and I decided to model good reading skills for them, so I borrowed this book from the junior high library.  As it turns out, it wasn't a great book for modeling sustained, silent reading because I couldn't read it silently.  I guffawed, loudly, lots--an embarrassing amount, actually.  Then I got Robyn to read it, and Hailey and Mo have read it too.  It's forged a bond amongst us all.  The main character Georgia is a British teenager, who tells the story through her diary.  It's hilarious and crazy, with addictive catch-phrases and a glossary, that is allegedly supposed to decipher all the British-isms for the American readers.  There are ten books in the series, and it's nonstop fun.  It'll have you laughing like a loon on loon tablets, like a laughing loon from Loonland.  It's as funny as three funny things.  Plus it'll help decipher the nonsense that I say.

    The Complete Anne of Green Gables Boxed Set (Anne of Green Gables, Anne of Avonlea, Anne of the Island, Anne of Windy Poplars, Anne's House of Dreams, ... Rainbow Valley, Rilla of Ingleside)Anne of Green Gables Oh, how I love these books.  I've been reading and rereading them for years, and they still have the power to make me laugh and cry and get wrapped up in the world of Prince Edward Island.  In general, I'm a huge fan of series of books.  I tend to get immersed in stories and attached to characters, and if there are multiple books in which I can delve into that world and meet up with those characters, so much the better.  One of the things I love about Anne and Marilla and Matthew and Gilbert and everyone else here is that at the heart, the characters are all so good.  Just good, kind people, and though spite and malice and hardship come to call, the goodness of these characters I love shines through.  It's a balm to my soul.  The later books focus on Anne and Gil's kids, and they are just as delightful and funny and kind and likely to get into scrapes as Anne herself.  Oh, how I love them all.

    On Beyond Zebra! (Classic Seuss)On Beyond Zebra This is another book with an Uplift connection.  We went to a class one year called "On Beyond Zebra."  I think we picked the class because the title amused us--that's how we usually picked.  Until about two minutes ago, I was completely confident I knew the name of the guy that taught it, but now I'm feeling uncertain.  I think it was Mark Miller.  Robyn will correct me if it wasn't him.  Anyway he used this lesser-known Dr. Seuss book as a jumping off point for the class, where we talked about going beyond the ordinary and stuff.  It was a really cool class, and I've had a special love for the book ever since.  Plus Dr. Seuss is awesome.  Besides being a big bunch of fun to read, there are some pretty interesting themes in a lot of his books. There's a really empowering message here about not accepting easy answers.

    The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time

    The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time There was a span of about six years when I was a faithful Entertainment Weekly subscriber.  As such, I felt very strongly that it was important to get my money's worth by reading the magazine from cover to cover.  That was my first experience with influential book reviews.  I was influenced by other EW reviews and features also, but once I started working at a bookstore and the library, I went on a mission to read any book whose review intrigued me.  And that's how I met this book, back in 2003.  The narrator is a British teenager with autism who solves mysteries, sorta.  It wouldn't matter what Christopher (the main character) was up to in this story, because how it's told is so much more important than what's told, in this case.  It was a book unlike anything I'd read before.  Talking about it has made me want to reread it so much, which is one of the highest compliments I can give a book.

    Blue Like Jazz: Nonreligious Thoughts on Christian SpiritualityBlue Like Jazz  I read this one a few years ago on a recommendation from Mac, cousin, theologian, scholar, and number one blog fan. The subtitle for the book is "Nonreligious Thoughts on Christian Spirituality."  The only five word synopsis that better describes it is perhaps "funny guy's encounters with God."  Not that it's all funny . . . Miller's journey to faith has some twists and turns, and he's asked some hard questions.  And the answers are sometimes challenging.  But challenging can be a good thing, and reading this book and being challenged by it was certainly one of the better decisions of my reading life.  I got Miller's latest book for Christmas, and if I don't change my mind, it will be the next book I start.

    *****Lame blogger's note:  All of the cover art here matches my copies of these books.  That, for some reason, was extremely important to me and severely affected the speed with which this post was constructed.*****

    Sunday, March 14, 2010

    project 4:4: the stall between weeks 8 & 9

    I'm now over a week behind on my "daily" reading.  I feel guilty and frustrated, and I'm still having a hard time getting motivated to catch up and be on track.  Today's class didn't inspire me to work on it either.

    This should barely count as an entry, but I needed to say out loud how behind I was.  And I needed to acknowledge here the reason behind my lack of 4:4 posting.  Sorry, imaginary readers.  If I don't shape up soon, I won't blame you for running away.

    But until you actually do run away, let me ask you to pray for one of the shepherds at my church.  My pal Jimmy had a heart attack on Saturday, followed up by a double bypass surgery.  He's recovering well, and we're hearing good reports, but I ask that you please remember him, his family, and his recovery.  Slowing down is going to be tough for him.  Thanks, in advance for praying for him.

    Thursday, March 11, 2010

    making the grade

    Another American Idol post:  my apologies to non-fans.  You know where to send hate mail.

    A couple weeks ago, I made my predictions about the top 12 contestants on AI.  Tonight we'll see how my predictions fared.

    Let me refresh your memory for a moment.  I picked
    • Katie Stevens
    • Crystal Bowersox
    • Katelyn Epperly
    • Michelle Delamor
    • Janell Wheeler/Didi Benami
    • Ashley Rodriguez
    • Andrew Garcia
    • Casey James
    • Todrick Hall
    • Michael Lynche
    • Joe Muñoz
    • Tim Urban
    Most of the picks were based on talent or my take on how the voting would go, but a few were definitely influenced by my own preferences, which is why when I picked Ashley, I qualified it by saying that I thought it might be a couple of other people too. So though one of those people I mentioned made the top 12, I won't count that as a correct prediction--though my percentage could really use the boost.  I did a much better job on the guys than the girls.  I correctly predicted two thirds of the guys who made it but was only 42% accurate on the girls (for the record, I'm counting Didi has half a correct prediction rather than a whole one).  Overall, I was at 54%.  Not very respectable, but I make no apologies. 

    And because I'd like to get all my Idol opinions out there now rather than later, let me say a few words about the actual top 12:
    • Katie--I called this early, but I'm somewhat amazed tonight that she actually made it.  She has sort of fallen apart lately, and though I think her voice deserves it, her overall performance doesn't.
    • Crystal--Called it, but who couldn't have.  Crystal's the best.
    • Didi--Her performance this week was spectacular, and I only hope she lives up to it in upcoming weeks.
    • Siobhan--She was the girl that put I put down as a maybe when I was talking about Ashley, so I'm not surprised by this one.  I was on the fence about her the first week, but I've really liked her for the past couple.  I think she's got good prospects.
    • Paige--I like her voice, but I can't believe her odd song choices didn't get her the boot.
    • Lacey--Completely surprised by this one.  Love her hair, but I don't think she'll last long.
    • Andrew--Like Katie, Andrew hasn't lived up to the hype with the judges, but I still hold out a lot of hope for my boy Andrew.
    • Casey--Still pretty and still mostly impressing me.  
    • Big Mike--His "This Woman's Work" was amazing, and I love how much fun he's having.
    • Tim--Oh, how I know teenage girls.  He deserved to have his butt handed to him after the first week, but last night's performance was redemptive.  There was more than one Ellen proud of him.
    • Lee--I'm sorry I didn't believe in Lee enough to pick him from the outset.  I think it was because he said "shut up" eighty-five times when he made the top 24.  He's improved a lot since then.
    • Aaron--I like Aaron, and I'm rooting for him in an underdog sense, but I am surprised he's still around.
    From this point forward, I shall strive to keep all my AI thoughts confined to facebook, in hopes that I don't alienate my imaginary non-fan readers.

    Tuesday, March 9, 2010

    an open letter to amazon

    Dear amazon,

    Yesterday I signed up for your Associates program, which theoretically will monetarily reward me when my imaginary readers follow links to your website and make purchases.  I recognize that this was my choice.  You didn't seek me out or coerce me, in any way, to sign up for this program.  It was all my idea.  Remember I said that part.

    I'm mad at you, amazon.  You have appealed to the basest, greediest, most selfish part of my nature.  You held out the delicious carrot of monetary reward, and I bit.  I sold out.  I heard the siren song of earning up to 15% on qualifying purchases when folks click on my links, and I hopped on that bandwagon.  And now, I feel like I've betrayed my faithful readers and my principles and everything I once held dear.  I know what you're thinking, amazon.  If I'm truly suffering from that much guilt, why don't I just change my mind?  It's not too late to back out.  I haven't posted any links yet, after all.  But I'm weak.  Any my greed outweighs my guilt, in this case. 

    Here's what I hope comes out of this decision:  I hope that I manage to integrate these amazon links in normal ways, ways that make sense to the overall purpose of the opinions and don't distract or alienate folk.  I hope that somehow, sometime, someone gets something useful from our new partnership (although I'm not supposed to call it a partnership, according to the terms and conditions of our agreement--sorry).  And I hope that if it's wretched and horrible and painful for my peeps out there, that they speak up and speak out and put a stop to the distracting madness.  And I hope if that happens, amazon, you'll forgive me for running a democratic blog and kicking you to the curb.  And if I let my greedy side contribute something here, I also hope that people link through me to make huge purchases from you so that I can rake in the dough.

    You know I love you, right, amazon?  I mean I've spent enough time with you buying things for me and others and drooling over things I don't need.  You're my go-to for most anything purchasable on the interwebs.  Even if I plan to buy in person, I like to see what you can tell me about what I'm interested in.  You're good people.  You do good work.  So I really hope we can make this work, amazon--because somehow even though I know I'm completely the one to blame--I'm still a little mad at you.  Maybe I'll stop being mad when the big, fat checks start rolling in.

    Your newest non-partner,


    Monday, March 8, 2010

    mission accomplished

    Lately I've been having trouble accomplishing things.  It's come through here in the blog, as my post frequency has slowed, and I've got something like five drafts of partial posts that I can't seem to finish.  It's come through in my reading life, as one of those post drafts will recount in too much detail if I ever get it finished.  I haven't knitted much since the snow days when I finished that baby hat.  My house is a mess, perhaps even more than usual.  And even though I'm moving all my possessions to a new place later this month, I've done almost nothing to prepare for that. 

    The one thing that I have been accomplishing lately has been mentioned a couple times here, and I'm proud to report to you today, imaginary readers, that I can cross it off my list.  After countless hours wasted in front of my laptop, I got caught up on Lost.

    *******SPOILER ALERT: If you continue reading, you may encounter plot points from the first five seasons and the first few eps of season six.  I won't even begin to put myself through figuring out how to write this spoiler-free.********

    Honestly, I'm still not sure exactly how I feel.  This past weekend, when I was only a couple of episodes into season 5, I was at work which meant I could only think about Lost instead of watching it.  I tried to really pin myself down about why I had gotten so tired of it and quit watching.  The only thing I've ever been able to articulate about it is that the show got stupid.  I still stand by that.  The crazy physicist and the temporal displacement and the island-moving just took things too far.  My suspension of disbelief was stuck back in Jacob's cabin with Jack's dead dad and the smoke monster, and I couldn't take any more ridiculous.  When I forced myself past the ridiculous this time, I found more crazy waiting for me, but maybe, just maybe, it did redeem itself a bit.

    My favorite thing about the show has always been the characters, their backstories, their personal agendas, and all the "coincidences" of their pre-island lives.  Sayid and Jack are my faves, but I love nearly everyone.  And even with those that aren't my favorites, I can appreciate all the work that the show has done creating these people and showing us their lives and flaws and motivations.  They're seriously well-drawn characters--they make me care, perhaps more than is strictly healthy when we're talking about fictitious folk here.  So the more the show moved towards the island as a character, the less interested I have become.  Plus my innate nosiness could only survive so many years without answers before I had to make a break.  And Ben Linus irks me, though I appreciate that someone has to be the antagonist.

    But I realized something more on Saturday before I was caught up, and perhaps it's the real reason I got so fed up.  Everyone's miserable, always.  Perhaps more accurately, Sayid's miserable always, and Jack's miserable, except for those two or three scenes in a season four flash forward when he and Kate and Aaron are playing house, before she does the favor for Sawyer and he gets hopped up on pills.  And I guess I could only tolerate three and a half seasons of abject misery before I got tired of it all, and I had to quit watching to save myself from being miserable too.  Rewatching it this time has been easier because I haven't had to wait a week or through an eight month hiatus to find out if these characters that I learned to love back in 2005 ever catch a break.

    Now that I'm caught up again and have seen the twenty-four episodes that aired since I quit the show, I still don't know exactly how I feel about it.  I think the focus has shifted back to the characters more, which is good.  But the misery is still alive and well and beating everyone up all the time.  Poor John Locke.  Poor Sayid.  Poor Sawyer (who, by the way, I'm never going to call James).  They make my heart hurt.  And I have questions streaming from my pores about the "flash sideways." 

    I know I'll be able to finish out this final season now.  But let me promise you now that if the ending is as vague and hopeless as I am afraid it may be, I will be so sorry I ever let myself care, and I'll think twice before trusting J.J. Abrams again.

    On the bright side, now that this catch-up session is complete, maybe I can accomplish things in my life once more--but perhaps only after I kick the stupid cold that decided to attack me on Sunday.

    Wednesday, March 3, 2010

    an open letter to library patrons

    Dear library patrons:

    I don't say this often enough, but I love you.  It may not always seem so, but seriously, you're special and awesome--and you validate my existence on a regular basis.  Want to hear more?

    I love that you pay taxes.  I know you don't have much choice in that part, but the fact remains that you make the wheels go round.  If you didn't pay your property taxes and vote to approve increases in our cut of them from time to time, there wouldn't be much of a library.  And the fact that you vote in our favor more often than not says something about your awesomeness.  Thanks for being a part of this process, for your ungrudging financial support of the concept and the reality of a library system.

    I love that you use the library.  Your participation--visiting the library, checking out materials, attending programs, using the on-site resources like computers and newspapers--drives the machine.  It doesn't matter if we have green buildings or the newest book releases or state-of-the-art technologies or dynamic programming unless you're there to use it.  When you use the library, we take notice and keep count and use that information to give you more of what you like and want and need, whether that means purchasing new materials, redesigning space, hiring staff, or funding programs.  So when you come to the library, you're improving us and shaping the library to be a real part of the community.  Thanks for making us relevant.

    I love the variety you bring to my job.  Each of you who use the library have your own agenda--your own needs and preferences--that determine what you require from the library and from the staff.  I love that doing my job means that I can help people find books that they will enjoy, that I can show people how to find information that they need, that I can entertain and teach through programs.  If you were all the same or needed the same things from me, the monotony of my job would swallow me whole. Thanks for being different and for allowing me to come to know your differences. 

    I love that you're invested in what we do.  For most of you, the library is not just a business that you frequent to receive a product or a service.  Maybe it's because you know you're paying for this, but library patrons want to talk about the library, about our books, about our programs, about the way we do things, and I love that you take that interest in us.  Regular library patrons establish relationships with us whether you realize it or not, and I'm grateful that by and large, those relationships are positive and pleasant and mutually beneficial.  Connecting and interacting with you is the best part of what I do.  Thanks for caring.

    I love that you bring your kids to the library.  You're not just modeling literacy (though that's important enough by itself) but you're also creating a new generation of library users, who will pay taxes and use our resources and be invested in the library for years to come.  That's the important and far-reaching consequence of bringing your kids to the library, but I also love the immediate result:  your kids are fun and cute and curious and eager, and I like seeing them and the energy they bring when they come to the library.  I love watching them grow up.  And I love knowing that they at least sometimes get something from being at the library that they couldn't have gotten at school or home.  Thanks for sharing them with us.

    I love that you follow the rules even when they seem arbitrary and complicate your life.  I love that you check out books and return them, mostly on time.  I love that you pay your fines.  I love that you use our hold system.  And I love that most of you understand that the rules are in place for a reason, and that we, as staff, are following them and asking you to do the same because it's required of us, not because we enjoy torturing patrons.  Thanks for being good sports.

    And I know that just because I love you for all of those reasons (and probably a few more), the feeling is not always mutual.  And I know that the blame for that usually lies with me.  Bearing that in mind, I'd like to offer you an apology.

    I'm sorry that I have to enforce the rules.  Even if I disagree with them, there are certain policies that I have to follow.  Yes, I'm probably on your side, and my goal is to say yes as often as I can, but some lines I cannot cross.  I'm sorry for the times that those situations put us on opposing sides.

    I'm sorry that I'm a grump.  If I have to get up and go to a job every morning, this is the job I want.  I think it's the best thing I could be doing.  I love it.  But I have bad days.  I come to work tired or under the weather or worried about things.  I get frustrated.  I get lazy.  I get bored.  And much more often than I should, I allow that to affect how we interact.  I'm impatient or short with you.  I don't warmly engage you.  I don't smile.  I'm sorry for those times that I let my attitude negatively affect our time together.

    I'm sorry that I let a few unpleasant patrons set the tone for everyone.  More often than it should, library staff areas are full of complaints and stories of the bad patrons, those that don't accept the rules or who take out their frustration on staff members.  Those patrons are a minority, but we're human and flawed and tend to focus on those negative few rather than the majority of you, who are so capable of inspiring our most positive emotions.  You deserve so much better.  I'm sorry for those times when I'm guilty of painting you all with the same brush.

    I'm sorry that every staff member you encounter at the library doesn't love you the way I love you.  I'll admit it--there are some duds out there.  They frustrate me because they can't seem to appreciate the awesomeness of you.  And their grumpiness and frustration and lack of communication with you make my job harder, besides making library visits unpleasant for you.  I try to stay positive and enjoy our time together, but I know that not all of us do.  I'm sorry we don't appreciate our jobs and our patrons more.

    In short, library patrons, feel the love.  Accept my apologies.  Forgive my flaws.  Library patrons, let's be friends.

    Your library lady and number one fan,

    Monday, March 1, 2010

    project 4:4: weeks 7 & 8, or failure catches up with me

    Rather than wallowing in the self-loathing because I never posted my project 4:4 entry from last week, I'm just going to combine it with this week's and pretend like I meant for it to happen that way.

    On Wednesday of last week when I still hadn't posted the 4:4 post, I claimed that it wasn't an exciting week of reading and blamed Leviticus.  But I was at least half-wrong.  The first part of the week's reading came from the end of Numbers and Deuteronomy and included portions Moses's farewell address, which I think is some pretty awesome stuff.  It had just been so long since I read it, and my head was so full of rotten tv that I couldn't remember it.  Oops.

    I love the idea of the farewell address so much.  Moses has been the leader of these people for forty years, and as they are finally about to embark on this journey into the Promised Land, he has to send them on without him.  He takes them back and reminds them of where they've been and Who's been with them, and exhorts them to remember and live accordingly as they enter this new phase.  The folks he's addressing now are a younger generation than those original complainers, as we've waited forty years for them to die out.  But there are people in this crowd who will still remember Egyptian slavery, God's mighty deliverance through the plagues and Red Sea parting, the covenant made in the desert, the voice of God speaking to them.  But there is also an even younger generation hearing these words who won't have the same first-hand experiences, and Moses lays the burden of passing on this story to all generations.  And there's some beautiful language thrown in, just for me.  Deuteronomy six is definitely one of my favorite passages in the Bible, for just that reason.

    All through the Daily Bible readings so far, we've skipped most of the law-giving information because F. LaGard has chosen to put it all together in one place, and we've finally reached that place in our reading.  He's grouped similar passages under whatever type of law it is.  So far we've covered the laws concerning religious observances--feasts, holidays, various kinds of offerings (and there are a lot of them), and priestly law.  We've covered ceremonial cleanness and uncleanness, Nazarite vows, and the consequences for not following all of these laws.  I'm still reading about the law this week too, so I'll have more to say about it later also.  Lucky readers.

    There was one particular day's reading that really stuck out for me this time:  In Wednesday's reading, we examined the priesthood, and I ran across a passage that is difficult for me.  In Leviticus 21:16-24, we learn that descendants of Aaron who are disabled in various ways cannot serve as a priest.  Call me a product of the 20th/21st centuries, but this troubles me.  I can understand that some physical limitations might prevent people from fulfilling the duties of a priest, but several of the things listed certainly wouldn't--and the "defects" mentioned seem, for the most part, entirely beyond the control of these men.  It's sad to me, and I think it doesn't help that the some of the terminology used is very similar to the descriptions of unblemished nature of the animals that are to be sacrificed.  I can understand the idea of God demanding an animal sacrifice without defect.  Giving to God animals that have little value or are not useful does seem to go against the idea of sacrificing the best or firstfruits, so I get that.  But this priest thing is different to me.  These are people, God's people, who are being excluded from God's service, when birth into the Levite tribe should ensure their place as a part of the tabernacle work.  What should I do with this passage?  How do I make this idea fit into this picture of God-relationship that I'm forming through this reading?

    I haven't looked ahead yet, but so I don't know when I'll get this law business taken care of so that I can get back to the story, but I'm trying to be patient.  I understand why the law is important and detailed and all that jazz.  I've talked about that before--that I appreciate the fact that God cares about the details of their lives.  He knows what's best for them, and this whole law business is supposed to result in holiness, so I can't overlook it or rush it or be impatient with it.  But in my tired and draggy and impatient and utterly human way, I'm ready for some action.