Thursday, December 29, 2011

New Year's Revolutions

Be always at war with your vices, at peace with your neighbors, and let each new year find you a better man.  ~Benjamin Franklin

new year

It's about time to change over to a new calendar.  (Which means that I need to get one.)  A new year, a fresh start, and a large portion of the population is making resolutions.  Resolving to do things to be healthier and happier.  No one makes resolutions to eat more french fries or watch more TV.  At least, no one I know.  I make the same resolution every January 1st.  To floss more.  Generally by this time, I've fallen off the flossing wagon.  But that's about the only one I make.  I'm not going to resolve to do something I hate doing and thus have no chance of changing.  Maybe I should resolve to change my attitude.  Ahhh, but I've done that.  Prozac helps.

I know what needs to be done in my life to improve it, I just can't find the motivation to get going on any of it (exercise, eat right, exercise, organize, exercise).  I do things in bits and spurts and it rarely lasts longer than a week.  If I joined a gym for the new year I would only last a few weeks.  I know that about myself, so I don't join. 

While scrolling through Flickr to find some pictures to add to this posting I saw a jar of resolutions.  I think I might try that.  Every day I can pick something new.  Things that are small and manageable.  Things that I can do in less than an hour.   I think pulling a new thing out of a jar each day might make the whole thing more do-able.  If it's kind of fun, I might keep it going.  If I can come up with 20 things or so, I might get some positive changes going bit by bit.  I think I'll also put in some stuff that are like easy passes.  "Give yourself a manicure."  If I pull it out of the jar, I have to do it.  That means that I have to make some time to do something for myself. 

After writing that paragraph, I got out a piece of heavy paper and a permanent marker and wrote up a list of things to put in my jar of daily resolutions.  It wasn't as difficult as it first seemed.  Once I got going, I really got going.  I've got more than 30, so it's enough to do something a day for over a month.  Then I can put all those pieces of paper back in the jar and start all over again.  If I think of another something, I can always add it to the jar. 

One little tiny step at a time.  Something; no matter how small, has got to be better than nothing.  Every day, my own little revolution. 

Always remember that the future comes one day at a time.
Dean Acheson

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Ho, Ho, Ho, Scary Christmas!

"Did you ever notice that life seems to follow certain patterns? Like I noticed that every year around this time, I hear Christmas music." ~~Tom Sims

Tis the Season To Be Jolly

It's the crack down to Christmas.  Time to crack down and make those gifts I've been procrastinating making.  Time to crack down and wrap those gifts I bought.  Time to crack down and bake those Christmas goodies that everyone is expecting to eat over the holidays.  Time to crack down and clean the house, so Santa isn't tripping over miscellaneous things as he deposits the stuff the good people in my house are recieving this year. 

I guess that means I'm going to have to put off starting Stephen King's 11/22/63

Jack Torrance ( The Shining)I've never read a Stephen King book.  The only movie based on one of his books that I've seen is Misery.  First impressions are hard to break.  My first impressions of Stephen King include movie posters of The Shining and It.  Much too scary for me, even if the rest of his books haven't all been along those lines.  And it's not like I haven't enjoyed other creepy novels.  I read a fair number of Dean Koontz's books and some of those were pretty scary.  Some of Douglas Preston & Lincoln Child's books have been scary and I've enjoyed all of them.  

So, this latest book by King will be my first.  Here's the couple sentences that made me want to read it:


Sounds intriguing, doesn't it?  Yep. Once Christmas is over I'll be able to give it my full attention.  Until then, it will only get bits and pieces of my time.  I should have waited a bit to order it.  Oh well, who could have guessed that this inter-library loan request would go through so fast?

Happy Holidays!  Here's hoping you get a good book to read, among all the other gifts under the tree.  If not, the library will be open again next Tuesday, and you can come and check out one of the good ones we got!

Holiday Tree Book Art

I still find each day too short for all the thoughts I want to think, all the walks I want to take, all the books I want to read and all the friends I want to see. ~John Burroughs

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Not your average snowman

“Getting an inch of snow is like winning 10 cents in the lottery.”
Bill Watterson

Picture-books in winter

The gray gloomy days with no snow are just right for settling down under deep layers of blankets with a good book and a cup of hot cocoa.  The gray gloomy days with snow falling down from the sky are also good for settling down under deep layers of blankets with a good book and a cup of cocoa. 

I'd rather have the snow right now.  This slushy rain/snow mix that we've gotten is not my idea of a good time.  We live in northern Minnesota, we're used to snow.  We can handle it.  Some of us even enjoy it.  I enjoy it (at least for the first few months.)  Even most snow haters want a white Christmas.  But, we may be looking at a brown one this year.

I guess if I can't be out enjoying the snow, it's good that I've got a couple books to read.  The library has been a busy place lately, with lots of books going out.  

The teenaged boys who spent a good part of the evening in the library last night didn't leave with any books, but they left a gift for me.  A tiny snowman on my car.  He fell off as soon as I turned the wipers on, but I appreciated the thought.  Kind of.  What made me laugh was the snowman in the middle of the street with another laying in front of it.  It was a snowman sculpture straight out of Calvin and Hobbes.  I wish I had a picture of it.  If you aren't familiar with Calvin and Hobbes, here's one of many featuring snowpeople creations: 

calvin and hobbes snowman 14

They say laughter is the best medicine.  Find a Calvin and Hobbes book and that will cure what ails you.  It's been 16 years since Bill Watterson quit his daily comic strip.  The adventures of a precocious 6-year-old boy and his stuffed tiger are one of the best examples of imagination at work that I've ever come across.  Bill Watterson quit while he was ahead, leaving a stack of work that never grew stale. 

If you have a reluctant reader among those you give gifts to, you might think about giving them a Calvin and Hobbes book.  Before you wrap it up, give it a read.  You won't be sorry.

Calvin & Hobbes - Snowmen 004

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Pin your interests to the wall.

When you dream alone, with your eyes shut, asleep, that dream is an illusion. But when we dream together, sharing the same dream, awake and with our eyes wide open, then that dream becomes reality!  ~~Source Unknown

Source: via Yvonne on Pinterest

Well, last weekend's shopping excursion was a success.  I bought pretty much everything I'm going to buy.  Now, to get the tree up and the gifts wrapped and put under it.  I am not done with all the things I need to make for Christmas.  I've got some knitting and sewing to do.  I plan on making our Christmas cards again this year with some help from the children.  So far, I've bought the paper. 

I discovered Pinterest a couple weeks ago, and finally got my invitation to join last Tuesday.  I've spent a lot of time looking at all the favorite things people are posting there.  Now that I'm a bona fide member, I can post my own things as well.  Whoever thought of this website is brilliant.  I now have a place to put all those ideas I get from various websites along with a picture to give me an idea why I saved the site to begin with.  I've used delicious for years, generally for sites that I've found helpful or of interest.  I've never really known what to do when I've found one thing on one site that I want to remember.  I've saved those miscellaneous things in my favorites tab on my computer; but my favorites tab is getting a bit crowded, and I often don't remember exactly why I saved a site.  Pinterest is a solution to that problem.  A picture is saved along with a link to the site you're saving.  That super cute fleece hat that I've got saved in my favorites but can no longer find because I have no idea the website associated with it?  No longer a problem. 

On one hand, pinterest can be seen as:

Source: via Alex on Pinterest

And on the other hand it's:

It's pretty much all of the above.  It's a lot of interesting things.  And I could spend the rest of the evening searching for things to create instead of finishing something I've already started crafting. 

There are so many amazing people and things to discover.  I may copy their ideas, but their ideas are there for sharing.  Sharing is great.  Of all those ideas I had saved in various places there are only a few that will actually make it onto my "done" list.  But; if I share those ideas around, maybe someone else will get inspired to create it and cross it off of their own "done" list  

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Only how many more days?

The color of springtime is in the flowers, the color of winter is in the imagination. ~Terri Guillemets

Winter Road

Today is the first day of December.  Today I can start decorating for Christmas.  (I guess I should take down the Halloween stuff first.)  The children have made their wish lists, and I have made plans to go Christmas shopping with one of my girlfriends this weekend.  Here's hoping I can get it all done.  Okay, that's an unattainable goal for me.  It would be better to say here's hoping I can get half of it done.  I've made a plan and that's a step in the right direction.

I need to get to work crafting some gifts.  Homemade gifts are it for the name drawing presents with both my family and my husband's family this year.  It's always amazing to me what people can come up with.  Have you heard of pinterest?  Basically, it's a website where people pin things they are interested in.  Take a look, and see all the crafty things people have created.  I'm getting to the point where I really should have a plan for what to make for the name draw on my family's side, but I don't.  I should have cheated when I had the chance.  (Cheating is allowed, we're very open and honest about that.)  I don't know why I didn't.  I should have cheated last year too, but didn't.  It's ALLOWED.  Next year I'm cheating for sure.  Every three years I should cheat in order to get the name of a person I already have an idea for.

The library has been a fabulous resource when searching for things to make people for Christmas.  I don't have near as many books checked out as I did a couple weeks ago, but my library book area is still pretty full.  You can find books on how to create just about everything.  If you can find a website on how to make a bomb, you should be able to find a book on how to make something much less dangerous.  (Although, I have a nephew that would probably love to get a bomb for Christmas.)  Type "making" into the subject search, and see how many books pop up.  I request them through inter-library loan, peruse them, and get ideas.  Even if I never use those ideas, it helps get the creative juices flowing.

There's only a smidgy bit of snow on the ground.  I'm ready for a bit more.  It would be nice to take a snowshoeing break from holiday creating/wrapping/baking/decorating.  A walk through the woods is one of the greatest ways for me to get inspired.  Something about the quiet stillness and the snowbound trees lets my mind sift through all those ideas that have been converging in my brain.  Until we get some more of the white stuff, I guess I'll be left to my own devices.  Yep, I ordered a few more books this morning.

My mind contains many good ideas, but it's not always easy to squeeze one out.  ~Ashleigh Brilliant

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

We gather together, now please get lost.

Tutuban Mall (The Sprawling Shopping Mecca)

We're only a day away from the holiday where it is perfectly acceptable to eat your weight in pie.  Okay, maybe that's just my family.  Somehow this holiday snuck up on me.  I haven't even finished off the kids' Halloween candy yet.

So, today is baking day.  A pumpkin pie, because it just wouldn't be Thanksgiving without one.  I'm also bringing a chocolate cream pie for those who aren't lovers of fruit pies.  I volunteered to bring sweet potatoes, because I love them.  I don't know that anyone else in my husband's family does, but I do.  A lot.  My mouth is watering just thinking about them.

buttery sugary sweet potatoes

We're fortunate in that we never have to travel very far for holidays.  This year we're only going a couple hours east to Duluth, MN.  Besides the food, it's a day to spend time with family.  Games and conversation with people other than the people who live in your house. 

This year is a little different.  Lots of stores are opening their doors at midnight.  Oh good, I don't have to go to bed for a few hours before waking to get the Black Friday deals.  Or not.  I'm not a huge Black Friday shopper to begin with.  Not much of a shopper at all.  I've gone the past couple years, lured in by great deals.  It's the thrill of getting something for closer to nothing.  Whether you need it or not.  It's kind of fun.   

But, I don't really care for this opening at midnight business.  Some stores are open on Thursday.  Talk about cutting into family time.  Sure, you may be getting things for your family for Christmas; but what about time spent with family?  Shouldn't that be worth more than the material gift you're giving later?  I suppose if you aren't spending Thanksgiving without your family, this would be a great time for joining in with a throng of people to fight over the hottest selling items. 

I think I'm going to skip Black Friday shopping this year.  I don't need anything that bad.  I'll just sleep in and have a piece of pumpkin pie for breakfast instead.

pumpkin pie for breakfast

But see, in our open clearings, how golden the melons lie;
Enrich them with sweets and spices, and give us the pumpkin-pie!
~Margaret Junkin Preston

It is preoccupation with possessions, more than anything else, that prevents men from living freely and nobly. ~~Bertrand Russell

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Lost Treasures: Not Ramona, James, Henry, or Laura

 I ransack public libraries, and find them full of sunk treasure.
-Virginia Woolf

When thinking back on your younger years, what book memory is forefront in your mind?  Which book was not an enduring classic that everyone around you read?  Which book do you remember reading that perhaps no one else in your class read?  What book did you love that disappeared?

Last winter I ordered a book for my mom that she loved as a kid.  The Diamond in the Window by Jane Langton was a fun read for me and an even more fun read for her.  I had never even heard of the book; but she read it more than once as a kid, and never forgot it.  

On Tuesday I placed a request for the book a man read when he was in 5th grade.  There is one copy in the whole state of Minnesota.  How fun to sit down with a book you haven't seen in over forty years.  It's fun even when it's only been a decade.  This patron talked about another of his childhood favorites, but I didn't have to order that one for him.  He had found it at a book sale.  It was obvious the joy he has to have found this treasure from his youth.

I have a missing book.  I know exactly where it stood on the school library shelf.  I have no idea the name of the book, but the author's last name starts with a letter at the beginning of the alphabet.  I only vaguely remember what the book was about.  It had something to do with a garden gazing ball with some sort of mysterious power.  I suppose I should harness my super human book finding abilities and try to track that book down.  I know I've looked for it at used book sales and never found it.  It was a book I read while members of my class devoured James and the Giant Peach and Deenie.

I would have another missing book if I hadn't been fortunate enough to get it when they weeded it from the school library.  Time at the Top by Edward Ormondroyd.  Never heard of it?  No, I suppose not.  This book may have something to do with my love of houses with towers.  A girl travels back in time when the elevator at her building goes a bit crazy.  Magic, mystery, a problem solved, and a happy ending.  What more could a 4th grader want?  I read it many times.  When I read it again last year, it had been at least 25 years since my last read.  It still held all the charm as it did when I was ten, but maybe with some different nuances to it.  A little nostalgia, a little flashback to the kid who read it for the first time, a little added sweetness to the story.

I'm often found reading books that are off the beaten path.  I've been doing that almost as long as I've been reading.  After reading my mother's lost book and re-reading my own treasure from the past, it was interesting to see how similar the stories were.  I read hers first and kept thinking of mine.  The same magic appealed to us both as young girls. 

How does your lost book compare to the books you read now?  In what way/s did it influence your life?  Have you looked for that lost book?  Have you found it and re-read it?  If you are a kid, have a kid, or know a kid; ask them if they've discovered a book to treasure.

See if your librarian can track down a copy of one of the treasures of your youth.  Ask me, please.  I'd love to see if I can find a copy for you.  I'd really love to see your face when it's placed into your hands; like a lost treasure, found.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Would you persuade, speak of interest, not of reason. ~Benjamin Franklin

Let one who wants to move and convince others, first be convinced and moved themselves. If a person speaks with genuine earnestness the thoughts, the emotion and the actual condition of their own heart, others will listen because we all are knit together by the tie of sympathy.  ~Thomas Carlyle

JJA June 2

I just started reading this book a few days ago.  It's one of a few non-fiction books I'm currently reading, so I'm only about half way through it.  It's a great book so far.  I keep thinking that everyone who is in any way involved with children should read this.  If you are a teacher, you should read this book.  If you are a school administrator, you should read this book.  If you make policies for/about children, you should read this book.  If you are a parent, you should read this book.  Everyone else should read it too.  If you don't consider yourself a reader, read this book.  If you can't read, get an audio version.

I've only read the first half, but from what I've gathered so far, it's a book about sparking children's interest in reading.  Donalyn Miller is a 6th grade reading teacher. You may not be a reading teacher, or one with 6th graders; but the lessons she's learned and shares in this book can be applied to anyone, anywhere.  Most library workers have been doing a version of what she's talking about for years. We talk up a book and peak the interest of perspective readers.  If you're a reader, you've probably done it yourself.  It's talking about this great book you read.  In my case, sometimes I'll even talk about books that have piqued my interest but I haven't had a chance to read yet.  The best part about that is that I can get some feedback to prompt me to remove it from my list of want-to-reads or to move it up on my list. 

Donalyn Miller also states her opinion that reading shouldn't be linked to rewards:

     "I have never observed a student who developed a long-term reading habit because of an incentive program.  Even if the students are somehow motivated to read because of the ticket, free pizza, or other prize, odds are that they will abandon reading as soon as the incentive is earned.  Unfortunately, the only purpose these programs serve is to convince students there is no innate value in reading and that it is only worth doing if there is a prize involved." 

That's pretty much been my experience in my 12+ years of winter and summer reading programs.  The kids who are avid readers rack up points like nobody's business and those "reluctant" readers read a few books and take home some cheap trinkets.  The playing field leveled once I started valuing the time spent reading vs. the number of books read.  But again, the avid reader already has a habit of reading.  It's just a matter of writing it down in order to get a prize.

I pick out the prizes for the winter and summer reading programs.  You would think that with the avid readers I have at my house I wouldn't buy junk.  But, you'd be wrong.  Money is tight and we want to make sure we have something for everyone.  I run a prize store.  The kids get a library dollar for every 20 minutes they read.  Some kids come on prize day and earn $3 while others earn $60.  Guess what they all look at?  Yep, my kids have brought home all kinds of $1-$5 things.  Guess what I stick back in the prize box at the end of library store.  Yep, a lot of "good" high ticket items.  You would think that after 12+ years I'd know what the kids would want.  But, as soon as I figure it out, it changes.

This year our winter reading program's theme is Curl Up With A Good Book.  Yep, there's a bookworm curled around a book on the ice at the curling arena.  I don't know much about curling.  But, I've got left-over polar bear, penguin, snowmen/snow-women and snowflake stuff from past years.  I started looking over the trinkets available last week and just couldn't get myself excited about it.  So, this year we're going to do something a bit different.  Bigger set prizes for each minute of reading goal met.  Yep, incentives.  They're expected for the library reading programs.  And, I'm happy to hand them out.  Every year I hope to turn on the bulb and light someone's way to a life-long reading habit.  I don't think the incentives have ever sparked that, but perhaps the repeated reading and talking about books over the course of the program points some kids in the right direction.

The young mind is pliable and imitates, but in more advanced states grows rigid and must be warmed and softened before it will receive a deep impression. ~Joshua Renolds

Friday, November 4, 2011

Where did you find that book?


“It is not enough to simply teach children to read; we have to give them something worth reading. Something that will stretch their imaginations--something that will help them make sense of their own lives and encourage them to reach out toward people whose lives are quite different from their own.”   --- Katherine Patterson

No, this isn't a posting about AWOL library books found in weird places.  Although I have a lot of experience with that.  This is one about books for kids.  My sister recently asked for a few suggestions for her oldest child who is reading way above grade level.  He was given a list of books at school that he could choose from.  On the list were books like the Nate the Great series by Marjorie Sharmat and the Magic Treehouse books by Mary Pope Osbourne.  I do love those books, but they don't hold a whole lot of interest for a kid who recently finished the Percy Jackson & the Olympians books by Rick Riordan.  So, where do you go to find books that are age and reading level appropriate for your child?

Ask someone who works in the children's section of a library.  If the library is too small to have one specific person working the children/young adult section, then anyone behind the desk should be able to help you.  Generally we have a pretty good idea about what is popular.  Or what is going to be popular.  We've got resources at our fingertips to help you find a book for young and old alike. 

I'm not going to lie.  Some of us have more fun with that than others.  It's one of the things I love about my job.  Finding a new book for someone to love.  Usually I hit the nail on the head, but there have been times that I've failed miserably.  I work at a couple very small libraries where the times I've failed keep getting brought up.  Oh well, I know as well as they do that what I recommend is usually pretty good.  Three strikes and you're out, I haven't gotten that yet.  Or, maybe once I strike out those people know to come when I'm not around.  

Back to where to find a good book for you/your child to read.  Easy enough.  Search Barnes and Noble or any of the other national bookseller websites.  Type in the name of a book you really like and see what other books people who have bought that title have purchased.  One click will lead to another and another and another until you have a whole list of books.  I generally have one tab open to the bookseller site and another to the Arrowhead catalog.  Read a title that's appealing and request it all within a few minutes.

Another place to look are the best-seller lists.  I enjoy checking out the New York Times book section.  You no longer need to live in New York city to get a copy as it's all available online.  (Although when I'm in NYC I love to get the Sunday NYTimes in paper form, but I digress.)  Their book section has a bunch of best seller children's lists: children's series, children's chapter, children's paperbacks, graphic hardcover and paperback, manga, and children's picture books.  Chances are pretty good that you will be able to find something appealing on one of those lists.

One database that I use A LOT is Novelist.  You can find it on the Arrowhead website under Services for Library Patrons and then under Magazines, Newspapers, and other Databases.  If you're looking at it from your computer at home, you will need your library card number in order to access the database.  This database was one of the main reasons I memorized my card number.  I use it all the time.  It's a handy tool for kids and adults alike.  There's a tab for age group on the left hand side, with a listing of recommended titles by genre.  H-A-N-D-Y!!  There's also a section for ages 8-adult with titles selected by other books you like.  If you like. . .The Lightning Thief. . .here are 15 or more other books you might like.  Seriously, how does this database not get more attention?  I love it.

By far, the easiest of these ways to find a book is to ask a librarian.  Or a library worker (technically, I'm not a librarian.)  They can be your best asset.  

Any book that helps a child to form a habit of reading, to make reading one of his deep and continuing needs, is good for him.
Maya Angelou

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Wow, that's footballsy.

Cardboard Viking Ships

"I certainly think that taking a look at the Legacy money to fund a stadium is something that should be on the table," said Rep. Kurt Daudt, R-Crown, an assistant Majority Leader in the Minnesota House.

Wow, I just heard about this.  Let's fund a new stadium using the Legacy money.  You remember what that is, right?  We voted in 2008 for the Legacy Amendment here in Minnesota that added a bit to our sales taxes to help fund arts, parks, and conservation.  Around here, we got a chance at our libraries to offer tickets to museums and events that our patrons may not otherwise have had access to.  There's a certain formula for the proceeds of this 3/8 of one percent sales tax hike:  33 percent to the clean water fund; 33 percent to the outdoor heritage fund; 19.75 percent to the arts and cultural heritage fund; and 14.25 percent to the parks and trails heritage fund.  Libraries got some of that 19.75% going to the arts and cultural heritage fund. 

There is some discussion of how loosely that money has been distributed and how even more willy-nilly the money has been accounted for.  So, it stands to reason that instead of handing out free tickets to cultural events and museums at libraries; some legislators want to use that money to help build a new stadium for our professional football team.

Guess what I think about that?

I don't like professional football.  It's driven me crazy for years.  I don't like the celebratory cavorting after every just about every play.  If I acted like that every time I shelved a book I would get fired.  Maybe they aren't as bad as they were when I first became irritated by that, but I haven't given professional football a second chance.

But that's beside the point.  I understand that a lot of people would be affected by the Vikings moving to a different state.  Love them or hate them, they do produce revenue for businesses.  There are a lot of people who work for them.  That guy who walks up and down the stands bellowing his hot dog prices relies on sporting events (and the hungry people who enjoy them) for his living.

I just don't think it's fair to change the rules when the game isn't going the way you want it to go.  Robbing Peter to pay Paul is what the whole shifting of funding looks like to me.  And poor Peter didn't have much to begin with.  Does professional football qualify as arts and cultural heritage, outdoor heritage, or parks and trails heritage?  I suppose if they want an outdoor stadium it could count as outdoor heritage.

I don't know what you think, but if this doesn't sound like an okay idea to you maybe you should send off some emails to your legislators.  I'm thinking I might even send one off to the Vikings. 

Vikings.  Hunh.  They were looters and pillagers, weren't they?

 Baseball is what we were.  Football is what we have become.  ~Mary McGrory

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Lions, Tigers, and Bears, oh my!

Hold on, man. We don't go anywhere with "scary," "spooky," "haunted," or forbidden" in the title. ~From Scooby-Doo

I came to the realization today that Halloween is only a little more than a week off.  Yikes, how did that sneak up on me?  I don't have much time to get costumes ready for trick or treating.  Even less time to be ready for the costume party at the Calumet Public Library on Thursday (for ages birth to 4th grade). 

My youngest; Maeve, wants to be Dorothy.  Gingham dress, basket, red shoes and Toto all included in the mix.  I like to have a family theme, at least partly.  I haven't been able to convince my husband that the perfect costume for him this year would be Glinda the Good.  A month ago I brought home a pair of cowboy boots from a garage sale thinking Nora could use them as inspiration for her costume this year.  She's going as the scarecrow.  Since my husband may not go as Glinda, I think I will.  I have an old bridesmaid dress that I can turn over for good use.  Now to talk the 10-year-old to join the theme.  She told me that if she has to be part of the Wizard of Oz theme instead of Santa, she'd like to be one of the flying monkeys.  Yep, Santa it is.

I make the Halloween costumes at my house.  We don't buy them.  I may have to run out and get a few things to pull the costumes together, but it isn't the easy pick up a costume complete with mask thing.  I grew up in a make due with what you've got household, and have brought that attitude along with me to my own household (at least as far as Halloween is concerned).  You also get costumes that are unlike anyone else's.  I am a lover of things out of the ordinary, and home-made costumes often fall into that catagory.

Not that my costumes end up being that great.  I don't usually start working on them until a couple weeks or less (much less this year) before Halloween.  It is fun to take the kids trick or treating when the whole family is dressed up.  We live in the way backwoods, and in the first 5 years we lived there we got about 5 trick or treaters.  Total.  The most we ever got in one year was three.  So, we skip handing out treats and go out to get some.  We work for those treats.  And it's fun. 

I think my kids will fondly remember our Halloweens.  I may not be the mom who goes all out over birthday cakes and parties, but I'll go a little closer to all out to get them into a disguise.

Hunh.  I wonder what that says about me?

Clothes make a statement. Costumes tell a story. ~Mason Cooley

Friday, October 14, 2011

Changing seasons: Time to dig out the long underwear

A wind has blown the rain away and blown the sky away and all the leaves away, and the trees stand. I think, I too, have known autumn too long. ~e.e. cummings

the last leaf

It's really and truly fall.  It has been for many weeks, but we've kind of gotten used to warm and sunny days.  This chilly rain is a bit of a switch.  We shouldn't complain, we need the rain.  It is October, so it's not like days were you don't need a jacket are the norm.  It's been nice, and now it's time to accept the fact that it's going to get colder before it gets warmer again. 

Right now it's 49 and sunny(!).  The same temperature in March, and I'm putting on shorts.  Funny how the same exact temperature elicits different reactions in the same person.  It's all a matter of perspective.  It's hard to be sunny when the weather is so damp.  Seems like the immediate response is to put on a grumpy face and start complaining.  But, we really need the rain.  It's been several weeks of really nice weather where I've put off a lot of things inside.  (Not that I actually got anything done outside, but that's where I was.)  Today is finally sunny again, so maybe that will improve some moods.  That, and it's Friday.

Fall is not my favorite time of year.  The beginning of the season where the leaves are all dressed in their best colors and the sun is still giving off some warmth are wonderful.  It's once the wind blows the leaves off the trees and skies turn down their blue that I don't like.  At this time of year, it's all about getting ready for winter.  Hauling all the outdoor toys into the garage, raking the leaves, stacking firewood, putting all the summer clothes away, and digging out all the cold weather gear.  It's a bit of a transition time, and I'm not fond of it. 

I'm ready for the transition to be done.  Once all that work is taken care of, I'll be ready to don my snowshoes or make a snowman.  I'm ready for the bare branches to have a covering of the white stuff. 

But, I've got a lot of things to get done before that happens.  Here comes my grumpy face again.

Work is not a curse, but drudgery is!
~~Henry Ward Beecher

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

It's tough to make predictions, especially about the future. -Yogi Berra

Librarians are almost always very helpful and often almost absurdly knowledgeable. Their skills are probably very underestimated and largely underemployed. ~Charles Medawar

Day 195/365 Y2 - Can he find it in a book ? (Searching for Themes 3/5)

For a few years now, there has been some whisperings that public libraries are on their way to extinction.  You can download a book to your e-reader, iPod, or what-have-you instead of picking up the paper version.  "The kids don't read anymore, they just come into the library to play games on the computer."  I haven't actually heard this statement in awhile, but I have heard it many times in my 13 year career here.  Now that we are so deeply entrenched in our electronic devices, there has been some concern (generally from people who don't know any better) that public libraries aren't good for anything anymore.

For those not very familiar with what libraries have to offer, it may seem like that.  But, public libraries are actually in tune with what their patrons need and want.  Libraries take the pulse of the world and anticipate what is going to be needed/wanted next.  We have what you want before you even realize you want it.  At least that's the goal.  Downloadable audio books?  We had them before you even knew what they were.  E-books?  Yep, we've got those too.  When DVDs were the latest thing, we had them.  Blu-ray?  Now we have those.  You need information on anything?  Yes, we have databases galore to help you find the information you're looking for.

Books come in more than just paper now.  You can listen to them, or read them on a screen.  If you have a library card you can download a book.  You don't even have to visit the library.  It's all available online. 

I don't think paper books will disappear in my lifetime.  Seems like a dangerous thing to take an electronic book into the bathtub.  It's frowned upon to read an E-book when the pilot has just announced that all electronic devices need to be turned off.  I don't trust children under 4 with electronic devices either.  So, no, libraries are not about to become extinct over the fact that just about everyone on the planet now has a screen to read from.  The great thing about a book is that it never needs charging because the batteries never go dead.

Day 131/365 - Bubblebath Therapy

What will the role of public libraries and the people who work in them be in 20 years?  I don't know, but I intend to stick around and find out.  We'll still be here waiting to help you find the information you need.  We'll still be anticipating what you will be asking for next.  We'll still be doing our best to get you what you want before you even know you want it.  The library of the future may look a bit different than the library of today in terms of what it has to offer, but look how far we've come in the past 10 years.  We're not going to be extinct, we're going to be moving along just as fast as everyone else.

Book Worm Bot

The past cannot be changed. The future is yet in your power.
-Mary Pickford

Friday, September 30, 2011


Most people are willing to pay more to be amused than to be educated. ~Robert C. Savage, Life Lessons

It isn't so much that hard times are coming; the change observed is mostly soft times going. ~Groucho Marx


What happens when you can no longer pay for your own internet?  What happens when you can't afford to buy books for your children?  What happens when you need help updating your resume?  What happens when budget cuts interfere with your access to information?

Times are tough, and it looks like it might be getting tougher.  There hasn't been a fast fix to our recession woes.  We're a global society used to getting what we want when we want it; and if we don't get it, we throw a fit like a spoiled three-year-old denied a cookie before dinner. 

The Maintanence of Effort was given to us last week.  That's the money that we are required to get for the year, based on funding from previous years.  Once upon a more prosperous time, library budgets were "safe".  They haven't been safe for a while.  We got news that next year our funding is being cut.  AGAIN.  Really?  Our lower income community has a great need for the services we provide.  How many times have we helped patrons find things they need online?  How many resumes have we proof-read and printed out?  How many kids get to read new (to them) books on a regular basis?  How many adults get to read the latest hardcover without shelling out their hard earned cash?  How much money have people saved by checking out a DVD instead of renting one? 

I suppose it's all in your sense of priorities.  I don't care a thing about the NFL, so a new stadium for the Minnesota Vikings is not real high on my list of things that I feel need to be funded right now.  I obviously work at a place that recieves government funding, and I'd like that to not go down.  No one really wants to pay for services they aren't using.  I don't have season tickets to the Vikings, you don't have a library card.  Who gets funding, who gets cuts?  Who wins?  I'm not sure there is a winner.  I'm thinking this is a lose/lose situation. 

Sheesh, someone sure got up on the wrong side of the bed this morning.  I'm probably not the only one though.  Just about everyone is upset over something our government is or isn't doing.  Differences in priorities is the biggest factor in that.  I'm glad I'm not a politician.  They can't win because they've got to say "no" to somebody.  And there goes the tantrum again.

All right, I'm a whiner.  I'm lucky I still have a job.  For now.  The cut we've been given is a bit more than my yearly wages.  I'm glad the library board recognizes and values my role here as a one-day-a-week worker with a love of libraries and literature.  I write the blog, I do story-hour (starts next week!!), and I keep my ear to the ground when it comes to things book and library related.  We've cut where we can over the years, and we still have patrons who appreciate what we are able to provide.  There are ways of making due with what you have.   

Although, it is a lot easier to just throw a tantrum. 

budget cuts

One half of knowing what you want is knowing what you must give up before you get it. ~Sidney Howard

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

What happened after the After School Special?

If you are dyslexic, your eyes work fine, your brain works fine, but there is a little short circuit in the wire that goes between the eye and the brain. Reading is not a fluid process. --Bruce Jenner

Sculpture at the Dyslexia Discovery Centre

As you all know, I work at a library.  I'm an avid reader.  I LOVE to read, so this job is a perfect fit for me.  Since I figured out how the reading process worked in 1st grade, I've been reading.  I love to help people find books.  I love turning people on to the joys of reading.  I love my role in turning non-readers into readers.

Dyslexia affects 1 in five people.  That's a lot.  I'm not sure why I haven't heard more about it in recent years.  When I was a kid, there was the after school special featuring the Phoenix brothers where one of them struggled with dyslexia and waited for it's diagnosis.  I knew a few kids with dyslexia.  Of course, it's all pretty vague now; but it seems like they got help in school.

I have a friend whose daughter has been diagnosed with dyslexia in the past year.  Marianne is passionate about education.  With a degree in elementary education and a passion for reading you would think her kids would not face any difficulties in school.  Wrong.  Her daughter had struggled for years with undiagnosed dyslexia.  Finally, in 4th grade her teacher felt that there might be a learning disability-- maybe dyslexia. With a little research, Marianne found that Megan had many of the classic symptoms of dyslexia.  And the road to diagnosis began.

As things are now, there really aren't any resources available in the school for dealing with dyslexia.  We all understand the lack of funding available, and it's become much less expensive to get these children onto ADHD medication than to take an actual look at where their problems with learning may be coming from.  It's a shame; and it needs to be brought back to attention.  We had the After School Special about dyslexia, but how much has it been talked about in the past few years?  We all know about ADD/ADHD, but we seem to have forgotten all about dyslexia.  Where's the mass media attention for that?

Here's what I found on the Minnesota Department of Education website:

The symptoms of dyslexia do not occur either from a lack of intelligence or from lack of desire to learn, but researchers have not yet identified the exact causes. As is the case for most disorders, there is a continuum of the effects of the disorder ranging from mild to severe. In order for a child with a diagnosis of dyslexia to be eligible for special education services, a school evaluation team, including the parents, must make a determination that the disability severely impacts school performance, and the student must meet the eligibility criteria found in MN Rule 3525.1341. A child with a diagnosis of dyslexia may, in this case, be eligible for special education under the Individuals with Disabilities Acts (IDEA) 1997 and Minnesota Rule 3525.1341.

and a little further on:

Please note: A diagnosis of "dyslexia" does not automatically mean eligibility for special education.  The determination of eligibility for special education is a team process and includes parents (Please refer to the chart entitled, "Special Education Process and Dyslexia").

Wow, hats off to anyone dealing with a learning disability.  There are a lot of hoops to jump through in order to get help in school.  If your child is dyslexic, they have probably come up with some very creative ways to compensate for it.  Even if your child DOES qualify for special education, the teachers are often not trained in the specific type of instruction that the dyslexic student needs. 

If you're in the Grand Rapids, Minnesota area and would like to learn more about dyslexia, there is a FREE dyslexia presentation with Susan Barton on Sunday, September 25th, from 2:00 to 5:00 at the Sawmill Inn.  Susan Barton is trained in seven different Orton-Gillingham based programs and teaches several graduate-level courses through the University of San Diego.  This program is sponsored by Great Minds Tutoring Service of Grand Rapids, Minnesota.  Click here to sign up.  I hope that anyone and everyone who works with children or has children in their life will find time to attend this seminar.

"My learning disabilities pushed me to discover talents that I wasn't aware of having.  It has also led me to develop products to help others who struggled through school as I did." ~~ Reyn Geyer, (inventor of Nerf balls & Twister, among other things)

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

TV will destroy your brain

The television, that insidious beast, that Medusa which freezes a billion people to stone every night, staring fixedly, that Siren which called and sang and promised so much and gave, after all, so little.
-Ray Bradbury

Uh oh.  SpongeBob rots your brain.  Every news program I've seen in the past 24 hours has to mention the "SpongeBob study" that shows that 9 minutes of fast-paced television for kids under the age of four leads to problems with self-control and learning.  Of course, Spongebob creators say that the big porous dimwit is not meant for children under the age of six.  I suppose that if any of the other fast-paced shows had been singled out, they'd say the same thing.

Most everyone knows that we need to limit the amount of screen time our children get, and particularly those children under the age of four.  Children under the age of two shouldn't even watch TV.  My oldest child was probably around 7 before she became familiar with SpongeBob.  If my eldest was 7, my middle child was 5, and my youngest has never known a world that didn't include SpongeBob.  She's four.  Guess it's too late for that study to help me change my parenting ways; the damage has already been done.

After hearing about this study, did anyone else recall the Max Headroom episode where people were exploding because of watching fast-paced TV?  Granted, that was 1987--and it wasn't a show that EVERYONE watched.  I was only 14, but that episode apparently made a lasting impression on me.  My guess is that one of the authors of this study also saw that episode.   In the episode, fast-paced commercials caused death.  Twenty-four years later, we find out that fast-paced television causes problems in young children.  Granted, it's just one study of just 60 kids who were just four years old.   

So, I suppose we should all err on the side of caution and pay attention to what our kids are watching.  Just in case there's more to that Max Headroom "Blipverts" episode than we would have imagined. 

So, how do I undo the damage already done on my child?  No TV for the next year.  Lots of flashcards.  We're going to work on her self control.  Okay, I'm not really going to do any of that.  I'll do my best to prevent her from feasting on a steady diet of SpongeBob.  We'll read books.  We'll talk.  We'll continue to do pretty much all of the stuff we're already doing.  Does she have great self control?  NO.  She's four and she's the baby of the family, used to getting her own way.  Does it have anything to do with the fast-paced shows that are on television when her sisters get home from school?  Maybe.  Probably.  Am I going to becoming a strict TV-patrolling parent?  Sorry, but no.   She's often in the same room as her sisters while they're watching TV, but much of the time she's doing other things.  She can be found coloring, looking at books, or playing with one toy or another while they're watching something she doesn't really care about. 

Unfortunately, SpongeBob is hilarious.  He's fast-paced and funny and she already knows and loves him.   I suppose I should bring a couple of SpongeBob books home from the library.  The same lovable character, but put at a slower pace.  Of course, now that I have two kids who will read to the third, I wouldn't even have to read them to her!  Win, win!  She's not rotting her brain, and the other girls improve their reading skills!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

We shall not forget, at least not yet.

People may correctly remember the events of twenty years ago (a remarkable feat), but who remembers his fears, his disgusts, his tone of voice? It is like trying to bring back the weather of that time.
-Martha Gellhorn

Hereafter (World Trade Center), NYC [Film Scan]

It's not a date which will live in infamy; that title belongs to December 7th, 1941 and the attack on Pearl Harbor.  September 11th, 2001 is the current generation's date that will live in infamy.  We Will Not Forget is the motto for the attack.  I remember where I was, the sun pouring through the curtains in my bedroom as I lay next to my sweetly sleeping baby.  I remember the news that shattered my peaceful morning.  I remember the person I talked to, and the shocking disbelief that was on every TV channel.  I was fortunate to have that new-mother-fogginess to dull the panic and fear. 

Prior to 9/11 Americans kind of lived like teenagers who have no sense of their own mortality.  It was a shock to find that we were not invincible.  By 2001, the World Wars were but a memory of some chapters in history class.  We hadn't lived it.  The Korean War was something we had experienced on TV with the show M*A*S*H.  The Vietnam war was bit fresher on our minds, but us gen-Xers were babies and many of us weren't born yet when our fathers were shipped off to the other side of the world.  It had been ten years since the Gulf War.  All of these events took place elsewhere.  We hadn't had that kind of in-your-face destruction on our own turf.  Sure, the World Trade Center had been the victim of a car bomb in 1993, and we had lived through the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995.  We should have known we weren't invulnerable.  But, like teenagers who have seen their friends succumb to tragedy, we forgot.  Things like that can't happen to us, they happen to other people, not us. 

So, now we're up to the 10 year anniversary of the "day we will never forget".  What exactly are we supposed to remember?  Our panic?  Our fear?  The way we all went down and donated blood for those hoped-for survivors?  The shock that there weren't any?  The suspicion we suddenly felt for anyone from the Middle East?  The anger that something like this had happened in our country?  The call out for revenge? 

We want to remember the people who died: the people working in the buildings that fell and the emergency personnel who were trying to get everyone to safety.  I didn't know any of those people.  What I remember are the memorials scattered around the site when I went there the following June:  the pictures of missing loved ones and the tokens of support sent from around the country all spread out along the fence at St. Paul's Chapel.

NYC - St. Paul's Chapel

And We Shall Not Forget.  At least those of us who lived through it won't forget it.  Not exactly, anyway.  We'll remember some things about it and as we go on with our lives we'll lose a little of it to make room in our brains for other things.  Another ten years down the road, there will be even more people who don't remember it except as a history lesson.  It will just be another thing that they've heard about. 

So how do we "Not Forget"?  I suppose the same way we haven't forgotten about WWII.  Lots of books and movies about the people who lived through it.  To hear someone else's story is to bring a little bit of it into your own consciousness.  There will be all kinds of 9/11 anniversary shows on television over the next week.  But, my brain absorbs the stuff I read better than the stuff I sit back and watch on a screen.  Should my children ask about what happened that day, I will tell them my memories of the day, but they will be very different than a lot of other people's memories.  I was in the new-parent-fog, remember? 

I don't expect my children to forget, I expect them to not remember.  We've been to the site.  We've seen the new construction and the memorials to that day in 2001.  We've been to Battery Park and seen The Sphere that was originally in the courtyard between the two towers.  It doesn't mean much to them right now, but they're all still pretty young.  In the future, it will be a piece of history for them. 

Much as "That date which will live in infamy" is just a piece of history to me.  

The Sphere (NYC, May, 2007)

Fighting terrorism is like being a goalkeeper. You can make a hundred brilliant saves but the only shot that people remember is the one that gets past you.
-Paul Wilkinson