I'm Liz, and I'm a librarian (duh)

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Lately it has been increasingly hard ...

Lately it has been increasingly hard for me to sit down and write something,largely because I feel like all I will do is complain. I think it's fair to say that my mood, along with most of my coworkers', could mildly be called sustained unease in light of the draconian cuts made to our already lean budget--it's been a month since the news hit and we all, still, know nothing about how our jobs will be affected, only that they will be affected.  If I weren't putting it mildly, I would say the general feeling is one of straight-up panic. Adding to the fun is the fact that the paper has been publishing articles every few days further politicizing the cuts--it seems that the head of the city's board of finance and the head of the library can't be in the same room without sniping and on occasion, screaming at each other, and the mayor hates us as well.  Maybe hate is a strong word, but I do think it's fair to say that he doesn't understand the role of a public library in a city, and seriously underestimates the value our services have on the community.  Summing up, it's a bummer.

While I have been trying to come up with something positive to write about, I have mostly been coming up empty. So my compromise is to try to keep my kvetching to a minimum, and at least write something.

Switching gears, on a slightly more positive note, I was walking down the street today when I literally stopped in my tracks to read the headline on the local free weekly paper--"Wheat is Murder" with a much smaller subtitle, "Gluten-free in CT."  This superimposed on a big smiling guy in a chef's hat displaying a pepperoni pizza.  I do question their tactics, but they certainly got my attention, and while the article itself was kind of short and not as in-depth as I would have liked, the fact of the matter is, there was an article about living gluten free in CT!  As well as a list of about 30 pizza joints in the state that offer gluten-free pies!  And a further listing of maybe 60 grocery stores, bakeries, and other restaurants that either offer gluten-free options on their menus or have completely gluten-free menus!  Huzzah!

Whatever else is going on, I am still reading, currently in the middle of three things: Marcelo in the Real World by Francisco X. Stork (teen book), Wimpy Kid Movie Diary by Jeff Kinney (kids), and Game Change: Obama and the Clintons, McCain and Palin, and the race of a lifetime (adults).  Marcelo and the Real World is fantastic so far, but it's stressing me out--about a boy with something resembling Asperger's syndrome, and how he takes a job at his father's law firm because he father thinks he needs to learn how to function outside of the special school he has attended since first grade.  I'm feeling very protective of Marcelo and he's not being treated very well. Wimpy Kid is a guilty pleasure indulgence--the books are not exactly Newbery contenders (or Caldecott for that matter), but they are funny, and the author and two kid stars of the movie appeared here a couple of weeks ago so I felt I could spare the hour it would take me to read this latest book.  Finally, Game Change appeals to the gossip monger in me, providing juicy details about all the major players in the 2008 presidential election.  It's like reading People magazine, without any danger of accidentally reading about Heidi Montag's plastic surgery or any of the Kardashians.  Prior to this I listened to the Andrew Jackson biography, American Lion by Jon Meacham--while the book itself was probably quite good (in fact, I think my brother recommended it to me a year ago or so), I would not recommend the audio--whole discs would go by and I wouldn't remember a thing because the reader was just so boring.  I can't even say it was the subject matter, because I loved 1776 and John Adams (both by David McCullough) on audio, the common subject here being dead white guys, I guess.  Anyway, I thought it was a snooze.  I just feel compelled to read anything having to do with American history because I don't really feel very well educated in this area--honors American studies in high school notwithstanding.  I'm not giving up though--once I've had time to recover maybe I'll tackle Benjamin Franklin--wasn't there a big biography of him published within the last 10 years?

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Big goings-on around here, where to s...

Big goings-on around here, where to start? I guess maybe we'll start with the good news, little of it though there is. First and foremost, Ella has gained another pound, she's been eating like a teenage boy for the last two months. And William seems to have finally gotten his eat on, at his 18 month well visit he jumped from the 5th to the 10th percentile for his weight, so we're making some inroads there, too. God help me, I never in a million years thought I would be the kind of mother who obsessed over how much food goes in (and out) of the kids, but here I am. Even I am disturbed. In other news, last Wednesday our library was the co-host (along with 21st Century Fox and Barnes and Noble) of Jeff Kinney (author of the Wimpy Kid books) and the two child stars of the Wimpy Kid movie at their talk and signing at the 1600-seat theater in town. Tickets were given out free at Barnes and Noble and at our library and every seat was filled. I spoke for about 30 seconds before Jeff Kinney took the stage, just to welcome everyone, and I swear it was the closest I'll probably ever get to feeling like a rock star--these kids were whipped into an absolute frenzy. Some were actually asking us as librarians to sign their books--take that, naysayers. I don't see a day coming when people will ask authors/actors to sign their kindles!

Now that we're all feeling good, here's the substantial bad news. Our library was an oasis of heat, electricity and other luxuries during the aftermath of one of the worst storms to hit our area in 50 years. The Wimpy Kid event happened in the middle of an unscheduled week off from school for our town's kids, because most of the city had no power, and many of the roads were impassable because of trees (and live power lines) blocking the streets. The library was mobbed with people coming to charge their phones, laptops, etc.: every table was full, every chair had a body in it, and people were using every open electrical outlet, including the ones behind our desks. It was the busiest week I can remember that didn't happen during the summer, when we are regularly packed with patrons. One of the only people in the city who didn't darken our doorway was the mayor, who cut our budget for the next year by 1.3 million dollars, forcing us to face hour reductions, branch closings, and layoffs in the coming months. Adding insult to injury, most of the libraries in the surrounding towns are getting increases, to deal with the extra business that a weak economy usually brings to public libraries. Morale among the staff is dismal and people are having difficulty trying to plan for the summer and beyond, since we don't even know when we'll be open and who will be around to run any programs we manage to schedule. Dark days.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Back to Reality

All too soon my much-anticipated vacation has come and gone. The Olympics barely began and I was already looking back fondly on my (too short) time in Vancouver. I could go on and on about my trip, but in the interest of not boring the daylights out of what few people I suspect might be reading this, I will distill the trip down to a few highlights:

Spotting Bertster and Dee in the airport at 4:30 am--proof of Buono/Mulligan magnetism
Sharing a plane with multiple Olympic hopefuls--mostly snowboarders, including Lindsey Jacobellis, and some women's hockey players
Riding the elevator with a Mountie in my hotel
Inukshuks everywhere, including one made of storage containers near the airport--awesome!

One thing that did not happen, and about which I will forever be disappointed, is that I did NOT go to see Anvil perform on my last night in town. I really should have just made that happen, the serendipity was almost too much. Who knows when they will come to CT?????

On the gluten-free front, lots of good news about Ella--in the month between when she was diagnosed and when we went for our consultation with the RD, she has gained 3 pounds!! This may not seem like much, until you consider that she didn't even gain 2 pounds in the last two years. She is definitely less anemic--she is pink! She is already growing out of clothes that were baggy on her before her diagnosis. This more than makes up for the tears and anxiety about the grocery shopping--it is totally worth it. Of course, now that she's feeling better she is starving--she eats like a teenage boy, now that her body is adjusting. My one worry is that she was measured for her dance recital costume back in November, before all this weight gain and growth--there is a very good possibility that it won't fit her by June. All in all, good news as we head into spring!

Between being on vacation and then getting ridiculously sick about a week later, I have had a little time on my hands to read a little. First, I read Tales of the Madman Underground by John Barnes while I was away--one of this year's Printz honor books, it calls itself "An Historical Romance: 1973," and it owes a large debt to The Catcher in the Rye, despite being about 4 times as long. Still, it tells a complicated story with many threads about a group of high school seniors with totally messed up home lives who have been in group therapy together since about 3rd grade, and ends hopefully, if not outright happily.

While I was home sick last week I read a book I found in our gift/giveaway pile from a couple of years ago: My Most Excellent Year by Steve Kluger, which I absolutely loved. It had romance, baseball, and very sweet relationships between boys, boys and girls, and families in general. I knew it was too good to be true as I was reading it, but I didn't care--it stopped just short of being saccharine (although Mary Poppins figures prominently). Charming.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Tiny little victories

So, we're a couple of weeks into our gluten-free lifestyle and I am happy to report that I am no longer reduced to literal tears every time I walk into the grocery store (only sometimes), and we have even survived our first birthday party. The birthday party was for Ms. 5-year-old herself, and there was a lot of angst-ing, at least on my part, as to whether to subject all our little guests to gluten-free fare, or just have some separate things for the birthday girl and hope no one else wanted any of what she was having. Interestingly, most of the books about parenting kids with celiac disease recommend against letting other kids try the GF stuff--some of the products aren't so good and you don't want your GF kid feeling bad because other kids think their food is gross. But I went for the compromise--Ella doesn't like birthday cake anyway, never has, but she understands that people expect it at a party, so we ordered a regular sheet cake (Disney princesses) for candles, etc., and then I made some GF cookies, brownies and cupcakes, plus we had vanilla Dibs, which just happen to be GF. Success! I am happy to report that all 14 of the girls were happy with their choice of snack, and probably only half the kids chose the cake. None of the kids had any idea that the other snacks were any different, and I can personally bear witness to the fact that the brownies and chocolate chip cookies were pretty awesome. We had a split decision on the cupcakes--my brother-in-law and I thought they were pretty awful, while my husband didn't think they were so bad. If you're keeping score: Betty Crocker 2, Bob's Red Mill zip. AND! We spread the word about Dibs, which many of our guests (including the moms) had never had before and were totally into. They are fully a staple in our house.

In other news, I just finished Academy 7 by Anne Osterlund, which I read at the recommendation of one of my colleagues--she is suggesting it for our Twilight read-alike/fantasy booklist. I liked it as a romance, it definitely has more heat than Twilight, but that's not too difficult to achieve. I'll admit that as sci-fi it's not my usual genre of choice, but the tech/space stuff was pretty easy to forget as the story progressed. Also, I just started Douglas Coupland's Generation A--I'm preparing for my trip to Vancouver next week and getting giddy. I'm not that far in yet, but I'm noticing an inordinate amount of Simpsons references...not sure what that's all about.

Monday, January 18, 2010

So this is a pretty big news day--the ALSC awards were announced this morning! And it looks like readers across the country were right--When You Reach Me was indeed the Newbery winner! Now I really do have to read it--despite my best intentions, it just didn't get done this weekend. I was also excited to see that Flash Burnout got the Morris award--that I did finish, and I thought it was great. It's always interesting to see authors who are probably my age giving props to all the music of our youth. Jerry Pinkney's The Lion and the Mouse was certainly spectacular as well (Caldecott winner) so in my opinion justice has been done. I do need to get my hands on Going Bovine (Printz winner) now as well--it was on my list all summer and then all of a sudden it wasn't. Ah well, now it's back. I need to watch Libba Bray in a cow costume on youtube to remind me. I started reading How do you Spell G-E-E-K? on Saturday, but it's short, and then I play catch up. I spent this last year in a post-partum fog, at least for the first 6 months. Well, the whole thing, really. And, as a result, I haven't read a fraction of what I should have. But, new year, fresh start, right?

As I said, this was indeed a big news day. For about a month now we have suspected that my daughter has celiac disease, and today we got confirmation that she does indeed. On the one hand, I'm kind of relieved, because once it became apparent that she had something, better celiac disease than any of the other possible diagnoses. And once it's under control she'll feel better, she'll grow, her quality of life will definitely improve. The down side is, this makes her susceptible to all sorts of other way worse diseases if she can't control it (I'm thinking rebellious teenage years here, wanting to drink beer because everyone else is and who brings wine to a keg party??), and it's hard to explain to a child who turned 5 two weeks ago that she can't have any of the foods she likes. She's smart, but she's stubborn--we have a long road ahead of us here.

I am going to have to make a conscious effort here, to go against my own personal inclinations and be positive for her. In that vein, we were totally gluten-free today. It wasn't the most exciting day, menu-wise, but we did it. So tomorrow we'll do it again. And if anyone has any gluten-free recipes for a picky child addicted to ravioli that aren't prohibitively expensive, then shoot them my way!

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Liz 2.0?

So this is embarrassing--it has been almost exactly a year since my last post, and before that it was a pretty long time too. There has been a lot going on in my life in the last couple of years, and I was leaning toward throwing in the towel, blogwise, but some events over the past few weeks have got me reconsidering. I'm still a librarian, that much hasn't changed, and I'm still a mom, but rather than have me consistently complaining about how my commute is terrible (it is) and my house is a mess (it really is) and how my husband and I are so tired most days that we barely have the energy to talk about anything except the logistics of how to get through the next day (we are), I want to try to give myself a little focus. So I'm proposing a fresh start and maybe an expanded focus--I still want to talk about books and maybe stuff going on in libraryland, but I think my life is just going to have to seep in here too. Plus, I spent a lot of money on my English degree; I should be writing something other than grocery lists and the minutes from the last staff meeting! Although I give fair warning--grocery lists may indeed play a huge role here in the not too distant future... I also would like to try to give myself a minimum goal of one post a month, maybe a maximum of one a week--I'll start small and see how I go. Call it a new year's resolution!
So here's what I'm reading: Flash Burnout by L.K. Madigan (teen), The Help by Kathryn Stockett (my token grown-up book), When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead (hopefully will finish before Monday's award announcements), and finally, Walter Wick's A Drop of Water is currently in heavy rotation at bedtime. Also various books/pamphlets/websites about gluten-free diets, as my daughter was just diagnosed with celiac disease this week, and will likely be a couple of weeks before we get an appointment with a dietician (hence the grocery list talk). I'd love to hear what anyone else is reading, I'm always looking for something good!