Ten things I’m thankful for

Now that I’ve recovered from today’s turkey coma, I thought I would offer my list of things for which I’m thankful.

  1. Mr. Snuggles AKA The Husband: In the 8 years I’ve known my husband, I’ve never ceased to be amazed at how sweet (and strange), loving (and ridiculous) and fun (and funny) this man is. I should mention that I did not bestow that nickname on him. It was his fraternity.
    The Husband and Mr. Miyagi, the top two things I'm thankful for this year.

    The Husband and Mr. Miyagi, the top two things I’m thankful for this year.

  2. Mr. Miyagi: No, not that Mr. Miyagi. My Miyagi is a 4-year-old lab/terrier mix that the husband and I adopted from the SPCA three and a half years ago. He fills my life with energy and the unconditional love only a dog can bring.
  3. Friends: My best guy friend (L) and my college roommates (KBMKS) have helped me get through every low and celebrated every high with me. They truly are the best. I also count a wide circle of people as my friends as well, and I’m grateful to know so many great, interesting and unique people.
  4. Family: This includes my birth family and the family that I was so lucky to get through marriage to my awesomely strange husband.
  5. Career: My life has not gone exactly as my 17-year-old self planned when I applied to college and put “journalism” down as my expected major. Since then I’ve been hired by a newspaper, laid off, hired into better full-time position at another newspaper and quit to completely change careers by taking a part-time job at a public library. I’m so grateful for all these experiences, though, I am most of all grateful that I’ve found a career I can be passionate about.
  6. Cooking: If I could not cook, I’m not sure what I would do. Cooking is my stress relief and my creative outlet. I’m so glad that my mother encouraged my love of cooking when I was just learning and that the husband is willing to play guinea pig for me whenever I try out new ideas.
  7. Health: As I head toward my thirties, I’m grateful that nothing has gone wrong health-wise. I’m so thankful I’ve made it this far without any health crises when so many other people I know aren’t so lucky.
  8. Books: Obviously.
  9. My library patrons: Not only do the people coming to my library basically allow me to have a job, but they also give me a huge amount of job satisfaction. There may be some negative Nancy’s in the bunch, but overall I love being able to help so many people. They’ve truly made the stress and uncertainty of switching careers completely worth it.
  10. Geekery: Star Wars, Star Trek, Harry Potter,Dr. Who, Big Bang Theory, IT Crowd, Lord of the Rings….The list goes on. But being a geek about something (in my case, many things) automatically makes me part of a community. I can go to a restaurant wearing my Millennium Falcon T-shirt and instantly make a connection with my waiter, who also happens to be a Star Wars fan. In a world where it’s easy to feel disconnected, being a part of a fan group gives you an instant sense of belonging, and that feels good. Also, I’ve learned most of my life lessons from these stories, so I’m thankful they exist.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

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My return to Hogwarts

Hello, friends. Apparently that week of HLSDITL posts took the wind right out of my sails. While I had no problem coming up with ideas of what to write that week, I suddenly found I had nothing to say the next week. Or, even if I did have something to say, I had no time in which to say it.

While school and my job have been sucking up a fair amount of time, I’m happy to say my free time was filled out by something fun. In early October, I realized I wanted to reread the Harry Potter series. So, that’s what I’ve been doing. I’ve got a few chapters left of Half-Blood Prince and all of The Deathly Hallows and then I will be finished with my little project. And it was so worth re-reading, let me tell you! But, instead of giving a play-by-play review of the books, I thought it would be fun to reveal my history with the books instead.

Unlike every other person my age, I didn’t exactly grow up with the Harry Potter books. Let’s just say that I thought Harry Potter was for kids who were not advanced enough to read real books. Yes, I know the first book published in 1997. Yes, I know I was 11 when it published. Yes, I also know this means that I should have been obsessed with a book that was about someone my own age who could do incredible things. But, no. I was too mature for such nonsense. I am embarrassed to reveal that this was my reading philosophy at age 11: Leave the juvenile books to the juveniles. Give me Stephen King and Joseph Conrad any day.

Sorry for my absence. I've been re-reading Harry Potter.

Sorry for my absence. I’ve been re-reading Harry Potter.

 Yeah, I was kind of a jerk. It wasn’t until the first movie was released on VHS (I did not have the money to buy DVDs back then) did I realize there might be something to all this nonsense. If you are still interested in the math, this means that it wasn’t until 2002 (when the VHS was released) that I finally bothered to even watch the dang thing. By then I was 16, and even though I enjoyed the movie I still didn’t think the books were worth reading. Fast forward to freshman year in college, after my favorite Harry Potter film was released, and I still hadn’t bothered to pick up a book. But, I enjoyed The Prisoner of Azkaban so much that I finally decided to read the books. So I read the first book in 2004. And then I picked up the second book. And I spent the next few months trying to battle my way past the second chapter. I swear, The Chamber of Secrets was just so terrible to me that I kept putting it off. I’d put it down, read something else, pick it back up a month later and stall again on the very same chapter! It was just…boring. But when I returned to college in fall of 2005, still having not made it through the second book, my group of friends couldn’t stop themselves from talking about how so-and-so died and how they couldn’t believe who killed him at the end of The Half-Blood Prince. One particularly obnoxious friend actually used the characters’ real names, spoilers be damned. I was livid. So I skipped The Chamber of Secrets and sped through the next few books so I could read The Deathly Hallows when it was released. I was hoping to skip being the victim of my spoiler-prone friend again.

Because I had already seen a few of the movies and because I was speeding through the books, I only just barely registered the basics of the plot the first time around. And since it was easier to just re-watch the movies, I never actually got around to re-reading the books at my leisure (or reading Chamber of Secrets at all, actually).

But, I still have a fond place in my heart for Harry Potter. I went with others to go to the early showing of the movies as they were released. I took those online quizzes to see which house I was sorted into (generally a tie between Gryffindor and Hufflepuff). But I still felt like I was missing out on something by not really paying much attention to the books.

So, when another blogger announced plans to do a Harry Potter re-read, I decided it was time I got around to it. This time I did manage to read Chamber, and it wasn’t my least favorite! In fact, the most difficult one to get through this time was Prisoner, which was strangely one of the best movies, in my opinion. Having re-read most of them has led me to believe that every pre-teen should read this books. I think they can really help kids become better adults. Plus, Rowling really knows how to pull a reader in and dribble hints and red herrings all through her books. This was something I hadn’t actually noticed during my first read-through. And, as a librarian, I feel more confident in making that recommendation then when I hadn’t really bothered to read the books fully. Speaking of librarians, here’s a fun passage I came across in The Half-Blood Prince:

‘”The library is now closed,” she said. “Mind you return anything you have borrowed to the correct – what have you been doing to that book, you depraved boy?
“It isn’t the library’s, it’s mine!” said Harry hastily, snatching his copy of
Advanced Potion-Making off the table as she lunged at it with a clawlike hand.
“Despoiled!” she hissed. “Desecrated! Befouled!”
“It’s just a book that’s been written on!” said Harry, tugging it out of her grip.
She looked as though she might have a seizure..’

I burst out laughing at this depiction of a crazy librarian.

Anyway, my new reading philosophy is that every book has merit as long as it entertains me and moves me. This philosophy has helped introduce me to some great books, many of which I’ve reviewed here.

Merging passions: Citizen science, STEM and libraries

Science by Scientopia, who tweaked a Hyperbole and a Half comic

Science by Scientopia, who tweaked a Hyperbole and a Half comic

When I was a youngster, all I ever wanted to be was a veterinarian (sometimes a equine veterinarian). Somewhere along the line that dream fell by the wayside when I started writing. And then in ninth grade I was positive I was going to be a crime scene investigator. Oddly this love affair was due to a Jeffrey Deaver book I picked up from the library (The Bone Collector, which is the first in the Lincoln Rhyme series), and I stuck with that for two years before I realized two things: Math more advanced than Algebra I and physical sciences (like chemistry and physics) both completely eluded me. Research any degree program that led to a job in CSI (or equine veterinarian, for that matter) and you will discover that you have to be able to do both advanced math and science. While these advanced courses had no place in my future, I still love science. What can I say? I grew up with Bill Nye the Science Guy and the Magic School Bus and the passion for science and exploring the natural world that both those shows involved stays with you (Especially when you continue to watch those shows as an adult. Thank you, Netflix/the interwebs).

It’s only recently that I’ve realized that librarianship offers the unique opportunity to incorporate these passions into my career. So, in a way, I am following my childhood dreams, just not exactly how I expected. Let me explain.
I realized that what I love about science is how it encourages everyone to explore, better understand and enjoy the world around them. While I could never really become an expert in all things science and math, I love watching TedTalks about how the brain works, documentaries about animals living in little-explored corners of the world and how astronomers map the universe. This love of learning needs to be cultivated in every individual. Luckily, there are plenty of opportunities for all of us to keep a love of science and learning alive in future generations.  Continue reading

Dreaming of doughnuts

I bought this yesterday:

Wilton Doughnut Pan

Because I love those gourmet cake doughnuts that don’t require a fryer, all you need is special pan and some creativity. Why did I wait so long to buy said pan? Well, first it would require shopping and that is one of my least favorite activities. Next, they were generally $10-12 a pop and that’s too much money for me. And then I saw this:

SALE PRICE

Apparently, I could suddenly get two for less than the price of one. And I was sold. And then I went on a mad Pinterest spree and found these incredible recipes:

When I finally try them out, I’ll let you know how it goes. Plus, I plan on figuring out my favorite O Doodle Doos doughnut: Maple Blueberry Pancakes with Bacon Doughnuts. That’s right. BACON.

Google Earth and nostalgia

I know I just posted that I really prefer ArcGIS, but after seeing my finished Google Earth map, I really enjoy the look and feel I can achieve with Google Earth. And since the program is free, I really do recommend downloading it and exploring some of the really cool things you can see. For example, you can explore a lamp shop in the medina at Marrakesh, Morocco. That sight brought a fun rush of memories from my exchange visit there in 2007. I may have even been in that particular shop, though the medina is huge with multiple shops offering the same types of wares, so there’s no way to know for sure.

For my Google Earth assignment I decided to explore another bit of my history and present my favorite places in Staunton, VA (where I spent much of my later youth), including the Blackfriar’s Playhouse (a replica of the playhouse where Shakespeare first worked) and Sunspots Studios and Glassblowing (where you can watch glassblowing demonstrations for free). Anyway, I thought I’d share an image of my map with you. It won’t be interactive, since you need Google Earth to see it. If you happen to get Google Earth, let me know and I can send you the KMZ file.

From Gypsy Hill Park to Blackfriar’s Playhouse to Wright’s Dairy Rite, there’s something for everyone in Staunton.

I think the most amazing unintended side-effect of this assignment is that it made me appreciate all the great things my hometown had to offer. It also made me think that as a resource for the public, why can’t libraries offer suggestions for day tours of their area? The idea, of course, would offer a way to get people into the library who might not have gone there otherwise and also let the library publicize the great things about the community that supports it.