Friday, December 30, 2011

What a Year

This has been quite a crazy year.  I did my student teaching in the spring, I learned to drive, I graduated from college, I found a job in the real world, and I am slowly moving toward a real adult life.  I decided to move back to Flagstaff.  I decided to pursue graduate school at NAU.  I decided that I would enjoy being a librarian.  And I decided to say yes to the most important question of my life.

That's right folks -- the boyfriend finally proposed.  And I couldn't be more ecstatic.  I'm gonna steal a little from Mr. Monk and say, "Here's what happened":

He and I have been talking about marriage for a long time.  Practically from the get-go, we just knew this was right.  It wasn't so much a matter of "if," just a matter of "when".  In September, his coffeeshop got bought out by another company, and this company let their baristas keep their tips.  He decided to put all his tips away into an engagement ring fund.  About a month ago, it started getting to the point where he could think about buying one.  So I started looking, and we started talking, and it all seems like there's no mystery, right?

Wrong.  If you don't already know me, I'm going to clue you in on some things about me.  I'm very gullible.  I'm not super observant.  I don't always put two and two together immediately.  I'm the person who gets jokes last, usually.  And I am very trusting.  So when Philip said he had stayed home the day before and done household chores and taken care of his sick brother, I totally believed him.  It never occurred to me what he might actually have been doing.  So when he came over to my house the next night and my parents left to go pick up a pizza, I was completely unsuspecting.

Now here's something you need to know about my boyfriend.  He gets very excited to give things.  He can almost never wait until the actual holiday to give me presents -- he always ends up doing it early and spur of the moment.  He gets caught up in it and can't help himself.  It was the same this time.  He had thought about taking me to the library where we met and proposing in the children's section, but apparently I was being too cute and he just got too excited.  He led me upstairs on the false pretense of being cold and needing a jacket, and just when I had brought him one, he got down on one knee in the crowded hallway outside my room and proposed.

I cried a lot.  He completely blew me away.  I had no idea he was going to do it then, and he makes me so happy I just couldn't keep it all in.  I think I nodded frantically yes, yes please I want to be your wife so badly you adorable thoughtful funny man.  I know everyone says you need to be your own person, whole and complete, and I get that, and I think I am that, but the hopeless romantic in me prefers this version, from the incomparably sweet movie Imagine Me & You:

"I think you know immediately.  You know, as soon as your eyes. . .then everything that happens from then on just proves that you had been right in that first moment, when you suddenly realized you had been incomplete and now you are whole."

I had that first moment with Philip, and everything since then has been absolutely amazing.  He is everything I could ever ask for.  He is romantic and silly and level-headed and smart and funny and handy and handsome.  He treats me wonderfully and with such consideration.  I am happier with him than I've ever been before.  He opens up worlds of possibilities and empowers me to pursue my dreams. He is completely supportive.  I could go on and on about his fabulous qualities, but at the bottom line, I love him.  That's all there is to it.  :)

Monday, December 26, 2011

The "Cliche": When It Wasn't (Dracula Style)

Maybe it's just because I'm feeling old these days, but have you ever had a conversation that goes something like this:

(Scene: watching Star Wars V: the Empire Strikes Back)

Kid Obviously Born Sometime in the 90s:  Pffffff, "I'm your father," what a cliche!

Grown-Up Born Before the 90s: Umm. . .I don't know if you're aware, but this is the first time that was ever really used.  This is in fact not a cliche, but the thing which others copied for it to become a cliche.

KOBSit90s:  Oh.

GUBBt90s:  *facepalm*

Perhaps I've just been talking to too many youngsters, but I seem to be having days like this frequently.  My forehead is rather sore from all the intense facepalming I have had to do lately.  That is, until a week or so ago, while I was reading Dracula, I became one of them.  Yes, that's right.  I became one of those people who yelled, "What a cliche!" while reading the first instance of the use (i.e. therefore not a cliche).

How embarrassing.

At the same time, how stupid are these people?  If you have not had the pleasure of reading Dracula (which I do recommend -- it's exciting in a decidedly 19th century, plodding plotline way, an oxymoron if ever I heard one), let me key you in on some crucial details.

First of all, Van Helsing (world-renowed scientist and vampire slayer, apparently) isn't the sharing type.  Actually, he seems to be the number one adherent to the old adage: "Ignorance is bliss".  Because vampires are wrecking havoc and he doesn't seem to think it's necessary to clue his friends in on what's going on.  It's not like they haven't noticed anything weird, either.  I mean, beautiful and surprisingly frail Lucy has these two unusual puncture marks on her neck that look odd, and there's always this bloody great bat hanging around outside her window.  I'd be suspicious.  Bats don't hang around, except in caves (ba dum ch).  Is there a mosquito fest outside her window every night?  If not, it's time to get the bat repellent.  Secondly, she's suffering from massive blood loss and they replace it with the blood of FOUR different guys!  (Aside from the idiocy factor and the gross factor, isn't this some kind of tip off, even if you're not the brightest bulb in the lamp factory?)  Then, her teeth start to get extra pointed.  Just her canines, mind you.  And she has weird mood swings.  And Van Helsing won't let her fiance kiss her goodbye on her lips.  Do they bat an eyelash?  Yes, but all their fears are allayed with one word of "don't worry about it" from shifty Professor Van Helsing.

Later on, Van Helsing's policy of noncooperation is helped out invaluably by that other 19th century bugaboo, racism's best friend, sexism!  When he finally decides to share what's going on with the other characters and meets up with Jonathan and Mina Harker and after about twenty pages of them expounding on each other's good qualities (shut up already), he still has reservations.  I mean, women.  They like, faint all the time and stuff.  Men should shield them from the really intense stuff.  But it's okay for them to still be the ones having babies.  I hate to say it, mostly because I hate these books, but who suffers the most bodily in Twilight, the still vampiric but decidedly idiotic saga?  The girl giving birth, whose body is literally ripped apart.  Gross.

But anyhow, the fairer sex can't handle it, blah blah blah, and they decide to not tell Mina about any of the really juicy, important details.  Yes, these details perhaps could of saved her, but should we really quibble over the little things?  Nevermind that she's been copying down all their diaries diligently and keeping accurate records, so that now they all essentially have their own copies of Dracula (which is interestingly written completely in letter and diary format).  No no, she must be protected.  Meanwhile, somewhere in a dank castle, Dracula's practicing his maniacal laugh and wringing his hands because this all means that Mina is super perfect vampire food.  And sure enough, before the night is out, she has drunk of his blood (from his manly pectoral -- that's a bit much, Mr. Stoker), and she is destined to become the Un-Dead.

You would think this would make Van Helsing or his companions take pause and reconsider their stances.  They do, and they start to include Mina in their exploits, but she can't come with them (too scary for dainty women) and after a while they even stop telling her about it because she could be a conduit to the Count (okay, that's a fair enough concern).  But Dr. Van H's wily ways are never quite satisfied.  Time and again, like a klepto shoplifting a pack of gum, his habits of controlling vital information resurface more frequently than I'd like to count.  It's almost more than the times Dorothy cries in the Wizard of Oz movie (something in the ballpark of 30, mind you -- we counted).  It makes you wonder.  I mean, after a certain point, Dracula makes no bones about his plans.  Perhaps this is where other bad guys got the idea that it was not smart to monologue, but he always seems to be turning around at the last minute and saying, "And this is my plan!  You are too late!"  But of course, they never are.  He has stupidly given them his evil itinerary and they manage to somehow stay abreast of him, if not one bumbling step ahead.

All in all, I'm glad I read it.  Yes, it took 250 pages to get really exciting.  Yes, Van Helsing is a sadist.  Yes, there's an undercurrent of hatred against the Irish by the British (my boyfriend could explain it better, but Stoker was an Irishman who was a British citizen and was for Home Rule?  Confusing, yes, but that's okay).  Yes, Dracula is supposed to be creepily attractive (you know, where you're repulsed that you're attracted?).  And yet, all of that adds to the charm of a decidedly classic novel, rife with suspense and emotion, at least on the part of the characters, who cry ALL THE TIME.  I am always one for a truly Victorian read, and I was amply rewarded.  I have discovered the root of the cliche. . .and it was obvious why it became a cliche, and then even more obvious why it was incessantly parodied.  Next up on the classic novel reading list: The Phantom of the Opera!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Retrospective -- How Many Books Did You Read?

The end of the year is fast approaching, faster than I had anticipated, at least.  I am officially terrible at planning for the holidays.  I say to myself, "I have plenty of time" and then BAM PRESTO it's Christmas Eve and I still have shopping and wrapping to do.  The same kind of thing happens to me and all the books I wanted to read.  I am friends with a lot of compulsive readers.  These people stay up till all hours of the night, spend their free time, and even take a book with them to lunch.  I admire their resolve, their stamina, and their concentration. These people push through eighty, ninety, a hundred books (and often much more) every year.  And every year, I make a mad dash in December to try and catch up.  And yet here I am with a grand total of 30.  And I swear half of them were kids' books.

Now, I could dwell on the sad lack these numbers seem to have when compared to those of others.  Or, at this, the Eve of Christmas, I could make a list of the things I have been thankful for because of reading the books I did.  Since I'm kind of a, "Oh look!  There's liquid in that glass!  How great!" person, I think I'll do that.

1.  I read several "classics" this year, which I haven't voluntarily done in such numbers for a few years (Dracula, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, A Little Princess, Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH. . .hey, they are all classics in their own way).
2.  I read several academic books (and started several more).
3.  The academic books I read were more varied than normal (i.e. not just Indian history but a history of sexuality and a book on early West African civilizations and Chicagoan serial killers).
4.  I got to read a NEW book by a DEAD author -- Michael Crichton.  Yes, I got ridiculously excited about it.
5.  I discovered biography.
6.  I actually read some novels.

The question then remains: what next?  As our Buddhist friends quietly remind us, the journey is what really matters, not the destination.  The point of this isn't the number of books I read, it's the experiences enjoyed and the increased richness of my life because I read at all.  Not every book is a winner, and I got through the books I enjoyed the most.  I picked up new books willy-nilly because that's how I like to read -- tripping from one topic to another.  I cannot stop thinking, and I never want to stop learning.  This next week (and the weeks after), I am reading a novel about a woman who pretended to be a man during the 1800s, a novel about Charles Dickens' wife, a biography about a man grappling with his son's autism, Emily Post's new edition of etiquette, a non-fiction book about firefighting, the love story of Andrew Jackson and his wife Rachel, and soon enough a book about dinosaurs, because why not read about dinosaurs?

As the old year comes to a close, the infinitely more exciting new year opens, and so does my next book.

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and Yukon Ho!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Unabashed Bookaholic

There are many dangers involved with working in a library.  ABC gum stuck to windows.  Odd things shoved in books as bookmarks (razors, anyone?  Who uses a razor as a bookmark?).  Books that have been torn to shreds.  The occasional wild snake which then the librarians have to wrangle with a broom.  True stories all.  But the most dangerous part of working in a library is. . .wait for it. . .


This is a very real disease where the victim cannot stop themselves from picking up more materials from the library than he/she can digest in a reasonable amount of time.  Or, it's technically a reasonable amount of time, but they are sacrificing other aspects of their lives (social life, exercise, sunlight) to read/watch/listen to these materials.

Prime example: Last night, when I went to my five hour work shift (how much trouble can you get into in five hours?), I brought a book from home.  It's the new Michael Crichton/Richard Preston thriller, Micro, about people who obviously haven't read Jurassic Park.  I mean, no offense, Mr. Crichton (especially since you're dead now), they should have seen this coming.  Anyhow, the night started off innocently enough.  I had Micro to read while I took my apple break.  Then one of my reserves came in. Then, I was filing and found one I thought was cool.  Then I pulled one I was supposed to shelve because I got all caught up in the blurb.

I ended the night with four books.  FOUR.  They were:

1.  Micro, by Michael Crichton/Richard Preston (my original book)
2. Possession by A. S. Byatt (do NOT read one of her more recent works, The Biographer's Tale)
3. Home written and read (it's an audiobook) by Julie Andrews
And 4. Cold Burial by Clive Powell-Williams (like Into the Wild but hopefully way less annoying)

Oh dear.  Not to mention, I also have these books on my currently reading shelf:

1. Dracula by Bram Stoker
2. Stolen Innocence by Elissa Wall
3. The Castle of Otranto by Horace Walpole
4.  The Lantern by Deborah Lawrenson
5.  The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson
6.  Riki-Tiki-Tavi by Rudyard Kipling

Combine this with my seeming inability to finish a book in any reasonable amount of time, and by gum we've got a problem.  This means that my bits of the house are strewn with library books like refuse on a beach after a bad oil spill.  My returns also seem to happen all at once, so instead of bringing in one or two books at a time, I waddle in under the weight of fifteen that I have either managed to read (somehow) or have just given up on.

Still, the hopes of a bookaholic float unfettered by reality.  I WILL finish all these books.  Somehow.  Besides, it's the journey that counts, not the finish line, in most of life's races, and as long as I'm enjoying checking them out and perusing them, then what's not to like?  What's there to be upset about?  Ahhhhh, that's right.  Nothing.

Besides, fall/winter is the BEST time of year for reading books.  (P.S., excuse my annoying habits of over-capitalization and frequent usage of parentheses. . .can I help it that I get excited and that I noodle my thoughts like a pile of spaghetti and can never seem to untangle them into straight lines?)  Back to winter.  In the spring and summer, the weather is so nice in most places, it produces a great desire to be outside.  The air is fine, the pollen is flowing, and people flock out of doors to enjoy it.  Hiking, biking, tae chi, we all know the drill.  There's no desire to read because nature beckons.  In the summer, in Arizona at least, there's no desire to read because the heat stifles life.  Any desire you have to do practically anything is instantly crushed by the overpowering sun.  All that you want to do in the summer is go swimming, stay inside, watch t.v., eat cold things, and go ice skating.  Reading does not fit easily into the equation.  But in autumn, the weather turns, the clouds come in more regularly, and you drift naturally towards that inclination to cuddle up with a cup of cocoa (or tea or coffee) with a quilt and a favorite book.  In winter, you want to read and snuggle while the snow drifts down outside your window, with the full knowledge that you're warm and happy and are so incredibly lucky.  Even if you want to warm up at night with a bath, there are handy-dandy bath tools made specifically so you can read without getting your book wet (I'm a rebel. . .I just hold it in my hands and devil take the hindmost).    If you have small children, it's storytime!  The holidays are just around the corner and it's time to break out 'Twas the Night Before Christmas.  Exciting stuff, don't you know.  And now that "winter" is here with its frigid temperatures of sometimes below 60, I am in full swing to snuggle up with a good read.  And my beardy boyfriend, who will be significantly less beardy today since it is the first day of December.  See?  Hope springs eternal.

Now, if you'll excuse me, Julie Andrews is going to read me a bedtime story.  Never mind that it's not noon yet.

Saturday, November 12, 2011


So it's November once again, and time for National Novel Writing Month!  In case you are unfamiliar with this, it is a literary endeavor undertaken by budding and aspiring writers to write a 50,000 word novel in a month.  I have been busy with school ever since I heard about it five or six years ago, but now that I have finally graduated, I have signed up and am on my way!

. . .Sort of.  Aside from the usual problems of, you know, writing a novel, I am very behind schedule.  I have been working extra hours and trying to see my boyfriend, and between the two things I am either too tired when I get home or have no time to write!  I am only on about 13,000 and I really should be closer to 20,000 by this point.  Yikes!  This basically means that on my days off I need to spend the whole day writing in order to play catch-up.  And here's where the actual novel-writing problems hit.  I have the basic outline for my novel (situations, characters, plot development, etc.) but I am feeling uninspired.

Truly, the only thing I have wanted to do is read, and I am even too tired for that.  There are just too many great things out there to read and I simply do not have enough time or energy!  So, I may not finish my novel on time for the competition.  Oh well.  I am a noob (as they say) and am allowed to be a little squirrely with the due date my first time around.  I guess what matters is I'm trying.  I'll let you know how it goes!

Until then -- on with the adventure!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

The Thrill of Reality

Oscar Wilde famously said, "Life imitates art."  As apt as this aphorism may be, there are still others who put a premium instead on reality as a vehicle for artistic expression.  So, conversely, Kierkegaard said, "Life is not a problem to be solved but a reality to be experienced."

To that end, I have been reading a lot of non-fiction. Histories, memoirs, autobiographies, textbooks, etc.  I just finished The Devil in the White City, by Erik Larsen, and am moving next to My Lucky Life, Dick Van Dyke's autobiography.  I also have, on my shelf at the moment, a history of coffee, a biography of Nikolai Tesla, a basic history of Islam, and a book about sex, written by women for women in the candid style which so many of us appreciate.  There is something about non-fiction which I find compelling.

It may be that I simply need a change of pace.  When I was in high school, I wanted to be a teacher.  An English teacher, to be precise.  I read everything I could get my hands on (and then some) and never picked up non-fiction unless required to by a teacher.  Non-fiction just did not have the pull that fiction did then, when most of it was about experiences felt deeply by the characters and exposed their passions and most secret feelings.  I was a girl who felt deeply, and thus my reading material should reflect that, I reasoned.  Or maybe reason got left out of it and I just intuitively picked things that suited my needs at the time.  I read a lot of classics (think Austen) and genuinely enjoyed my English homework.  I began actually writing, and thought seriously about a career in such a mode.  The most exciting thing about the end of the school year was the summer reading list.  Even if I didn't enjoy the novels on the list, I enjoyed having a list off of which to pick my reading materials.  I made my own lists and tried to read things considered required reading for college and a well-rounded education.  Little did I realize I was leaving out a major segment of thought.

Then I became a history major.  I know this is a common theme in my writings, but being a history major changed my whole life and my perceptions of the world.  In this particular case, it opened me up to the world of non-fiction.  Soon, the novels in my English classes failed to grab me in the way they had when I was in high school.  It was a chore to read most of the novels for those classes, and I would pine for my history reading.  One possible explanation was that the history reading was simply more interesting at the time and that my teachers picked novels I didn't enjoy (I will never read another D.H. Lawrence novel for as long as I live if I can help it.  I detest the man and his repetitive, overblown writing style).  Another is that I just needed reality to help me escape from my own reality, instead of an imagined world instead.

And here I am, six months after graduating from college, and I've only read a few novels.  In fact, most of the novels I've enjoyed the most are for kids.  I have never been able to free myself from the lure of late elementary school, early middle school novels.  I always return to them.  Instead, I'm reading non-fiction, delving into other people's lives and learning new (and occasionally useful) information.  The drive to fill the void of the intellectual calisthenics of college is apparently having quite a strong effect on me.  I am gathering the proverbial rosebuds, but instead of novels, this time, I'm gathering pieces of information and stringing them together to make a beautiful and eclectic necklace.  And I don't really care that at this point it's only for decoration.

I still pick up novels.  I'm still looking for something that will hook me in completely and irresistibly.  There is nothing quite like a novel that sucks you in and keeps you reading until it's finished.  I miss the thrill of picking up a book and not putting it down until I've finished it.  And so I pick up novels.  I search for that feeling, and usually end up discarding them after only a few chapters.  It's like first love.  You have to feel that spark and electricity, or else the pursuit loses its charm and magnetism.  And I drop it.  Quickly.

Until the time when I can again find the inescapable fixation of a truly great novel, I will continue to read my non-fiction.  And thoroughly enjoy a different take on the same reality.  In that way, non-fiction is just as legitimate an art form as fiction, because isn't the point of fiction to present a fresh perspective and to challenge our entrenched notions of ourselves and the world around us?  In this case, non-fiction is up to the task.  I read it with gusto.

Monday, October 3, 2011

On the Perfection of Being

Let's start with a wise piece of advice bandied about by those burnt by love:  "There is no such thing as a perfect man."

This statement may be true (especially when one considers the relative nature of perspective, truth, and good/evil), but is there such a thing as "perfect for me"?  I often will refer to my boyfriend not as "perfect" (because no one is) but "perfect for me" because he satisfies me even in ways I had yet to think of when we first met.  Is this cheesy and overblown?  Probably.  But does it make me feel contented?  Yes.  I guess what I am saying is that there is a person (or maybe even more than one) who is right.  In my mind, right is equated with perfect, for better or worse.  I know I should eschew such unrealistic adjectives, but sometimes it seems unavoidable.  I don't want to say that my boyfriend is great.  That doesn't convey the passion of my feelings.  I want to say he is exceptional.

Here's another question: is love using highfaluting descriptors without fear of retribution or derision?  Or is it simply that you no longer mind the caustic displays that come from acquaintances disenchanted with love in general?

Recently, I had a friend ask me a series of bald questions about my plans for the future and my intentions with my boyfriend.  She asked everything from "how can you be happy with one person for forever" to "what about divorce".  I had an answer for everything, mostly because I've been thinking about it in depth, but to me it revealed more about her than about me.  It spoke to me of her history with love and relationships and her personal attitude.  You could describe her as a realist and me as an idealist, or her as pragmatic and me as unreasonable.  I prefer to describe myself as optimistic or trusting.  Or, better yet, flexible.  I am willing to bend and to compromise in order to keep my love intact.  I know I am not going to be the same person now as when I'm 50 (how could I be?  So much experience will happen between now and then), but who is to say that the change won't be rewarding and will make our love richer?  Who is to say that it is actually our attitudes towards that change which determine how they will affect our relationship?  Perhaps it is that can-do attitude that saves loves like mine and the lack thereof that dooms others to failure.  Maybe I am being presumptuous, not actually being married yet, but I feel strongly about my convictions and trust them to see me through years of storms.

No one can really say what lies ahead, and while I for one am glad of that, I still think there are ways to gauge how you will respond to the situations that could arise.  As a historian, I look to the past to see how things may proceed in the future.  Patterns occur and point in the direction of the future.  How you have responded to things up to this point are a pretty strong indicator of how you will respond to things later.  So maybe it's time to stop the attempts at augury and time to focus instead on the behaviors of the present.

So I will leave you with another wise old platitude:  "Gather ye rosebuds."

Beat that with a stick.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

The Book Remains the Same

Did you ever, when you were growing up, identify very strongly with a character or a sentiment in a book?  Did you ever want to be Elizabeth Bennett, and fall in love with your Mr. Darcy?  Or is the falling in love bit just for girls? I have often wondered if boys sit around dreaming of meaningful love.  As I am not a boy, and my boy is sort of unusual, it may take me a while to hash out this particular piece of philosophy.  If they do, then what I have to say will be interesting to them as well.  If not, ah well.  I think girls/women can relate.

One of the magical things about books (or movies, or music, or art) is how the individual work of art remains intrinsically static and unchanging, but our perception of it alters with time.  Many authors of greater intellectual worth than I have commented on such a trend, but I always feel like their interpretations fall short of actually experiencing such a moment.  For all the new sensations of the moment, there is still the memory of past emotions.  The two converge in a strange mutation of realities to produce a feeling that is singular and powerful.

Today, I was watching Moulin Rouge.  Regardless of your feelings about the movie, personally, I have always loved it.  And it is a perfect example of the kind of mixed memory I am trying to convey in a grander sense.  When I first watched it, I was almost a freshman in college, just about to leave home for something more exciting, and I was in the throes of transition.  All kinds of transitions.  I had been dating a boy for almost a year -- all through my senior year of high school.  And I was just starting to realize that I was unhappy in the relationship, and that I wanted out.  Horribly, at the same time, I was starting to think more and more about another young man I had been spending time with in, I convinced myself, a strictly platonic way.  I shall not go into more dirty details on the relationships or what happened (it is in the past, and for once shall stay there), but as I sat down to watch this movie for the first time, I was in a state of barely contained emotional turmoil.  Battles raged in my soul, and in my 18-year-old mind I was the pinnacle of tortured love and suffering.  This movie was not a good choice.  I felt stifled, trapped, and hopeless in my current relationship.  And then I watched a movie about a couple madly in love who have to hide and skulk until they decide that it's worth risking everything to be open and free about their love and their relationship.  Oh yes, and then she dies.  Terribly tragically.  I sat there implacably transfixed, absorbing more than just the spectacle and sounds of the film.  I was Satine, I was unable to be with the man I loved, and my other relationship was nothing more than a sham.  I longed for Christian, in all his inexhaustible affection and passion.  I was a drama queen.  But trust me, it wasn't as bad as when I read Wuthering Heights.  Or Romeo and Juliet for the first time.  Or Pride and Prejudice. Or the dozens of other books which prominently featured a famous romance.

I watched Moulin Rouge again today, and again I felt those pangs of unrequited love from my late teens, the insistence of my heart to break free from its cruel shackles (okay, so I'm still a little dramatic), but I also felt something different.  I felt satisfied.  I saw Ewan McGregor and Nicole Kidman stare dreamily into each other's eyes, and I didn't long for their chemistry, I saw my own and my boyfriend's reflected.  I finally felt like a grown-up.  To me, being a grown-up doesn't mean having a car and a job and a checkbook and responsibilities.  Yes, that's part of it.  Yes, in today's society, that's what's typically accepted as being "grown up".  But what about happiness?  It is still a yardstick of success, and I know quite a few so-called "adults" who lack the one thing that truly matters in life.  I may have stresses, I may have worries, but I have love, I have basic security, and I have happiness.  I am a grown-up.  And the more I read (or reread) these love stories, the more I know that my original assumption is correct.  I have come to a good place in my life.

It's interesting, too, how your reactions change.  When I first read Wuthering Heights, I thought the relationship between Cathy and Heathcliff was a tad disturbing (okay, very disturbing), but genuine and ultimately based in love.  Now I'm just creeped out.  I mean, he digs her up and is on the verge of plucking her out of her coffin so he can die in her arms when, all of a sudden, he hears her voice on the wind and decides to leave her planted in the ground.  And he goes on to live a tormented, mean life and makes existence miserable for everyone around him.  Likewise, the first time I read Romeo and Juliet, I thought it was sweet and ideal and so tragic and sad.  Now, I want to slap all concerned in the face.  I want to shout at them, "Where are your basic communication skills??"  I have become more practical.  And maybe for that reason, Elizabeth Bennett remains one of my favorite romantic heroines.  She is intelligent, reasonably logically-minded, and pragmatic.  But not so pragmatic she marries simply out of convenience.  No, she marries for love, and she marries who she wants.  But also, she marries the man she knows will be a good match and will make her happy for years to come.  Maybe this is why the second time I read Twilight I got so fed up I almost threw the book across the room.  (The first time reading it, it's like you're under the influence of a powerful drug.  You're excited, you think it's wonderful, and you're caught up in the romance.  The second time, the drug is out of your system and you can see clearly.  The characters are shallow, the writing poor, the romance thin and contrived.  You are disgusted with yourself and vow only to pick it up again for a good, hearty laugh.)  How can Bella and Edward be happy for the rest of eternity?  They're not good characters -- what are they going to do that whole time?  Thank god the apocalypse is right around the corner.  Or so Supernatural tells me.

And so, my final thought for the day is: I have left the effervescent and apocryphal charms of Mr. Wickham, and have found my Mr. Darcy.  And I am better off because of it.

However, I never bothered to look for my Edward Cullen.  Because he's abusive and psychopathic.  Think about it. 

Friday, September 9, 2011

The Boy

As with any great story, mine has romance.  This blog is about two things, libraries and love, and I promised last time to sit down and write the story of my love.  Possibly the cutest part about it (and one of the reasons it fits so well into this blog): I met him at a library.  When we were 4.  During storytime.

The way my mother tells it, one of us convinced the other to climb under a table and not come out.  Our poor children's librarian, Teacher Dan, could not coax us out from our new hidey-hole.  So he made our mothers come in and get us.  And for her, evidently, it was very embarrassing.  I remember a very different version.  I remember that we both wanted to play with the same puppet, and we were fighting over the decision (and we each thought we so richly deserved to be the sole master of that puppet).  In the end, hoping to bring about a positive end to our quarrel, Teacher Dan made us share.  I remember thinking, "Yuck, he has a sweaty little hand."  But then we came out after storytime, me convinced I never wanted to see him again, and our moms had inexplicably become friends.  So, I decided to give him another look.  And now, I can't stop looking at him.

We were friends for quite a few years when we were little.  We recently found a home video of his fifth birthday party, whereupon my arrival he ran over to the camera and promptly introduced me to the camera as "his girlfriend".  Little did we both know that he was to be my first and last boyfriend, and I was to be his first and last girlfriend.  He was a fun playmate, always entertaining and fun, even if his little brother tagged along quite a bit.  I didn't mind.  He lived in a different city, however, and even though suburbia does tend to run together, he was in one school district and I was in another, and we began to see less and less of each other as the early years of elementary school whipped by.  Finally, we just stopped hanging out.

Years passed and I didn't think about him.  I was a junior in college, home for the summer.  I was depressed.  I had just spent six months going out with a guy I knew I had no future with, simply because for some sadistic reason I enjoyed it.  I say sadistic, because this boy was borderline abusive.  He never complimented me or was affectionate, he was vindictive, petty, and cruel, and he didn't really want to be tied down to a girlfriend.  He was fine with having someone to spend Saturday nights making out with, but he wasn't so okay with a label that might have kept him from dating someone else.  Should something else better come along.  Finally, when he told me we should break up for the summer because two hours travel was too much between our vacation cities (but that we could try again in August), I finally saw the light all of my friends and family had been trying to shine in my eyes for the past six months.  It hit me like a high-beam searchlight in a dark cornfield, and I was ashamed.  How could I have let him treat me like that?  I was smart, independent, and attractive, and I was going to go places.  I had decided on my career path, and I was taking steps toward it.  He had blinded me and allowed me to give up on myself.  He had systematically crushed the real me under the boot heal of some person who vaguely looked like me but in no actual way resembled me.  I broke up with him, and we have not spoken since.  Mercifully.  I went home that summer with my tail between my legs, hurting, vulnerable, and angry.  I dedicated myself to finding myself (for about the fourth time).  Maybe refinding would be a better word.  I was rediscovering what I had lost along the way, courtesy of the person my friends and I all referred to as "the Douchebag".  One night, I decided I was going to be cavalier with my heart, and I was going to flirt my way all through the small town I grew up in.

Enter Eric.  Vaguely dirty-hippie looking, elementary school reprise in a surprisingly cute package.  I ran into him casually at a tea shop at the local mall (which nevertheless has its own Wikipedia page. . .welcome to my hometown).  He recognized me (instead of the other way around), and spoke to me as if he was interested in what I had to say.  This was a bit of a novelty, and I used to know him in, like, third grade, so I thought "what the heck".  "Maybe this is just what I need this summer".  However, he proved to be unreliable on the setting up and keeping dates front (we never actually had one, he was so bad at it), so I discarded that option fairly quickly.  Now, don't go getting the idea that I'm a callous wench who dates around like it's nobody's business and I am a heart-breaker.  Nothing of the sort.  I was ungainly and chubby in high school, and it took me a long time to realize I was cute and fun and had something to give.  Even now, I still struggle with self-esteem and body image issues almost daily.  I guess it just comes with the territory of being a girl.  Anyhow, my mentality this summer was to just date around -- don't get serious, don't break any hearts, don't get your heart broken.

Enter Adam.  Also a friend from elementary school, he was balding (ever so slightly), rough-and-tumble, and sweet.  I was in the Ace Hardware near my house, picking up some oddity or other, with my hair all tousled and my grimiest sweat pants loosely hanging around my waist.  Truth was, I had just rolled out of bed and decided to tag along with my parents.  There he was, enthusiastic and eager to ask me out.  We exchanged phone numbers, and unlike Eric the eternal procrastinator, Adam set up a lunch date.  I had a nice time, we talked, I enjoyed his company.  I thought perhaps there was something lacking, but he certainly was charming.  Maybe this could be a little more?  We went on a second date, and decided to put a cautionary label on things.  Then, my family and I went on vacation for two weeks to northern California.  I got a case of the blues, and though he tried to handle it, he in no way, shape, or form helped me out at all.  I decided two things on the way home: I was going to break it off with Adam the first chance I got, and I was going to look up more friends from elementary school.  Riding across some god-forsaken stretch of southern California, my feet propped up awkwardly on the seat in front of me, I asked my mom, "What was Philip's last name?"  The boy from storytime.  My friend, my companion, my partner-in-crime.  She answered with a long and heinous German last name that I instantly thought, "I can find that on Facebook."  A week later, I had friend requested him.

Enter Philip.  Philip.  I went out on a limb to find him.  There were several Philips who fit the bill, and I didn't know where he went to high school, just the general area where he lived, and though there was one likely candidate, his profile picture gave nothing away about what he actually looked like.  So I messaged him, with a hesitant note asking if he was the same Philip all those years ago.  He replied that he was!  And he wanted to meet.  How was Monday?  11 AM?  And did I like coffee?  WHOA.  Who was this guy?  He already knew I like coffee (wild but possible. . .it is Facebook) and he was setting up a concrete time to meet.  I was in.  We met at a Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf by my house, and that's when it happened.  I was standing at the counter, talking to yet another boy whose name will be forgotten by the long erosion of time, and he came up to me.  He had short hair, a plaid shirt, and glasses.  He was cute.  But I didn't want to judge to quickly.  And he caught me off guard.  So I took my time getting a good look at him.  We both got a cup of coffee, and we sat down to talk.  And we talked.  And we talked.  And we talked.  And I thought he was simply wonderful.  I began to get nervous, and to laugh weirdly, and to have the little sweats when you meet someone you like and hope they like you back.  But there was nothing I could do but desperately try to be myself.  And apparently he liked who I was, even though at one point, when I was playing nervously with my bracelet, I absentmindedly launched it across the coffeeshop where it clattered loudly.  I slunk up to retrieve it, but he was laughing and I couldn't help laughing too.  It was just too ridiculous not to.  We talked from eleven in the morning until four in the afternoon with only one five minute bathroom break.  He was so absorbing -- and adorable.  And I actually accused him of spying on my Facebook for information about me -- it fit so perfectly with who I was.  We both loved coffee, we were band geeks in high school, we had both come out of long relationships with crappy people, and we both wanted to move to the Pacific Northwest because we loved rain and trees and new places.  He dropped me off at my house, and we hugged goodbye.  And then the next morning he left on a three day camping trip.

But we didn't stop talking.  It turned out he was going on this trip with a new friend. . .that I went to high school with.  That kicked off a three-day text conversation that didn't end.  And along the way, we flirted, we talked about each other, we learned new things, and it started.  On Thursday, the day he was set to get back, I was a busy beaver.  I had just found out that I needed to have emergency gum surgery the next morning -- they were going to take part of the roof of my mouth and surgically attach it to the bottom front gum, to prevent further recession.  Yikes.  And I was spending all day with my aunt and cousin, making aprons.  I sent Philip pictures of my print, my process, and it was very exciting.  Then we decided to meet up that night -- and I was a mess.  I had been working all day long, I hadn't put on any make-up, and I was a sweaty August pile of girly goo.  I asked my cousin what I should do -- I really liked this boy and I thought maybe it could go somewhere -- should I put on make-up or not?  And she told me that if he really liked me, he'd still think I was pretty and would like me.  That clinched it.  Al fresco face for me.  Even more surprising to me was that he didn't mind at all, and even thought I was pretty.  He picked me up, again in a plaid shirt (little did I know this was all but his uniform -- how hot!), and I felt the sparks start to go.  We went and had coffee, and then around eleven or midnight went back to his house.  We watched silly videos on YouTube (that were actually funny, which is not something I experience on all my previous dates), and talked and laughed and fell for each other on his comfy bed.  Then, he kissed me.  And it was the most amazing kiss I'd ever had.  "I've been wanting to do that all evening," he whispered, "I've just been waiting to get up the courage."  "I've been waiting for you to do that all evening," I whispered back, exhilarated and thrilled.  He walked me to my door, and we kissed, and he promised to come over right after I got home from my appointment the next day.  He left, and I went to bed, barely able to sleep before my 8 AM appointment.

The next day, when I fresh from the doctor's, my mouth numb in ways I didn't think was physically possible and with a wad of cement the size of a quarter attached firmly to the roof of my mouth, he came over.  And he brought a plant (I love plants) and some jello.  My mom left for work, and we snuggled down on the living room floor (the couch being difficult for a 6'3" man like him to negotiate sometimes), and we watched all my favorite girly, feel-good movies, namely Music and Lyrics and Help! and he loved them.  And we kissed a little, and we snuggled a lot, and somewhere between all of that I decided that I had never felt this way about anyone before, and I wanted him to stick around.  So when we were lounging out on his car, in the way that was to be our signature move for the rest of my time at my parents' house (so still today), I asked him to be my boyfriend.  And he said yes.  And, to date, it was the best day of my life.

Just when I had decided not to look for love, it hit me smack in the face.  I was blessed with the most kind, compassionate, smart, cute, funny, and thoughtful man on the planet.  He helped me find who I was, he is supportive in every way I could want, and his snuggles are the best I could ever hope for or want.  I went home to find myself, but really, I found more than that.  I found my other half.

Stay tuned for further installments -- he's still adorable, and I love him more than life itself, so there will be further installments.  Just wait.  :)

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Volumes of Happiness

My name is Karen, and I decided to begin writing about two things that have profound meaning for me: libraries and love.  Oh yes, and when the two overlap.  Because I love libraries.  And my love loves libraries.  . . .Yeah.  So here’s how it all started.  I am fresh out of college, got myself a new job, and am doing the typical “what shall I do next” dance.  I live with my parents (surprise suprise) and I spend most of my time planning.  But in between planning, I read.  See, I work at a library.  I am a “page assistant,” so I am the person who does all the varieties of little jobs that help the library run smoothly.   I check books in, I put them away on the shelf, I go pull books for customers, and I help small children find the Olivia books.  I have a pretty great job.  The only problem is I love to read.  And I am easily interested in a book, even if I won’t ever actually get to the end of it.  My hopes are high, possibilities are endless, and I want it.  Now, where the real sticky part comes into play, is that about four hundred books cross my path every day.  And while a large portion of those are picture books (which if I really, really want to I can read right there in about 90 seconds) or books I’ve already read or have no lasting interest in, there is that other portion that looks intriguing.  Beguiling.  A book with an unusual cover or title and a snappy jacket synopsis is like a siren call.  I dutifully put it back on my cart and shelve it so the regular customers can have a chance to see it, then the first opportunity I get, I swing back, snag it skillfully from it’s proper place, and slide it through our self-check out machine.
As it stands, I only have five books out right now.  Three of which are biographies, oddly enough, but that’s for another post.  I just cleaned off my shelf, but at one time it is not anomalous to see upwards of twenty books gracing the various free counter spaces in my house (which I should mention are actually few and far between).  You see, a further truth of my life to make it to this confessional is that both of my parents are librarians and my father enjoys nothing more than collecting books, CDs, and movies.  I will not go into detail about our house or his collection, but needless to say we could open our own library.  (However, his T.E. Lawrence collection is particularly impressive and would garner interest from the most elevated of scholarly universities.)
Yesterday was no exception to my incorrigible habit of book borrowing.  It’s almost like my own version of kleptomania.  Bibliomania.  Yikes.  The pick for yesterday:Pioneer Woman: From Black Heels to Tractor Wheels.  It is the memoir of a woman’s metamorphosis from slick city-girl to ranch wife in the back-woods prairies of Oklahoma.  Or should I say, “back-prairies”. . .  Anyhow, this book caught my flitting attention in the back room from all the other volumes of potential excitement, and I decided (after a much too lengthy ten-minute perusal of its pages) to check it out and to spend the evening reading.  Which is exactly what I did.  The book is based on a blog this woman posts with the same name (to which I will, of course, include a link, but be warned: it is far and away much nicer than my own).  And, as trite and tired as it is to say, it got me thinking about starting my own blog.
So here I am: I am here to write about my daily adventures as someone who loves books and works with books every day, but also about the love of my life.  We just happened to meet in a library.  When we were four.  But I’ve said too much already.  That is for the next installment.