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.