Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Where Are All My Books??

So I'm packing.  Because we're moving.  Not because I just love to pack.  It happens, but that would be weird.

And guess what is the bulkiest, largest section of my material life?  That's right, my books.  I have two giant bookcases full of books and one mini one.  Not to mention several giant tupperware storage units underneath my bed.  Those mainly just have books from my childhood, however.  So I may leave them behind for now, but who knows?  I get unreasonably attached to books and I might not be able to let them stay behind.

Anyhow, this poses a bit of a problem for my reading habits.  You see, I am reluctant to keep checking things out from the library right about now.  I don't want to accrue more fines, I don't want to have to track them all down before moving, and I have a few I have to check out for work purposes anyhow.  It has been very hard to put down my natural inclination for checking out as many random books as possible.


And it is called The Greater Phoenix Digital Library.  And if you have a library card with any of the Maricopa libraries (i.e., Scottsdale, Tempe, Glendale, Peoria, etc.), YOU TOO CAN USE THIS AWESOME RESOURCE.

It's easy peasy and you can get to it from the Scottsdale Public Library webpage.  Here's a handy link:

I'm going to issue a warning right now.  This website is NOT, I repeat, NOT for popular novels.  If you're thinking you're going to find a copy of Mockingjay, keep looking.  I suggest just camping out in Barnes & Noble, drinking a cup of coffee and having a muffin, and just taking a few hours out of your day and reading it right then and there.  At breakneck speed.

The GPDL works much like a regular library, except it's digital.  You check out books for a set period of time (usually 14 days), and when your time is up, it's gone from your computer.  And they only have so many books, so when someone checks it out, it's out.  Hence why anything super popular is probably not a good bet.  But what if you're like me, and you really enjoy reading obscure books?  You know, those tomes of classic literature that nobody in their right mind downloads in ebook form and then wades through on their laptop.

For example.

I was jonesing for some Alice in Wonderland, and I was lamenting to my hubby the fact that I had already packed my copy.  BUT THEN I REMEMBERED THE DIGITAL LIBRARY.  There were like 8 different version of Alice, and they came in lots of varieties -- ebooks, PDFs, WMA audiobooks, mp3 audiobooks. . .different people reading them to you. . .(where's Levar Burton??).  And then I remembered that I really wanted to read the copy of Alice that I got at the British Library, which is a special manuscript version of Carroll's finished product.  So no dice on Alice, but then I remembered it was time for my annual Dickens summer read!  Yay!

The bonus about loving Dickens -- one of the library copies was (and I had never seen this before): always available.  Yay classic literature!  So I promptly downloaded it and cannot wait to get cracking.

So here's the moral of today's story: if you have a really hard time getting physical print, it is okay to settle for electronic if you have no other choice and if you are hurting for some reading really really badly.

Otherwise, pick up a book.  It doesn't need to be charged.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012



4 days away.

I may have already changed the name on my library account.  Because #1 it's exciting and #2 it's so much easier than getting a new social.  I definitely don't want to think about that right now.

In fact, there's a lot that I have to think about right now that I don't feel like: getting an apartment, getting a job, paying for, oh, I don't know, food, my current work, resigning from my current work, and this whole wedding thing, you know.  Plus, I am now getting more concerned about proper female role models the more I think about becoming a mom. . .or proper male role models, for that matter.  If my boys want to play with Barbies I'll sure as hell let them, but will they be bullied or teased about it?  I don't think I could handle that. . .

Anyhow, my life is changing dramatically in half a week.  A quarter of a fortnight.  [Which reminds me, totally gonna check out this DVD of Ian McKellen (when he has brown hair!) doing famous Shakespeare monologues.  Afternoon relaxing win!]  And between the fits of hysterical giggling, the all-out fear, the nightmares, the sour tummy, and the almost constant threat of weeping just below the surface, I haven't really gotten much of a chance to think too much about it all.

Growing up is kinda scary.

And let's not forget that Death's just around the corner.  I mean seriously, that dude is always lurking, waiting for you to slip up.  Take your eyes off the road for one second, choose the wrong hallway during a tornado, or eat one too many Twix bars.  I love Twix bars.  Guess we know what I'll die of.  One of my friends used to say she didn't care -- she loved food too much and she wanted to die with a cheeseburger in one hand and a Diet Coke in the other.  NOW THAT'S LIVING.

But honestly, Death really puts things in perspective.  Recently, I've been reading/watching/listening to a lot of stuff involving Death, particularly spouses/lovers/loved ones dying and leaving people depressed, sad, and lonely.  The Hunger Games,  Titanic, even Ghost Whisperer are all conspiring to impress upon me the fact that I would be wrecked if Philip were to die suddenly, and even though I hope he dies after me, old and happy and sleeping, I will still be wrecked.  It's like Tennyson says, my dust would hear him and beat, had I lain for a century dead.

It turns out that there's really only one thing I'm scared of anymore: Philip dying.  I think I can face Death myself.  Despite the fact that I get a little nervous whenever I think about it (and super freaked out when I think about it too much), I feel like Death is a little comforting.  Like they always say, I imagine that it's like returning home.  Ashes to ashes, dust to dust, coming home again.  But if Philip were to go first, I would be alone.  Without him.  Missing him.  Every single day.  It would be a struggle to construct any kind of meaning for my life.

But ultimately, this is one of the best reminders that I feel I am making the right life choice.  When I think about losing him, I feel an instantaneous searing pain in my chest, and I feel like my heart is literally about to explode.  Which is a bit terrifying.  I have nightmares about him dying (or leaving me), and whenever a spouse dies on TV, I bawl.  Seriously, I cried during the entire episode of GW when Jim dies (don't worry, he comes back. . .somehow).  I thought I was going to make myself sick.  Then I cried for a whole hour during Titanic.    That one actually gets me more, because of at the end when Old Rose is all like, "I don't even have a picture of him; he exists now only in my memory."


As a historian, there is like no worse fate than not being remembered.  I'm sure there are TONS of people who aren't remembered and tons more who won't be. . .in a population of 6 billion that's bound to happen.  But it still kills me every time when someone is nameless and forgotten.  It's like they never existed in the first place.  I console myself with the idea that someone once upon a time knew who they were.

Identity is such paramount to humankind, not just as individuals but as a group.  We are not only defined by how we decide but how everyone else decides we should be defined.  We may try to deny it, but we are so intricately intertwined with the lives of those other 5,999,999,999 people on the planet.  It's completely inescapable.  Because trust me, even if you try to pull an Into the Wild move (God I detest that hideous excuse of a book), someone will find your idiotic rotting corpse in some bus in the wilderness.  And it won't be pretty.

I guess that's why I'm having a philosophical moment -- my identity is changing.  I am still Karen, but I will have a new last name.  I will have someone to run things past all the time, depend on all the time, and in turn have them depend on me all the time.  Fortunately, he is a grown person and not a baby so he's still capable of taking care of himself and I don't have to hold up his head because his poor neck isn't strong enough, but someday one of us will probably poop out and actually need the other to hold our neck up.  At the end of the day, that is the real commitment I am making.  I am resolving to stand by him no matter what.  I am resolving to annoy him and get annoyed by him, to love him and be loved by him, and to be able to call him my partner.  I am unfathomably lucky.

Now, all I have to do is in fact try and make each day count, so that when Death comes, I can look him in the eye and tell him I'm ready.  That I loved and was loved, and that someone mattered to me and I mattered to someone, and that because of that I can go with a clear conscience.

Unless of course I've horribly wronged someone and then I have to haunt them and send them incomprehensible messages until somehow it all turns out okay and they forgive me.

THEN I can die happy.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Chaos Theory (Or, How to Relax)

So I'm getting married in less than two weeks.

That's simultaneously thrilling and terrifying.  And right now, I'm tending to flip-flop between the two worse than John Kerry at a Democratic rally. 

There's lots of stuff to think about: flowers and dresses and favors and programs and music and cake tiers and shoes and gifts and thank-yous and transportation and maps and did I do this and did I do that and when can I talk to that person and what if something goes wrong and will the wax lady do it right when I tell her to make my eyebrows look natural.


So basically, when I'm in the "I'm so thrilled" stage and not thinking about the aforementioned puddle of chaos and disaster that is my planning life right now, I am majorly trying to destress.  I'll tell you what's not helpful: reading about teenagers ripping each other to shreds in a "game".  Though it was sickly enjoyable.  No no, what I am here to tell you about tonight is my tips on how to relax, and what has been working for me recently or has worked in the past.

#1.  Get yourself a fluff novel.  This is not a time to pick up Dickens or Chaucer, this is a time to read a trashy romance novel or an equally mindless piece of nonsense in a genre of your choice.  Though I beg of you, don't pick up Nora Roberts.  If you're going to choose trashy romance novels, at least pick a real bodice-ripper.  Hint on how to find the right one:  It's got to have a girl in a low-cut, 19th century gown that's still way revealing and some guy in tight-fitting trousers with no shirt on, thereby exposing his twelve-pack.  Okay, so this isn't really my bag.  I have no lack of romance, even now, and if I do want trashy there's always my fiance's fabulous reenactment of a break-up between a Snooki look-a-like and a bro he overheard on campus the other day.  You can't make this stuff up.  So instead, I am trying Zorro by Isabel Allende.  I give.  I love Zorro.  Let's hope this one is fluffy enough.

#2.  Bath time.  Ahhhhh, bath time is so perfect.  I love bath time because when I was living with roommates, it was one of the only times when you had perfect solitude.  Nobody wants to disturb you when you're in the bathtub.  Unless there's a fire alarm.  And that's just inconvenient.  Anyhow, if your bath water's warm enough, too, you can stay in there for, like, an hour. With the bubbles, the candles, the music, and the book (and the occasional glass of wine) it's the perfect way to spend an evening.  True, you may be a bit wrinkly when you get out, but they are mercifully the kind of wrinkles that go away.

#3.  Extra-long out to dinner.  Take your time, for god's sake.  Enjoy the company and the conversation, eat what you want and don't hurry it.  Order dessert.  Bring your favorite person and just sit back and enjoy the show.  I did this the other night with my favorite person, and instead of eating on the go or standing or something else stupid like that, we took an hour and a half out of our day, we didn't talk about anything stressful, we just laughed and talked and ate each other's food (okay, mostly me stealing his fries) and had a great time.  It was like the coils of stress literally unwound from my spine.

#4.  Work.  I know this may sound stupid, but seriously, when your home life is stressing you out, just lose yourself in your work.  In my job, I have a lot of stuff to do on a regular basis.  There's not a whole lot of sitting around passively.  Therefore, it's relatively easy to just focus on the task at hand and not think about anything else.  If you are currently unemployed, have a boring job, or are younger than 18, try doing the dishes by hand.  I swear it's a Zen thing.  I do the dishes by hand, and I relax like no other.  I just focus on each dish and doing a good job, maybe listen to some music, and I get into this almost trance-like state where my mind is miraculously free of thoughts.  Yes, you can call me Siddhartha.

#5.  Movies.  If you're not much into reading, try movies instead.  It's never so easy to forget your troubles as while watching Simon Pegg take out zombies with record albums in Shawn of the Dead.  Don't worry, they only use the albums by crap bands.  Personally, this is my plan: I am going to see Titanic.  By myself.  Yep, I'm going to sit in that dark theater and bawl my freaking eyes out of Rose and Jack and their poor doomed love.  I am one of those girls who needs a good cry.  I'm not really upset, it's just a fabulous stress reliever.  So rather than melt down about a particularly bad traffic jam (of which there has been plenty recently), a particularly spectacular fall, or a particularly failed recipe, I am going to have a prescribed meltdown of my own choosing.  A controlled cry.  Then, when I get into that bad traffic altercation, I will be able to remember all of the soliloquy of Caius (a.k.a. The Earl of Kent in disguise).  According to my Shakespeare professor, it is the best collection of insults and should be hurled at wrong-doers as frequently as possible.  It goes something like this:

KENT:  Fellow, I know thee.

OSWALD:  What dost thou know me for?

KENT:  A knave; a rascal; an eater of broken meats; a
    base, proud, shallow, beggarly, three-suited,
    hundred-pound, filthy, worsted-stocking knave; a
    lily-livered, action-taking knave, a whoreson,
    glass-gazing, super-serviceable finical rogue;
    one-trunk-inheriting slave; one that wouldst be a
    bawd, in way of good service, and art nothing but
    the composition of a knave, beggar, coward, pandar,
    and the son and heir of a mongrel bitch: one whom I
    will beat into clamorous whining, if thou deniest
    the least syllable of thy addition.

Try that on for size the next time someone pulls out in front of you and then decides to go 10 miles below the speed limit.