Friday, May 29, 2009

Writing away...

I'm at my writing retreat, writing my little heart out. I'm stuffed full of caffeinated beverages and heavy carbohydrates. I've been pretty productive, but my fledgling article has a long way to go before I can submit it as a full manuscript somewhere. I'll keep working on it. I'm feeling a bit isolated though, and lethargic. Need more exercise than sitting in a seminar room in front of my laptop, that's for sure. I'll be back in full blog mode next week!

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Light posting week...

I'm happily back from a lovely holiday weekend, but it's been a flurry of dust over here as I try to finish the reference collection weeding for the June 1st deadline. I came across some *very* scary reference items. Books made up entirely of some sort of secret statistical code, and historical indexes to conference proceedings and technical reports in the hard sciences. *shudders* I just put them back carefully, lest they hurt me.

It's been a busy week, and tomorrow through Friday I'm bound for the annual Writing Retreat. Well, I say "bound for" as if I'm actually going somewhere, when it's actually at a conference center right on campus. However, I love the writing retreat each year, as it provides an uninterrupted time to get some professional writing done. They fill us up with lots of provided coffee and heavy carbohydrates, and we spit out an article that we can submit for publication in the professional literature.

Now that I'm thinking about it, it's pretty likely that I'll post over the course of the retreat; after a while, I need a break from phrasing everything real carefully/professionally and making things that are a tad dull sound very stimulating.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Memorial Day weekend approaches...

I don't have any specific to write about today, but I'm going to be off from work (and hence, high speed Internet access) for a 4 day weekend, so I wanted to squeeze a post in :) A new bellydancing session starts on Friday, excited about that. I'll have lots of quality time to spend with Mike and Hank. Hank is requesting to be brought to the mall, with Teddy in tow, so that they can ride the merry go round together, and go on the newly installed race car rides. Remember when those things cost only a quarter? Fifty cents now. Percentage chance that I'll give in to the cherubic Henry on this one? 100%.

I also have a brand new 5 book Amish series that I've just embarked on. Which reminds me, I've starting reviewing some of the books I read this year on LibraryThing. If you're interested in any of my reviews, you can access them through the LibraryThing links on my right navigation area. I'm CatholicLibrarian there too :)

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Friday night belly dancing

This past Friday evening, I banded forces with Melissa from my weekly belly dance class, and went to see the advanced class perform at a festival set in the local art gallery. We had a fabulous time. The whole thing made me nervous to an extent, this anonymous gathering of random people who will someday watch me parade around in a sparkly costume. But I loved the opportunity to see belly dancing without simultaneously being nauseous about my upcoming class number.

The advanced class did 2 very good numbers, and our instructor, Claire, did 2 solos, one with a live drummer, which was incredibly cool. She was experiencing a costuming issue that was making me project my powerful rays of nervous energy her way. And powerful it is, believe me, honed by a lifetime of insecurity and Type A personality disorder. Anyway, she kept clandestinely hitching up her skirt-with-a-mind-of-its-own between hip circles, and I was downright sweating for her after a few minutes. Luckily, costuming disaster was averted.

After we waited through a piano player who was good but did about 6 numbers too many, another local belly dance studio performed. I have to say, I was impressed. The group as a whole was made up of several different troupes, each specializing in a different type of belly dancing. One did classic Egyptian style dance, using those freaking adorable little finger cymbals, called zills. *LOVED* those. I was captivated by their happy little sound for the whole performance. Another group performed in the tribal style, which is a form of belly dance I'd characterize as "earthy." Darker colors, heavier costuming fabrics, and traditional movements associated with a particular ethnic culture. Yet another group, and this was my favorite, performed in the tribal fusion style. This style will feature a variety of dance forms melded together, usually Middle Eastern dance combined with something like hula or flamenco. In this instance, the troupe used a Bhangra style, and it was very, very good. I had never seen these forms of belly dance before, and I loved the opportunity to compare such different styles of the dance.

The last duet used wings of isis, which I have no desire to learn. Those things make me dizzy just looking at them. Google Image them, you'll see :)

I left the gallery very happy, kicky Middle Eastern music swimming in my head...

Friday, May 15, 2009

Board Games

I'm finding that structure to my play time with Henry makes it easier for me to do a good job. I'm a structured person, what can I say? Creative play doesn't come naturally to me, and I feel quite ridiculous trying to do it. Given that Hank is now three and a half, I figured there would be some age-appropriate board games that we could try together. In that spirit, I headed to Target yesterday, and found that they were having a sale on preschool games. Some old favorites there. Candyland, Chutes and Ladders, Mouse Trap...But I thought that they still might be a tad advanced for my Henry. I ended up with Hi-Ho Cherry-O. It comes with some cardboard trees, a million tiny little cherries that I'm sure will be visiting the inside of our vacuum bag sometime soon, and a spinner. Each time you spin, you receive guidance on what to do with the cherries on your tree. The object is to pick your tree clean and get all the cherries into your cherry basket. So, you spin and get a 4. You take 4 cherries from your tree and put them in your basket. Of course, there are a few results on the spinner that could throw a wrench into your picking. The knocked over bushel of cherries means that you have to take all the cherries from your basket and put them back on your tree. A bird or a dog means that you have to take 2 cherries from your basket and put them back on your tree. First person to clear their tree wins.

Well. I show this to Hank and he's all excited. I spin and do my thing. He watches with wide-eyed fascination.

"It's your turn honey."

"Ok Mommy." *grabs spinner and forces it onto the bird* "I pick the birdie!"

"No no honey. You have to spin it, see? Like this. You can't pick which picture to land on."

"Oh." *spins halfheartedly* "I no like that one. I spin again."

Thus, the spinner required more explanation than I originally anticipated :) But all in all, it went over very well. We played about a half dozen times last night, and he's already asked to play again today. This particular game is definitely good for their fine motor skills, and for practice with counting. I enjoyed playing with him; it really does get better and better with parenting.

"Oh no! I got the dog! I have to put 2 cherries back on my tree."

"Oh don't worry Mommy! Here, I'll put the cherries on my tree so that you don't have to."

Isn't he just the sweetest?

Wednesday, May 13, 2009


I'm weeding right now. No, not my garden :) The reference collection. These are those set-aside sources that do not circulate, designed to start students off in their research... that nobody wants to use anymore. God forbid they should use a source that is not online :) So, we're reducing the size of our collection such that we can move the reference desk closer to the library entrance, and hopefully move the collection with us at some point. I'm responsible for some general works, religion and philosophy, ethnic studies, law and political science.

Dust abounds. No one has touched these things in about a decade. Many, many books are getting the orange slip of doom slipped into them - WITHDRAW. To the dumpster they go.

This morning, I was weeding alongside my good friend and colleague, Chris. We had the library laptop propped up with us so that we could see if the ill-fated titles were duplicated in another reference collection on campus, or in a circulating collection someplace. Makes those W's much easier to dish out. We happened upon a particularly weedable-looking victim with the ambitious title of "World History." All in a single volume, mind you. The history of the world. Right. At this point, Chris turns to me with a smirky smile. "Well. Why don't you try to find this in the catalog?"

I should mention at this point that our book catalog...well, it sucks. Let me give you the classic example that every librarian on this campus will cite and speak bitterly about at will. Herman Melville's Moby Dick. Ok. You want this book. You go into the catalog, select "Title Begins With..." for your search, and peck in "M-O-B-Y D-I-C-K." Should be simple, correct? What do you get in return? A declaration from Mr. Catalog that *50+* records have been retrieved in answer to your query. Upon selecting that ominous-looking "50+" link, you are treated to the first 20 results. Not a single one of which is actually Moby Dick. Moby Dick itself finally appears on *page 2* of the results list, at the mid-20 mark. I feel that it is absolutely imperative to note result #1, the very, very first item to come up on this list that is allegedly a "Title Begins with..." list for the title Moby Dick. Wanna know what that result is? African Culture and Melville's Art: The Creative Process in Benito Cereno and Moby-Dick by a fellow with the unfortunate name of Sterling Stuckey. This infuriates me. That this poor guy had parents that named him Sterling Stuckey? No, though that's worth noting all the same :) I did *not* do a "Title Keywords" search; I did a "Title Begins With..." search, and none of the first page of results begins with the words Moby Dick. Un-believ-able.

So, back to the reference collection circa 10 am this morning. I moved from my open-mouthed gape of horror at the book, to a frown at the Catalog screen on the laptop, to a glare in Chris's general direction, and he quickly saw things my way. That baby got a W. How well could the history of the world have been covered in there anyway? Thus we moved on. Unfortunately, to yet more common winners that so frequently infest reference collections. Is one wordy source type enough for a single title? Why no, when you can use two or more. "The Historical Encyclopaedic Dictionary and Chronology of the Renaissance." Sounds inviting, doesn't it? Yes, this is what we librarians do all day. And we oddly enjoy it.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Mother's Day

I had a very nice Mother's Day this past weekend. Mike took me out to dinner Saturday night; what a treat to eat without toddler interruptions :)

"Mommy, what's that? I no like onions. Mommy, can I put them on your plate? Mommy, what's *that*?! Mommy I all done!! Can I have my dessert now?!"

It was very pleasant. Yesterday, we all went to Mass together. Hank was earning a solid B+/A- for his performance straight through the Liturgy of the Word. Sometime following the recitation of the Nicene Creed, he announced "I have to go poo!" which was still fine, Mike took him. I would rather that the whole pew didn't have to hear him (and frankly, smell the suspicious odor. I just *knew* something was up), but it wasn't bad, all things considered. However, when he returned, things went downhill quickly. Teddy accompanied us to Mass (can't say the teddy bear is unchurched :) and he became a bit of an instigator. Pretty soon, Teddy was dancing to the hymns and causing Hank to make a squealing noise that I would rather gouge my own eyeballs out than have to ever hear again. When I threatened to take Teddy away if he didn't simmer down, I got the extra loud "I *no want* to be quiet. I NOT be quiet!!" causing the older people around us to frown. We did get him settled enough to remain in the sanctuary, which was good, as opposed to Mother's Days' past.

I remember each and every Mother's Day since I had Hank sucking an unbelievable amount. Oh, let's see. There was year 1, when Hank's sleep the night before was three times worse than even the usual awfulness, and I forgot my mom's card and burst into inconsolable tears in the middle of brunch. Year 2, I've repressed. Last year, we went to a different parish for Mass, and it got so crowded, we were smashed in the middle of a pew. As people kept elbowing their way into the pew, I remember thinking "really? You want to sit right here, in this pew, placing the rambuncious 2 year old right in the center where he can cause the most trouble and can't be removed promptly?" Naturally, such events did come to pass, and we ended up retreating to the rear of the church. Eventually Hank was so bad he had to be taken *outside* by Mike while I stood in the back by myself. Not exactly the Mother's Day church experience of my dreams.

This year, we got through church mostly without incident, getting to be together for the whole service. Bonus. We also made it to brunch, *with* cards in tow, and Hank also didn't cause a scene there. Miracle.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Finished my first Amish trilogy

Last night I finished my first Beverly Lewis trilogy, Annie's people: The Preacher's Daughter, The Englisher, and The Brethren. The first book was the best of the trilogy, to be sure. The third felt a tad rushed to me, and I wasn't satisfied with how she didn't completely wrap up some loose ends with the supplementary characters. That being said, I enjoyed the series tremendously, and I've embarked on yet another Amish trilogy, The Heritage of Lancaster County.

The whole experience is making me dwell quite a bit on the way we all express our Christian faith in our everyday life, as well as on a sense of greater Christian community. Before I write on both of those a bit longer, here's a snippet of dialogue that gets at these points nicely. At a specific point in the story, Annie is worried and upset about something, and is having tea with her grandmother, whom she calls Mammi. Annie expresses her concern to Mammi, who replies:

"Don't you worry, Annie. The Lord God has us all in right in the palm of His hand."

"Really, Mammi? Are you certain?"

"Oh yes, I'm ever so sure."

I *love* how the author brings the Pennsylvania Dutch way of speaking into her writing, it's so very tender and sweet. I love how the Amish often refer to God as "the Lord God." It's just a very genuine expression. I also love the "ever so sure" thing. It's all just very charming.

What I enjoy most about all this is feeling a part of the close Amish community depicted in the stories. A sense of community is very important for a Christian, I ardently believe. Certainly, we all know that we're part of a larger worldwide community of believers, but as well our faith benefits from being a part of a local church community.

A large part of my attraction to Christian fiction of all kinds is seeing how the characters employ their faith in their everyday lives. And within the Amish community, they're constantly surrounded by the body of believers, which is just a refreshing contrast to having a secular career. I absolutely enjoy my secular career, but when escaping with a book, it's nice to feel a part of something different. I like how they talk about God so naturally during their work and when a crisis occurs.

Another interesting thing is the real dedication it takes to live an Amish life. Eschewing modern conveniences is not an easy thing to do. They do everything that they do because they believe it's what God wants them to do. They trust so fully. One thing that I'm noticing in the books is that this author conveys that the Amish do not have a personal relationship with God in the way that other American Christians would define it. I don't know if this is a fair assessment of the Amish or not, but it is the viewpoint of the author, based on my interpretation. And certainly, I think that an intimate prayer relationship with God is very important. That being said, it seems to me that the Amish believe that actions speak louder than words, and their hardworking lifestyle is *their* way of intimacy with God. It's all very, very intriguing. At least to me :)

These books have really gotten my creative writing energies going again. It's been stagnant for quite some time - I think graduate school sucked it right out of me :) But during a meeting today (snoozer :) I brainstormed on some ideas that I'll blog about shortly. Excited :)

Thursday, May 7, 2009

An evening with a cantankerous 3 year old...

So. Yesterday was just one of those evenings. You know, *those* evenings, whereby everything take on an air of pure excruciation, while in the background, your 3 year old is sobbing. Or whining. Perpetually. As I wrapped things up at work, I was tuckered, but excited to watch Lost and read more of my Amish book. I'm hip deep in shunnings and Pennsylvania Dutch, and I'm loving it.

I get home, and Mike is all excited to talk to me. He visited a special Verizon FIOS tent on our street during the day, and signed us up for FIOS tv. We're happy about this because we can bundle our land line with our tv programming, and save a bunch of money each month. So, Mike calls Dish Network to cancel our service, effective next Wednesday, the day after FIOS will be installed. Naturally, they offered to lower the cost of our programming (we should have threatened to do this last year...) but the bundling makes Verizon the way to go for us. As we're talking, Hank rushes in to demand my attention and simultaneously burst into tears. He's *beyond* exhausted from getting up in the night the night before and throwing a temper tantrum at 5 am. I attempt a soothe. He demands food. I haven't even put my work bag down on the counter yet, let alone start dinner. I get him a slice of cheese and escort him into the living room to watch Noggin for a few minutes so that I can prepare dinner.

I grab the remote and attempt to turn on the satellite. Nothin. Apparently, Dish Network cancelled our service henceforth immediately, cutting Hank off from Wow Wow Wubbzy. Hank's eyes grow huge, and he gasps "but Mommy, Wubbzy!" As Mike utters a swear word, and goes off to call Dish Network *again*, Hank stumbles backward, his beloved bear, Teddy, clutched in his arms. Down he and Teddy go, right on top of the log house he and Mike just constructed with Lincoln Logs, crushing the entire structure.

*DRAMATIC BURST INTO TEARS* "My HOUSE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!WWWWWAAAAAHHHHH!!!!!!!" As you can see, this evening was off to a roaring start. I pick Hank and Teddy up and settle them on the couch with the slice of cheese and some juice, finding a Curious George DVD to stop the tears. Sniffling is still ongoing when I head back to the kitchen, but the sobs have subsided. Mike fixes things with Dish Network. I fix a quick dinner of whole grain pasta with olive oil and vegetables. We fill the plates with food, and my backside has barely touched my chair when Hank announces "I have to go potty." *sighs* "Do you want Daddy to take you, honey?" *please God...* "No. Mommy take me. I have to go poo."

At this point, it's only fair to warn that images of human waste elimination will follow. If you want to stop reading at this juncture, I completely understand.

So, I troop with Hank (and Teddy, who is subjected to watch the entire proceedings from a perch on the radiator) back to the bathroom and get him settled. Much procrastination and cajoling commence. I eventually trade places with Mike, and during his turn, success occurs. Much praise follows. Hank waddles back to the dinner table, clearly walking funny. "Honey, do you have to go more potty?" "NO. I already went potty." The child is convinced that the instant one...we'll just delicately say "item," leaves his body, he's done his duty and potty is ALL DONE. He sits and plays with his pasta until I threaten that no dessert will follow unless he eats his dinner. He takes 15 full minutes to force down 4 pieces of penne and declares this a success. After some more negotiation, we leave for a walk, Hank clutching half a cookie.

Following our walk, during which time Hank whined in a high-pitched voice annoying enough to make me daydream of bedtime (and frankly, duct tape. It's only a daydream, not reality...:), we got back home and started a bath for him. We have our roles in this process clearly delineated. Mike starts the water while I handle undressing duty. Then Mike lathers and washes, while I tackle drying and jammie put-on. I'm putting Hank's shirt in the dirty clothes bin as he shimmes out of his pants and Spider Man undershorts. "Mommy, there's poo in there!" I delude myself into hoping that he was kidding, and innocently take the dirty clothes from him. Yep, there *was* poo in there. And putting them into the dirty clothes bin that way would then put poo on all of our clothes. I sigh, grab a wet wipe, and do my duty. Now, *I* stink too. As I'm wallowing in my misery, stinky underpants in one hand, and nasty wet wipe in the other, Mike comes in to check on us. At precisely the same moment, our son, buck naked save for a pair of crew socks, bends over his train track. Before I can react, Mike does. "Oh my GOD!! Get another wipe!!!!" Yep, there was poo in *there* too.

Since I already clearly had my hands full, Mike took on that wiping duty. Hank was quickly ushered off to the bath, where he whined and drove Mike crazy. Due to non-cooperation, he was extracted from the water without being permitted to play with his toy shaving kit, and was deposited in his hooded towel, sobbing, for me to dry and dress. "No Mommy, I NO WANT to put my jammies on!! NO NO NO!!"

After stuffing damp limbs into puppy dog sleeves and pants, I was more then ready for an evening drink. We played Batman and Robinn until it was mercifully time for bed. Settling in with a cup of tea and The Brethren, I breathed a sigh of relief that the relaxing time of day was upon me. Of course, within 60 minutes I was completely exhausted and ready for sleep, about to start the cycle all over again...

But that's not a complaint. I have a GOOD life. A happy one. And tonight Hank and I are slated to cuddle and watch Dora Saves the Mermaids while Mike is in class. It's not easy being a parent, but it's so, so worth it.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

The Lord of the Rings...

Recently, I've been trying to watch more movies with my hubby, because he truly loves movies. I, on the other hand, have the attention span of a 2 year old, so it's hard for me to sit still for a multi-hour movie. Bad 30 minute sitcoms and sappy hour long dramas are my usual forte. Especially when there are wonderful romances set in Amish country to be read...but I digress. We've established a nice system whereby we watch movies on a weekend night and we take turns picking. I got Mike to watch the 5 hour BBC version of Pride & Prejudice (ha!) which I blogged about at the time. And he LOVED it.

So, a few weeks ago, I suggested that we watch something that I know that he loves and wanted to share with me: the Lord of the Rings trilogy. The Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers, and Return of the King. I had heard that the movies were quite good, and JRR Tolkien was a well-known devout Catholic who claimed to have woven Christian moral themes into the stories. So I acquiesced. But I don't usually enjoy fantasy, so I wasn't sure how I was going to like them. Well, I was very pleasantly surprised. I *loved* them. We actually had Lord of the Rings marathons for an entire week, watching a hour or more each night before retiring for bed.

I'll try and give a brief, clumsy summary from someone who has never read the books. The dark lord, Sauron, creates this One Ring that possesses his essence and can influence even the best of men to crave its power, even kill for it. To free Middle Earth from the powers of evil, the kindly wizard Gandalf asks hobbit Frodo to transport the ring to Mount Doom, whose fires are the only place in which the ring can be completely destroyed. Apparently, hobbits are more innocent and genuinely good than most other folk. So, he's hoping Frodo can resist the ring long enough to dispose of it, a task at which other creatures have previously failed in grand form. Frodo is assisted by his good friend Sam, and Aragorn, heir to the human settlement of Gondor, along with a few other people whose names I can't remember. One is Orlando Bloom, with blond hair, who plays an elf that can shoot arrows like nobody's business. Mike could not stop laughing when I referred to the elf community as "fairies." Fairy, elf, is there really a difference? Anyway, there is also a caustic dwarf that I liked very much. They constituted the "fellowship" to protect the ring on its journey, but ultimately they had to send Frodo and Sam on by themselves; the power of the ring was too overwhelming for the group dynamic to stay strong.

The overall good versus evil theme really kept my interest. I had a hard time keeping all the crazy names and types of creatures straight, but I grew attached to the characters. One thing that struck me were the battle scenes. In each, the good troops were all rounded up on horse back with their armor and swords, given a pep talk, and sort of foisted off to the attacking evil army, which was inevitably twice their size and oozing gross liquids. A difficult thing war was, to be sure. And each time, they were badly outnumbered and had weapons that were way less cool and spiky. But they held their own, trying desperately to stop the invading army of Orks -minions of Sauron - from taking over the main settlements of Middle Earth, hoping that somehow Frodo will succeed in getting to Mount Doom and destroy the ring.

My favorite scene in the films is towards the end of Return of the King. Our good fellowshippers, along with other human compatriots, are gathered outside the main gates of Mordor, home to Mount Doom, about a million disgusting-looking Orks, and Sauron in all his doominess. They know that Frodo is inside, and are simply trying to distract Sauron and the Orks in what they believe may be a futile attempt to give Frodo enough time to climb Mount Doom and drop the ring into the fires. Aragorn gathers their paltry remaining crew, and attempts to pep talk them before storming the gates. He realizes that there is not much left to say: the fate of the world lies in the balance. He simply says: "for Frodo..." and away they storm. It was very moving. And extremely well done.

I won't give away the ending, in case anyone hasn't seen the movies yet :) But if you haven't seem them, do rent them. Fantasy is definitely out of the realm of my usual sensibilities, but I was very, very impressed. I was drawn in quickly, and I'm so glad that I watched these classic stories.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Bellydancing calamities...

My weekly bellydancing lessons continue, and I'm now fully invested: I have a costume. It's all very flitty and swirly and soft, which as you can imagine, makes me very happy. It's wine colored, and quite wrinkled, so much steaming is to come. The scary part is that I have to wear it in an upcoming performance. *shudders* But I'll survive. On Friday, we practiced our routine. It's very cute, set to a pop tune called "Bellydance" by Saad. Claire's only critique is that we have to be more "bouncy" and "saucy" in the steps. Right. Well, I'm not saucy. Nor bouncy. So I guess that explains it.

We practiced some steps with our veils this week, which always adds an element of mystery and danger to everything. Veils...get caught on things. And they get underfoot, and they're slippery, so, well, you know. They can also get caught up in ones skirt such that upon arm raising, reveals things to the audience the bellydancer had no intention of so revealing. Ask me how I know this... They downright have minds of their own. And I merely have a chiffon veil. Claire claims that when using silk veils, one "really has to keep track of that thing." Apparently, silk veils have been known to stay afloat for astoundingly unreasonable amounts of time, making dancing life a bit delicate for their owners. Claire always tells us that veils are just like children (and sometimes, men): you think you know them, and that you have them trained, and BAM! They embarrass you in public.

So, we went over this veil move called a "sand storm." For a genetically clumsy person, this sounds like it could end in injury. It consists of arm movements that swoop the veil in front of you, and to your side, making it look all floaty and cool. I kept ending up with my veil in the wrong spot, which is absolutely no surprise. Overall though, I'm coming right along, and quite happy in my intermediate-level class. I adore my classmates, and it's a source of creativity for me, as well as a social outlet, and I love it.