Adulting: An Update

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there was no appropriate gif for this post, so look at this cutie pie house again

Last week I wrote about several life-changing decisions swirling around in my head. Sam and I had just made the decision to stay in our apartment and not move to a rental home, but I had yet to hear from the job in Portland. Yesterday I got the email that I did not get the job. There was an overwhelming response to the job and I was not a candidate for the position.

I am amazed by how incredibly okay I am with the entire job situation.

Partly it is because I knew that it was a long shot and I was mostly applying because I knew I’d regret not at least trying.

Mostly it is because I have a lot of good stuff happening this autumn that I would be sad to miss. Several friends are having babies. I get to go to a super cool library conference in Texas and visit with Andi while I’m there. There are several concerts I’m going to including Purity Ring and Of Monsters and Men. I may even try to see Sufjan Stevens if I can swing it. I have my knitting group I would miss like crazy. Sam can continue working on his degree in Art Education, Hope will be at the same high school, Atticus will start Pre-K with a group of dear friends and already familiar teachers and Persy Jane will stay at the same really fabulous daycare. I think my work freaked out a bit by my applying to another job. Freaked out is the wrong word; they recognized that I’m bored with repetitiveness and I have permission to do some cool new projects.

I’m cool where I am right now and, better yet, I know where I’m headed. Library school is certainly in the plans after Sam finishes his degree in 2017. I also plan on doing things like write a CV and actually keep track of all the stuff I do.

I still wish I was moving to a more liberal, environmentally conscious, vibrant arts community in a place with actual seasons, but I am okay with not moving for now.

Go Set A Watchman by Harper Lee

gosetaLast weekend I finished Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee. If you’ve been living under a rock and missed THE literary event of the year, let me summarize. Go Set a Watchman was written by Lee prior to To Kill A Mockingbird and involves the characters in TKAM, but twenty years after the events of TKAM (written before, but set after, got it?). Lee shelved Go Set a Watchman, but pulled out a some scenes and characters for To Kill a Mockingbird. Now Go Set a Watchman is published.

First let’s talk about the writing. This is no To Kill a Mockingbird. I thought the book started strong and really shone when Lee was writing about Jean Louise’s – aka Scout’s – childhood. Towards the last 50 pages the book feels rushed and ends too neatly. It suffers a bit from what I like to call John Galtism. You know, that chapter in Atlas Shrugged when Ayn Rand goes on at great length with a philosophical speech. That happens, lots of explaining and lecturing instead of “showing” the reader. The rest of the writing is pretty spectacular and lovely, but certainly uneven. Let’s say 3 stars, maybe 3.5 stars for writing.

Here is where reviewing this book gets super tricky for me. I know that despite the grim outcomes of To Kill A Mockingbird we have have Atticus as a very clear good guy (still problematic in regards to race). Of course all of this goes out the window in Go Set a Watchman. Atticus is more than problematic and Scout Jean Louise is the moral compass. She is visiting from New York and finds the post-Brown vs. Board of Education South frightening in its racism and longing for segregation. Although not as pronounced as the racial tension, Go Set a Watchman also address sexism and class discrimination and there are some great points illustrating intersectionality in the book (Hank feels more pressure to conform the town’s wishes because he is from “trash” and Scout has more control of her life because she is a higher class… a lower class woman would be expected to conform). Segregation and racial tensions are the primary subject and this Southern reader felt like she was getting punched in the gut throughout most of the book. Without spiraling this review into a laundry list of how uncannily relevant and timely this book is let me say that the confederate flag debate and Charleston shooting alone made this a painful read. Scout is appalled that “good” people… people she loves… have deep seated prejudices and are completely unaware of their own hateful ignorance. I wish I could have read Go Set a Watchman and walked away thinking I read an okay book that expressed some antiquated opinions of a time long passed. That didn’t happen. 5 stars for emotional wallop and relevance.

I’m both glad I read it and really wished I hadn’t read it.

~~~ Stats ~~~

Started: 14 July 2015

Finished: 19 July 2015

Pages: 278

Challenges: —

Owned/Borrowed/Library: owned
Stars: 4 stars. 3 for writing, 5 for timeliness and emotional wallop

Works in Progress: Autumn Meal Organization

Yes, you read that correctly. Here it is late July with “official” Autumn well over a month away. 41 days until pumpkin spice latte season (September 1st) and 64 days until the Autumnal Equinox on September 23rd. I’m stewing in the muggy oppressiveness of a Georgia July and thinking of butternut bisque and slow cooker chili. In part this is because,

fucksummerIn addition to the cooler, darker months being superior (in my humble opinion) I have back to school on the brain. Now, I was homeschooled for most of my life and we did a sort of “year round” school. I have no idea why I associate fresh crayons and new classes with falling leaves and crisp air. In case you didn’t know Georgia has a ridiculously early back to school date. Hope starts her first day of the 10th grade ON AUGUST 5TH. Atticus will begin Pre-K on AUGUST 10TH. The kids should still be catching lightening bugs, eating ice cream, and going to bed late. Instead we are commencing school shopping and schedule wrangling. Sam starts his college classes the last full week of August, but school mode really kicks in at my library. I have several huge projects going on and people start trickling back on campus. All this school time leads to autumn in my brain hence the dreaming of autumn dishes.

I should probably explain why food pops into my brain rather than decor or, I don’t know, crafty stuff. For some reason I lose all desire to cook and plan meals in the summer. May hits and I throw in the towel. You would think my slightly reduced work schedule (36 instead of 40 hours) would mean more time cooking, but that is the last thing I want to do. We live on spaghetti, rotisserie chicken*, and simple dishes like grilled cheese and pancakes for dinner. The kids freaking love it (most of the time). I get my kitchen mojo back around August. I really enjoy cooking and baking, but only from August to April. I’m a strange bird.

Anyhoo, back to the organization part. I’ve set a goal to cut down our food budget or at least steward it a bit better. I’ve learned that “stocking up” doesn’t really work for us. For one we are in an apartment without a pantry and with a small refrigerator. Secondly stocking up on certain things like chips, cereal, snacks, etc… simply leads to my family consuming more of said item. To illustrate my point I’d like to remind you all that Sam is Hagrid-sized and eats his breakfast cereal in a mixing bowl. When the cereal is gone Sam and the kids will go for fruit or yogurt (yogurt is rationed, though). If there is more cereal they just keep eating. Once-Month-Cooking runs into the same issue of “where the hell do I put everything”? I believe a compromise is in order and I think I’ve figured out a solution although I may not get my stuff together enough to do The Plan until September.

Autumn Food Plan

The Budget

We are trying to get away from using the debit card for many of our purchases. It is just too easy to overspend. Cash also seems to slip out of our grasp. I’ve determined an honest grocery budget by analyzing several months of receipts.  We spend an average of $125 dollars a week on groceries and about $20 to $30 a week on non-food items (toilet paper, diapers, health and beauty products, cleaning supplies, cat food). Instead of worrying about the budget from week to week, I am going to put the entirety of our food budget on a Kroger giftcard. This will allow us to “see” how our budget dwindles and we can make adjustments. It also allows us our awesome fuel points right up front and that will help with gas expenses. For August our budget will be $750 (however August is a lean month due to back to school shopping… I will most likely start this in September).

The Meal Plan

Next week I’m going to focus on thumbing through cookbooks and updating meal plan cards with Autumn favorites. The weekly rotation looks like this:

Monday: Easy meal (my night to work)

Tuesday: Poultry or Fish

Wednesday: Pasta or grains

Thursday: Pork or Beef

Friday: Casserole or bake

Saturday: Soup / Curry / Chili / Stew (don’t worry, if it is hot out it will be a salad and veggie plate)

Sunday: Slow cooker meal

Twice a Month Cooking / Twice a Month Baking

I cannot manage once a month cooking, but I think I could do every other week. What about baking? I’d love to have a time to make baking mixes, bread starters, muffins, granola, etc…. Trying to attempt this every weekend would be a nightmare. Instead I will be setting Monday mornings aside to do alternating meal and baking prep. I will also alternate the focus of my shopping each week. One week may be a bit pricey for meal prep, but the next week I’ll be focusing on baking and other kitchen projects and will focus on staples.

Here is how it will shake out:

Week 1: Shop 08/01, prep 6 to 8 meals on Monday 08/03

Week 2: Shop 08/08, bake or make 3 to 5 other items (muffins, pancake mix, granola, kitchen pickles, and a bread starter)

Week 3: Crazy work weekend so shop Friday 08/14, prep 6 to 8 meals on Monday O8/17

Week 4: Shop 08/22, bake or make 3 to 5 other items (muffins, hamburger buns, granola bars, salad dressing, loaf bread)

Week 5: Another work weekend, shop Friday 08/28 and prep 6 to 8 meals on Monday 08/31

I’m excited about spending my Mondays in the kitchen and I know, honestly, that I will probably start some of these projects on Sunday evening.

There we have it. I’ll let you all know how this shakes out. Honestly, it may be September before my plans come to fruition, but that’s okay. The planning and listing relaxes me (I told you I am strange).

*Yup, no longer vegetarian. I went over 2 years and then caved.

In Which the Heroine Makes Life Decisions with Aplomb

Last week was full. Not full of badness or drama, just FULL OF LIVING. I had breakfast with my mom, we hosted dinner with friends at our house, I read Go Set a Watchman, I had my hair dyed blue, I vanquished many Candy Crush Soda Saga levels, and I nursed Persy Jane through a wicked cold and fever. Work hummed along with the school Health Sciences department dominating interlibrary loan. Busy. Full. Good.

Those day-to-day things just scratch the surface of the bubbling uncertainty of this summer. Not any thing bad or dramatic, but I found that Sam and I had so many grown-up decisions to make. Big things that I feel I should have figured out ten years ago like “WHAT DO I WANT TO DO WITH MY LIFE?” AND “WHERE SHOULD I LIVE?” I realize I’m 35, but I constantly feel like someone is going to find out that I have no idea what I’m doing. Okay, I know what I’m doing, but I’m now mature enough to realize the weight of responsibility. Amanda the new mom at 19 is a vastly different person from Amanda mom of three and 35. When I make decisions about my career or where I live I impact the lives of four other people and a grumpy cat. ::hyperventilates into paper bag::

sheldon

Let’s talk grown-up decisions.

Earlier this year I applied for a different job at my university. I love the library, but I’ve worked my way up as high as I can go sans graduate degree and I have at least 30 years until retirement. An eventual career change or upgrade was going to happen in the next few years. The new job was as a staff writer in the university’s public relations office. Yay! Writing! I applied, had a “chat” with the VP of the office and wrote a test freelance article. The entire time I felt uncertainty bubbling up. I chalked it up to anxiety over doing something new when I am so comfortable at the library. I swallowed my fear and waited to hear back from the office.
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While I was waiting to hear back (university hiring can take a bit of time) I started thinking about what I loved most about working in a library. Libraries are so much more than books. My bibliophile self loves the shelves of books, but it is what libraries embrace that makes my heart thrill. Equality, pursuing knowledge, helpfulness, team-work, creativity, etc… all have their place in public and academic libraries. I love that I have loads of detail-oriented work, systems, and opportunities to organize and I get to help people, think creatively and write.

On a whim I Googled “library jobs in Portland” and discovered a dream library job in Portland, OR as a Library Internal Communications Specialist. A library job with no MLIS degree required and loads of writing. A dream job in a dream location. Reader, I applied. I almost didn’t apply. I ran through a list of reasons why I shouldn’t ranging from “I probably wouldn’t get the job” to “moving across country is scary.” Then I ran my “should I apply” question through the one filter that always leads me to the right answer: what would I want Hope to do? Raising a teenage daughter with strong feminist principles is eye-opening. I would tell Hope to apply for her dream job in her dream location. I would tell her that even if she didn’t get the job she could learn from the experience. Obviously, I had to apply.
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I haven’t heard back from Portland except for an email explaining that so many people applied it was taking longer to review applications. Do I think I’ll get the job? No. I am sure they are flooded with qualified applicants who already reside near and around the area. Do I think I would rock that job if I got it? ABSOLUTELY.

Applying for the job in Portland told me one very valuable thing: I certainly don’t need to leave libraries. I belong in the library world and all the learning, equality, and creativity it embraces. I removed my name from the applicant list for the writing job and decided to focus on libraries. This means that when Sam graduates in 2017 I will apply to graduate school. Deciding that Libraries is definitely my Hogwarts’ House also renewed my excitement for my current job. My supervisor is allowing me to take on some library communications work and outreach projects in addition to my usual interlibrary loan tasks because she knows that I’m itching to do and learn more. It is nice to be excited about coming into work and I realize now that seven years of all interlibrary loan was starting to get repetitive to say the least; throwing in new challenges and responsibilities has added pep to my step. I’m a library lady and that’s not going to change.

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There was another major decision made involving where we live. We almost rented a house 20 minutes from town, but when we actually sat down to talk about how much it would cost in time and money our in-town apartment won. Up until Friday we were sure we would move, but then we thought about it more.We used a good, old-fashioned pros and cons list and even whipped out a calculator. Even with the rent on the house being less expensive, we found we would be paying more. Figuring in extra gas and after school care would see us paying an extra $64 a week. This doesn’t even account for the higher energy bill for the bigger space and purchasing a washer and dryer. If I’m going to graduate school in a few years I’d like to pay off as much debt as possible. At the very least I want to pay off the van and cut our credit card debt in half. I’m at peace with our decision to stay at the apartment. Moving is definitely not in the cards for now…

… unless, of course, Portland calls.
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The Children’s Book by A S Byatt

childrensbook

From Goodreads:

“A spellbinding novel, at once sweeping and intimate, from the Booker Prize–winning author of Possession, that spans the Victorian era through the World War I years, and centers around a famous children’s book author and the passions, betrayals, and secrets that tear apart the people she loves.

When Olive Wellwood’s oldest son discovers a runaway named Philip sketching in the basement of the new Victoria and Albert Museum—a talented working-class boy who could be a character out of one of Olive’s magical tales—she takes him into the storybook world of her family and friends.

But the joyful bacchanals Olive hosts at her rambling country house—and the separate, private books she writes for each of her seven children—conceal more treachery and darkness than Philip has ever imagined. As these lives—of adults and children alike—unfold, lies are revealed, hearts are broken, and the damaging truth about the Wellwoods slowly emerges. But their personal struggles, their hidden desires, will soon be eclipsed by far greater forces, as the tides turn across Europe and a golden era comes to an end.

Taking us from the cliff-lined shores of England to Paris, Munich, and the trenches of the Somme, The Children’s Book is a deeply affecting story of a singular family, played out against the great, rippling tides of the day. It is a masterly literary achievement by one of our most essential writers.”

There is so much to love about this book, but I’ve condensed my effusions of joy. Instead I’m going to recommend this book to certain readers in the style of “If you love ____, then you’ll love _____.” Let’s go!

  1. If you love sweeping generational sagas steeped in history, you’ll love The Children’s Book. The book begins in the late Victorian era travels through Edwardian times, and continues up to the end of World War 1. The Boer War, the suffrage movement and rise of feminism in education, and the blurring of class lines and mobilization of the working class are a few of the historical elements. There are also the smaller historical details like dress, customs, and manners that make The Children’s Book rich reading.
  2. If you love art and art history, then you’ll love The Children’s Book. Ceramics/Pottery play a major role in this book. Building the kiln, working with glazes, and molding and shaping clay are detailed. There is also architecture, silversmith work and jewelry making, embroidery, marionettes, plays, novels, poetry, and painting. In addition to the artistic process there is a fair amount about significant art movements and works including descriptions of Art Nouveau, Arts and Crafts movement, the building of the Victoria and Albert Musuem, and several significant operas and plays (including Peter Pan). Famous artists and writers are alluded to or in a “cameo” including Oscar Wilde and J.M. Barrie.
  3. If you love fairy tales, you will love The Children’s Book. Olive Wellwood – a major if not THE main character of the book – writes children’s books about fairies, deep forests, and mysterious creatures. The work of other fairy tale writers from Kipling with his Pook of Puck Hill, the brothers Grimm, and Hans Christian Anderson play a role. More importantly the “children” at the beginning of the novel find their lives paralleling fairy tales in a manner. Dead parents, false identities, charming serpents and even Bluebeard’s locked room make an appearance.

If I haven’t convinced you to read this yet, let me tell you the writing is lush and the characters alive. I wept through the last forty pages of the book, I was shocked, inspired, angered, joyous, and basking in the breathless beauty of The Children’s Book. I think this is Byatt’s finest work to date and look forward to re-reading it often.

Started: 14 June 2015

Finished: 12 July 2015

Pages: 883

Challenges:

Owned/Borrowed/Library: Owned

Stars: 5 out of 5 stars

Readerly Rambles: 13 July 2015

readerly rambles

What I read: First off I was a terrible #24in48 participant, sorta. I knew I wouldn’t be able to read for that long, but I did think I would pop onto Twitter or blitz through some graphic novels. I did reach my goal of completing A S Byatt’s The Children’s Book. I read during Persy’s naps on Saturday and Sunday and stayed up way past my bedtime last night to finish (went to bed at 12:15am and woke at 4am… thank goodness for coffee). OH MY GAWD THAT BOOK WAS PERFECTION. Review forthcoming, but let me say that I wept during the last 40 pages.

What I’m reading: I had intended on picking up Emma today, but I’m just too tired to read. Shirley Jackson Reading Week began today, but my participation will have to wait because… well, I’m sure you know… tomorrow is the release day for To Set a Watchman.

What’s Up Next: The Harper Lee book is first, of course, and then it is back to regular programing. A wee bit of Austen, a sprinkle of Victorian Fairy Tales, and a heaping cup of Shirley Jackson.

My sleep deprivation is preventing me from writing coherently. I’ll just leave you with this image that describes my weekend and – most likely – the next few days all thanks to books.

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