Conversations with Atticus: On Librarians being No Fun

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(Background: I was taking the sprinkler from the yard to the library so we can water our freshly planted garden behind the library.)

Atticus: “Cause why you take the sprinkler to work?”

Me: “So I can water the garden that’s behind the library.”

Atticus, with an excited leap: “Will the librarians put on their suits and play in the water?!?!

Goodbye, Facebook (#99DaysOfFreedom)

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An update on my social media cleanse. Towards the end of June I had just about had it with social media. Actually, just with Facebook. I did move my app on my phone and I deleted every single like/follow/friend who wasn’t a real person I knew (and liked) or a source of bookish joy. I deleted every human rights / animal rights / mommy blogger / political figure / etc…. I even unfollowed coffee shops (not Inman Perk, all the others), restaurants, nerdy news sources, movies, and bands.

But there I was. Still checking my phone. Still popping on Facebook at work to see what “so and so said” or to go through reams of invites for various parties and events (some invites from people I barely know). I’d like to say that this endless scrolling through Facebook was like watching reruns of Disney Pixar cakes on the Food Network: fun, mindless, something to wile away a few spare minutes.

Except it wasn’t like that at all.

I’m going to try very hard to not sound super creepy, but I find myself becoming embroiled in the lives of my Facebook friends. Not in a sinister Tom Ripley or Edward Cullen sort of way. My problem is that I really and truly care. I will go back and see if your truck was repaired for a reasonable price, I will check to see if that grandchild was born safely, I will worry about a vague-book status that seems depressed, I want to know if your kid quit puking and you got some rest, I want to see how that quilt turned out after you stayed up all night ripping out seams and redoing the stitches. I care. That sounds silly, but I do care.

This doesn’t apply only to my close family and friends. That mom at daycare, the teachers who teach my kids, people at church, neighbors, childhood friends I haven’t spoken to in decades, blog friends, pretty much everyone. I want to check up on all of you. Why? Why do I care so much? I think there are several reasons:

1. Introvert to a fault. I don’t talk on the phone. AT ALL. Okay, I talk on the phone to my mom about once every other week. I write letters and postcards, I blog, I do social media. God help me if I have to talk on the phone. I may just die. I could list all kinds of excuses, but I don’t really get out much. I go to church events, I knit with two friends once a week, occasionally I go see my friend Catherine. I set up all these meetings using Facebook and texting.

2. I’m a reader. I read novels. I like novels by Barbara Pym and Iris Murdoch where you learn what each character had for lunch or their views on the proper way to fold table linens and all of this details is tied up in some sort of drama that plays out in the daily and the mundane. Facebook is real time, real life details that could make up an amazing novel. At least a novel I would read.

3. I’m tired. I’m up with Persy Jane some nights. My eyes won’t focus to read Trollope. The meeting is boring. My knitting is allllll the way over there and I don’t want to leave my chair. So I scroll, like, quiz, comment. Over and over again.

4. I care. I’m tenderhearted and I worry about people. Seriously. I get stressed by your stresses and then I feel helpless and I want to fix everything. I hardly know most of the folks on my Facebook so it would be weird for me to call you. “Hey, I know we only talk in the school pick up line, but did that argument with your husband work out?”

5. I’m nosy as fuck. I don’t want to seem saintly, so I’ll fess up. I like to know everyone’s business. I just do. Because maybe I want to be the elderly, eccentric cat lady in the “between the wars” British novel (yes, yes I do).

Yup. That’s me. The over-involved Facebook friend. How embarrassing. I knew I needed to stop.
There I was, trying to keep myself from constantly checking Facebook when I saw this on — ironically — a friend’s Facebook page: 99 days of Freedom. There I learned about Facebook’s mood experiment (which pissed me off) and the backlash against Facebook. Folks all over the globe are planning on ditching Facebook for 99 days. What a fabulous idea! Originally I was just not going to log in, but the fact that I cannot remove my phone app bothers me. I did the only thing to do: I deactivated my account. Full disclosure, I have a work account so I can post to the library’s Facebook page, but I’m not accepting any friend requests (not even from my husband). I’m not logging back in on my personal page until October 20th. Freeeddddoooooommmmmm!!!!!

Always the over-achiever, I’m going to kick it up a notch and once a week I’m going to do something in real life that I would normally do on Facebook. Here are some ideas:

1. Invite people to my home by calling on the phone or sending paper invitations.

2. Sending cards for new babies, deaths, illness, and birthdays.

3. Getting together with family members so they can see the kids and/or printing off pictures to send.
4. Sending or giving out recipe cards to folks instead of “posting” a recipe
5. Talking. To People. In Person. REAL TIME.

I’m still on Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest as those social media platforms tend to inspire rather than distract. Already I’ve accomplished more reading, knitting, and I’ve been much more “present” when I’m with my husband and kids. Who knows, maybe I won’t be back to Facebook.

If you’re interested in joining #99DaysOfFreedom let me know. I will totally like that status.

Home is Wherever I’m with You

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Click the picture to purchase this print from Argyle Academy. It is beautiful!

Several months ago I blogged about our basement being flooded with poo-water, a crazed landlord, and our frustration with our rental home. We are still having issues with repairs not being made in a timely manner,or not at all, and our landlord’s son still pops over at all hours despite our asking for 24-hour’s notice per our lease agreement. We deal with the landlord’s son because our landlord is an 80 year old lady, from here out “the landlord” refers to the son. Here is where they get us: we have — and always have had — a month to month lease. We only have to give 30 days notice that we’re moving and they only have to give 30 days notice to boot us out. They have been so antagonist about repairs about repairs and we are hesitant to complain too much.

Let me give you an example. Last Monday morning I woke up to Persy throwing up. Sam went into the bathroom to get me some towels and he noticed that the bathroom ceiling was leaking. It was raining outside and inside the bathroom big, fat droplets were falling from a cracked-looking seam in the bathroom. We put a trashcan under the leak and immediately called the landlord.

He came over that afternoon and could find “no sign of a leak or moisture.” I showed him the four inches of rain in the trashcan and he said that the roof was replaced seven years ago and “what did we do to the roof?” What do you mean? How could we damage the roof? While he was there I asked him about the slow-draining bathroom sink and the tub caulking that was supposed to be handled two months ago. He said “what are y’all doing to that sink?!” The sink that he informed us was slow draining and had to be cleaned out once or twice a year when we signed the lease. He then informed me that it was the pipes in the wall messing up (okay then we definitely didn’t do anything to the sink) and that he wouldn’t be repairing that or handling the tub being caulked. He called Sam later threatening to raise our rent and acting like we are terrible tenants.

What really sucks is that we are amazingly awesome tenants WITH the exception that sometimes our front lawn isn’t mowed as often as it should be. For the past four years we have never been late with the rent, we’ve notified them of repairs, none of the repairs have been due to our carelessness or clumsiness, we’ve even gone and checked on our landlord’s 80-year old mother (and owner of the property) during snowstorms and bad weather. We are quiet, respectful and never have tons of visitors or do anything to disrupt our neighborhood. Every year there is a tray of handmade goodies with something knitted or sewn or lovingly crafted for the mom and the son. We’ve tried to be not just tenants, but neighbors.

We have even offered to make some the repairs ourselves if we could take materials off the following month’s rent. We were laughed and mocked for that and accused of trying to scam the landlord. We’ve made a few small repairs on the DL just for the sake of our health and to avoid arguments. For example, the Christmas I was pregnant with Persy Sam ripped moldy wall paper out of the bathroom, spackled, and painted the bathroom with a mildew/mold resistant paint. We’ve repaired drawers and replaced door knobs that were damaged and locking our kids in the bathroom/bedrooms. Sam has pulled nails out of the floor and cut off sharp, broken edges of the linoleum. We just cannot afford to do costly repair like roofing, plumbing, and flooring issues (and we shouldn’t have to do any of this). I should take pics of all the repairs needed and show you all.
 

Yes. It is time to move. Originally we had planned on buying a home. I qualify for a no-down payment Georgia Dream loan since I work in education and we could probably buy something at the end of the year. However, I don’t want to feel the pressure to buy a home and make a decision we’d regret. We’ve decided to wait a year or two and then explore buying a home. Next year Atticus will be in pre-school which will save us about $500 a month in childcare AND we will have our van paid off. Having an extra $700 a month will help when purchasing a home. Also, Sam and I are credit card-free and we’d like to keep it that way. That means we will need to save for repairs and emergencies so we don’t find ourselves sucked into relying on credit cards.

Okay, buying is out for the time being. What about renting another home? Alas, we simply cannot afford it for several reasons. Our current home has crazy cheap rent for the size home we rent and the area we live in. Other houses in the area rent for double what we’re paying (although they are in much better condition). There is no way we could pay double what we’re paying now. Also, renting a home ends up being higher on utilities. It costs more to heat and cool, there is lawn maintenance, trash pick-up, water, etc…. Once we crunched the numbers we realized that we’d have to shell out $850 to $1,000 more per month. I cannot do that. Let me be totally honest, that’s two and half weeks of my pay and I’m the “breadwinner.” Unless one of us becomes a stripper there is no way we can shell out that cash.

Our only option is to search for an apartment. We are tasked with finding a three-bedroom apartment, in the same school system, in a good neighborhood, and for the amount of rent we can afford. We’ve found two complexes to look at. They are slightly more than we are paying right now for our house, but include several utilities and they will cost less to heat and cool. We have to wait for Sam’s student loan check to hit in early September so that we will have the cash to apply for apartments, cover the pet security deposit, and move in. That puts us moving in mid-September to early October.

We feel uncomfortable and insecure in our current home. Then I read about The Goodwill Librarian’s potential homelessness at the hands of a rotten landlord and I felt really insecure. Although I’m frustrated and ready to move, I know I will be heartbroken when we leave. We thought we’d be in this house until Hope was in college. I brought home two babies from the hospital to this home. We moved in just after four months of marriage and when I was three months pregnant with Atticus. In four year’s time, we’ve built our lives around this shabby little house. I’ll miss it.

I am approaching our upcoming move with a good attitude and a sense of adventure. It will be nice to declutter. We will have the security of a lease and know that we aren’t going to be booted out for asking for repairs. We will have a timeline to plan our home purchase to suit the best time for us and not with a ticking-timebomb of a deadline. Yes, this will be good. Difficult but good.

After all, do I need a pantry? Or a study? Or a large yard for kids to run in? No. Those things are nice, but that doesn’t make it a home. Sam, Hope, Atticus, Persy, and Beau the cat make my home home. My best memories are ones were we are all piled into the same room all together. Even though Sam has a “man cave” in the basement and I have a study upstairs I just have to think of my FAVORITE memory to know that we don’t need the space.

My favorite memory: The weekend of February 2nd and 3rd of 2013. The weather was icy and gray. I was super pregnant with Persy. Hope was on the couch “chillaxing,” Sam was playing playdoh with Atticus at the dining room table, I was cooking soup and knitting. I made oatmeal cream pies earlier in the day. Atticus and Hope played with an empty diaper box for hours drawing on the outside and making “furniture” out of it. I remember feeling like at that moment I had everyone I loved the most close to me. It was a good feeling. So that is what I’m going for, everyone I love close to me. It will be good.

5 Things I Loved About This Week: 07/05/2014

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1) My new planner arrived and ERMEGHERD it is beautiful. Monthly, weekly, daily planning and goal-making with assessment tools. I love this planner so much that I plan on doing a separate review at some point. This week got chaotic with a sick kid and work schedule changes. Keeping tabs on my family’s schedule, my work goals and meetings, and my personal goals was key to keeping me sane.

2) Speaking of being an organization nerd, I finally have daily and weekly chores planned for everyone, chore charts for Atticus and Hope, and a plan to tackle in depth cleaning and decluttering in small, daily snippets of time. Let’s hope it works!

3) I finished two books!!! Now I’m only three books behind on my yearly reading goal (groan). Let’s hope this is a sign that my reading mojo is back and ready to kick butt.

4) Hope was baptized on Sunday and then there was a huge church picnic afterwards. I got to spend time with my parents, my brother and sister-in-law, and Sam’s mom and her husband. It was nice seeing everyone at a time other than Christmas.

5) Persy Jane was sick with a tummy bug earlier in the week. Typically this would NOT be something I love, but the bug was kinda low key and she was so freaking snuggly. We watched all of season three of Sherlock on Netflix and cuddled, cuddled, cuddled. She is the squishiest, silliest, sweetest Pea-pie ever.

Just a few hours after pukefest. Isn't this the happiest sick kid you've ever seen?

Just a few hours after pukefest. Isn’t this the happiest sick kid you’ve ever seen?

I’m feeling pretty good about next week! I hope y’all had a lovely holiday weekend!

Fifty Shades of Brontë: A Review of The Professor

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Creepsworth wants to play teacher. *shudder*

I finished my Classics Club spin book last night. I was sure I would finish by the 1st as I only had approximately 25 pages left. Ha! I was unprepared for the godawful slog of those final pages.
I’m getting ahead of myself. First let me provide you with a brief summary from GoodReads:
“The Professor is Charlotte Brontë’s first novel, in which she audaciously inhabits the voice and consciousness of a man, William Crimsworth. Like Jane Eyre he is parentless; like Lucy Snowe in Villette he leaves the certainties of England to forge a life in Brussels. But as a man, William has freedom of action, and as a writer Brontë is correspondingly liberated, exploring the relationship between power and sexual desire.

William’s first person narration reveals his attraction to the dominating directress of the girls’ school where he teaches, played out in the school’s ‘secret garden’. Balanced against this is his more temperate relationship with one of his pupils, Frances Henri, in which mastery and submission interplay. The Professor was published only after Charlotte Brontës death; today it gives us a fascinating insight into the first stirrings of her supreme creative imagination.”

Initially I was intrigued by the book. I thought it interesting how William Crimsworth is from a similar background as Jane Eyre (orphaned, wealthy relatives, decides to be independent) and takes the same path as Lucy Snowe in going to Brussels. It was intriguing the stark contrast between Eyre and Snowe’s need to guard their honor, act appropriately, and be above reproach to avoid utter ruin versus Crimsworth’s freedom of a man. He is cautious and close, but more from a personal wariness of trusting others than from societal decrees on decorum.

All is well and good while he teaches at the boys’ school. The entire book turns to tripe when he begins teaching part time at the adjacent girls’ school. Instantly Crimsworth turns to Creepsworth. His descriptions of the pupils focus a whole lot on their appearances. Their minds are so simple and coy! The most intelligent student is meek and ugly and destined to become a nun. Everyone else is of varying states of beauty and varying states of weak female-mindedness. Most disturbing are the long descriptions of the students. Each time he looks at a student he remarks something to the tune of “but she was fully-formed” or “womanly already.” For awhile he is in love with the seemingly most intelligent woman at the school, the directoress. She is reasonably smart and beautiful, so OF COURSE she is duplicitous and cunning. He learns of the directoress’s duplicity and distances himself from her and her evil feminine wiles.

The plot turns when the lace-making instructor, Frances, begins to take English lessons from Creepsworth. She is a diligent student and he is intrigued by this student with nebulous English connections who speaks little English. She is somewhat pretty and she likes to be subservient and gets all perky and flushed when she is intimidated and embarrassed. Oh yes, this novel is “begging” (pun intended) to be re-written as a Secretary-like piece of fanfic under the title 50 Shades of Brontë. Frances always (even in their subsequent marriage) calls Crimsworth “Monsieur” and loves to be dominated, toyed with, and embarrassed by him. The whole love-story is completely unbelievable as it is obvious that Crimsworth views Frances and all women as objects… inferior objects. Let’s look at some examples:

“I seldom spoke to them — they were nothing to me. I considered them only as something to be glanced at from a distance: their dresses and faces were often pleasing enough to the eye: but I could not understand their conversation, nor even read their countenances. When I caught snatches of what they said, I could never make much of it; and the play of their lips and eyes did not help me at all” (230)

“…[Y]ou spoke of grapes; I was thinking of a fruit I like better than your X– hot-house grapes — an unique fruit, growing wild, which I have marked as my own, and hop one day to gather and taste. It is of no use your offering me the draught of bitterness, or threatening me with death by thirst: I have the anticipation, of sweetness on my palate; the hope of freshness on my lips…” (232)

Frances speaking, “[a]n old maid’s life must doubtless be void and vapid — her heart strained and empty. Had I been an old maid I should have spent existence in efforts to fill the void and ease the aching. I should have probably failed, and died weary and disappointed, despised and of no account, like other single women. but I’m not an old maid [....] I should have been, though, if not for my master.” (279)

This doesn’t even include all the quotes about how Frances’ body rounded and became more fully-formed under his tutelage. She looked almost pretty when taunted and Creepsworth cannot resist her when she is flushed. Seriously, I cannot make this drivel up.

WTF?

Dear Charlotte, I don’t know if you just utterly fail at writing from a solely male perspective or if you earnestly need some “discipline.” The world will never know.

Goodbye, June

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In June I…

Started celebrating what I loved about each week by selecting five moments to highlight.

I embraced writing in a journal again.

I enjoyed time with my family.

I resolved to limit my contact with negative social media.

I cherished many hugs and conversations with my kids. The conversations with the teen are private (girl talk!) but Atticus is at that age where the adorable conversations are plentiful (for example this one and this one).

I revitalized my reading. Sure, I only finished one audiobook and one book, but I enjoyed them. I purchased books, read more blogs, watched more booktube, and thought about what I read on a daily basis. I even posted four reading updates (1, 2, 3, 4) I would have finished my second book yesterday (just 30 pages to go in The Professor) but a puking toddler quickly obliterated time to read.

I’m back to making things. I’m knitting, stitching, AND baking again. It feels wonderful to be back to creating things for people to enjoy even if it takes away from my reading time.

I became more involved at church. I volunteer at the church cafe every other week and I’ve taken on sending out handwritten notes to first and second time guests. Hope has also been very active at church with youth activities each week and she was baptized on Sunday (which fills me with joy).

July will be a very busy month. Hope starts high school the first full-week of August and she has band camp the last two weeks of July. Needless to say I’ll spend July getting things organized, buying school supplies and taking her shopping for clothes. August is the start of our academic year with Sam starting a new set of course and a new work schedule, the library will be busier with faculty returning, and even Atticus will be moving up to the “big side” of the daycare. So yes, lots of planning and shopping and whatnot in July to prepare for a smooth transition to . My goal for the month is to stay present and positive. I have a good feeling about July.

Social Media Cleanse

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I won’t do any linking to stories about human misery here, but trust me when I say that in the past week there’s been a rash of troubling news in my home state. Three separate stories, which  occurred with in a few days of each other,  concern children being killed, maimed, and abandoned. In addition there’s been a rash of Facebook rants that I haven’t been a part of, but have turned nasty. You know, of the racist and/or sexist and/or homophobic variety. Sigh. What to do? I don’t want to delete Facebook; I actually love Facebook. I keep track of friends, events, etc…. I just need to quit with the constant scrolling and reading.  I’m tired. I’m bored. I’m waiting. So I read Facebook. As a result I end up angry, upset, and depressed.

I moved the app on my phone (my Android won’t let me delete it). That should help. I’ve unfollowed everyone who isn’t a human or a book-related site and as a result my feed is free of news sites, politics, and activism. I’ll use NPR streaming at work to catch up on world news and I work at a library so I’m not going to suddenly become ignorant of the world. I may even take up reading the newspaper on my lunch break. A newspaper is tangible. I can read it, fold it up, put it away and wait until the next day for more news. None of this constant refreshing to see the latest updates.

I’ve also decided to use other forms of Social Media to spare myself. Facebook is a blessing and a curse. Cute pictures of my friends’ kids one second and then you scroll down and it is a horrific murder confession splashed on a news source. Other types of social media are more….. contained… I find cookie recipes and chore charts on Pinterest, adorable kid pictures on Instagram and bookish banter on Twitter and GoodReads. I’ll start posting more to these forums and, yes, it will post to my Facebook, but I don’t need to go there to see it.

When the world starts to seem bleak I tend to withdraw from society and focus on my home. I can pray and donate money and do some volunteering. I can voice my beliefs and vote for those who reflect my values. Knowing every detail of a the callous murder of a toddler doesn’t do anything but increase my anxiety and depression. I’m helpless. I cannot fathom hurting a child and and I certainly can’t fathom how to fix society so children no longer hurt.

I cannot save everyone’s child, but I can take care of my kids. I can hug, hold and love my husband and kids. I can bake cookies, make forts, and build Lego towers. I can clean their bodies, and take them to the doctor and kiss boo-boos. I can do this. I’m pulling away from this messy world and focusing on my little nest.

This also means that I have a hankering to do more “home” projects. I’m cleaning, baking, knitting, exercising, stitching, and writing. My children see that I’m engaged in life. Yes, I will sit and stare at my smart phone a little bit during the day, but mostly I’m actively engaging in living my life.

Yesterday I had enough. I was obsessively checking on this one particular news story because I was so horrified I couldn’t think of anything else. Then I started crying, at work, in my office. Enough.

When I got home from work and after the kids were in bed I did the only thing someone who feels sad and helpless can do: I baked scones. I haven’t baked for fun in such a long time. I was busy and occupied and as a result I have happy coworkers with bellies full of lemon blackberry scones. That is so much more rewarding than determining “what classic movie” I am or sharing a post on “insert random activism article” here.

Cheers for babies, hugs, mugs of coffee, soft dough, bits of yarn, warm cat purrs, sunshine, and general good things. Cheers to all that.