Sunday, August 23, 2009

Sunday, Sunday...

I have been restlessly unmotivated lately. I keep trying to latch on to stuff that I hope will pull me out of this rather extended funk. I want to make the most of this clean bill of health that I have been given. I need to find a new way of doing things. Drag myself out of my self-imposed rut.
Yesterday, I went to confession at St. Clair's, the first time in about 11 years. I was in Hiroshima. I became Catholic at 18, so confession is very awkward for me. But I want to make more connections with myself and my community, so I figured going back to church would probably be a pretty good start.
I wasn't sure how the Confession would go, I mean if I took the time to recount every misstep in the last 11 years I would still be there right now on about year 6. As it turned out I was pretty much able to sum up the last 11 years in about 2 minutes without resorting to "I've been bad, very very bad." Confession over and done with, I took my camera to Sam's Club to print some photos.
So, this morning I woke up, made coffee, called mom and started working on the first of two photo projects that I am putting together. First the digital frame. I loaded some photos on it several weeks ago, but realized that the frame cut off some of the photos which annoyed me. To fix this I decided to load the photos into a power point presentation and change them into jpegs. Here is a sample of what I did...

I surfed the net for images and quotes that inspire me and culled through the photos I have on my computer to put together a presentation for my digital photo frame. I was pretty impressed with the result.
This morning, I worked on the digital frame project, almost talked myself out of going to church, talked myself back into going to the 9:30 mass, arrived at the church at about 9:25 to find out the 9:30 mass is at 9:00. Went home, continued to work on my project until the 11:00 mass, came back home at noon, finished the project, hoped in my car to go to work from 1:00 to 5:00.
At five I got home and straightened my apartment. I wish my apartment would learn to pick up after itself. I tell you, I am the only one that does anything around here.
After tidying up a bit, I fixed dinner and poured myself a glass of Cab/Sauv as pictured below

After my tasty dinner, I decided to embark on my other art/photo project. Several weeks ago, I bought some pictures at Ikea for less than $2 each. Once I got them home I discovered that they were pictures and not simply frames which required pulling out very long staples to disassemble them. I put on my thinking cap and decided that I could glue fabric onto the backing to cover up the pictures, then I could glue on bullnose clips and hang some of the photos I took this summer. The real challenge to this project actually turned out to be procuring the bullnose clips. First I had to figure out what they were actually called, then I went to every office supply store imaginable to find the right sized clips without magnets. In the end I prevailed at Office Depot in Sylmar.
Here is the end result of my project. I am pretty proud of the installation if I say so myself.

All and all, this has been a good Sunday and I guess a good start to the week ahead. I have my Librarian IV exam on Wednesday afternoon, I could use a good start.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Libraries Never Have Enough

There is never enough space, time, staff to do what we really want to do or have what we really want to have. We are limited in so many ways and with this economy we are becoming even more limited at a time when people really want and need more from us.
This past week I have been shifting collections. I shifted the adult audio book collection, our books on CD have outgrown their space and the books on tape are shrinking due to collection priorities. We are no longer collecting audio books on cassette nor are we collecting VHS tapes. Our children's audio visual collection also needed shifting for the same reason. Throughout the year there are times when people return more items than are taken out, our collections swell and we need to find space for those items us. Between the end of summer and the beginning of fall is one of those times. It is a delicate dance with the only constant being that our physical space only changes when there is a renovation of some sort.
But the big move this week was expanding the space for holds. These are items that customers have requested from other libraries. Last year, I moved the hold shelf from 3 ranges (a range of shelves) to 6 ranges. Then on Thursday morning, I shifted the hold shelf to teen area giving the holds an additional 3 ranges. We moved the teen area to the hold area and part of the classic section. The classic section moved down and around into the reference section. The reference section is being weeded to either get the books into the regular circulating collection or removed from the library. Friday afternoon, I saw a packed hold shelf and got a major headache. Less than 24 hours later and it seemed to have already outgrown its space.
So needless to say, this took a lot of work and right now my reference section is a total disaster. We have a lot of books to absorb into the regular collection
I told the teen librarian that worked with me on this project to not worry about the reference collection because no one really wants to use it anyhow. We can help the few people who might need something out of in the next month find what they need.
Today, I need to work on my classic collection. First I back shifted and then I forward shifted with the unfortunate result that Dickens does not have a home. Dickens was a prolific writer so now I either have to tighten the shelves up on the gamble that more stuff will go out than come in or I can weed the collection down. The classic section is in pretty dismal condition so weeding would theoretical be easy--I could pare it down by at least half but then students often come in needing the book today because they have to read it tonight for the project due tomorrow. My head is already hurting but I can't leave Dickens homeless so I will probably do a combination of both tactics to hedge my bets.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

There Should Be a Warning Label

By now I know what to expect but the first time it happened, I nearly died of a heart attack. I was in Hong Kong alone suffering travel sickness. I had traveled to Hong Kong with my friend Jackie after which she planned to go to Thailand and Southeast Asia before heading back to Canada. My plans included China, the Trans Siberian and Europe. On the day of her departure, I woke up in the cheap fleabag we were staying feel very wonky. We decided that I should upgrade to a better class of fleabag while in Hong Kong the next 2 days alone. The next few hours were spent in search of a hotel that I would feel moderately safe entering on my own and some tummy medication including Lomotil and Pepto Bismol. The grips of travel sickness were gradually tightening; by the time Jackie got off to the airport, I was in pretty bad shape.
I popped a couple of Pepto tablets and fell into a sleep that only sick people have. Time drags by as awareness of how sick you are pervades your consciousness. Sleep is uneasy and fitful. After a few hours of discomfort in the bed, I drug myself to the bathroom--blessedly not shared with a hall of other people now--wondering how there could still be anything in my system. I finished my business, went to the sink, looked at how sick I was in the mirror. Inspected my tongue and almost scared what little sh** I had left out of me. MY TONGUE WAS BLACK!!

I raced back in panic to my guide book, looking for the dreaded black tongue disease. I though Bubonic Plague--I have that, it turns your tongue black...when you're dead...I am I dead? No, what is this? Do I have to fly home? I don't want to have an awful illness alone in a foreign country...please please please...
I gradually collected myself, went back to the bathroom mirror for another inspection and realized that the black scrapped off. What a relief. I realized that the Pepto did this. I rationalized that it was because I was dehydrated and had only had a little Coke that day and somehow the Carmel coloring stayed.
I have since learned that this is a reaction that some people have to Pepto and generally stay away from it. Apparently Pepto + sulfur = black tongue. But recently my niece was here with an upset tummy so I got her some Pepto. Last night, I woke up with an odd bout of acid reflux, so I popped a couple of her leftover Peptos. Result was as expected--black tongue. No bubonic plague. Sigh.

Monday, August 10, 2009


This picture has a ton of condition issues yet it intrigues me. I have it hanging in the little tiny hallway that enters from the living/dining space into the bedroom suite. I can see the painting from my dining table. This is an excellent place for this artwork for two reasons. First it doesn't have to compete with the rest of my decor which is called Asian Modern by me and might be called as Eclectic Bargain Basement by everyone else. I prefer my moniker of course. At any rate the painting doesn't really go with anything else. And second, I can see this enchanting scene whenever I eat. I feel compelled by this piece for some reason. I feel that I want to walk up the drive, knock on the door and have a nice glass of tea with the owners out on the veranda. I don't drink ice tea but I would at this home. Maybe the owners would be gentile enough to have mint juleps. Now I do drink those.
My mom sent this painting home with me when I went back to Idabel this summer. She has had it for about 3 years. I said that I was super fascinating by the scene several times. Next thing I know it is being wrapped up in an old quilt to be packed with my other stuff to take back to California. I felt super guilty but Mom said that she wanted me to enjoy so it now hangs not in her bedroom but in my micro hallway.
The provenance of this painting is somewhat interesting. We kind of don't know where it comes from and kind of do. Here is what we do know. About 3 years ago, my mom was helping her friend clean out Auntie's house. This is pronounced A-ni where I am from. It took me years to realize that this was actually Auntie and what we have always used for a courtesy aunt and not their real name. Anyway Auntie was going into an assisted living situation and the treasures she took a life time to accumulate had to be pared down to virtually nothing. During on the of the clean out days, my mom went over to the pile destined for the landfill. She found the painting on top and grabbed it up. Her friend's husband had declared fit to be reclaimed by the earth. Mom, instantly enchanted with the muted tones, asked if she could have it; with the yes answer the painting came to hang on my mom's bedroom wall and eventually made its way to California and my wall.
There is a bit more known about the painting because someone wrote some enigmatic words on the back that we have yet to fully understand. This is what is inscribed "Memory Contest Prize Grammar Room Won by Ruth Templeton for possible 50 years. Age 78 years old May 22, 1831." Was Ruth the artist and she was remembering a scene from 50 years ago? Did Ruth win the painting 50 years ago and now at the age of 78 in 1831 she or someone decided to memorialize the event by noting it down on the back of the painting? What exactly is a Memory Contest anyway? It does seem that the painting was executed in either 1831 or 50 years earlier around 1780.
Last Sunday I carefully wrapped the painting up and I took the painting to a the antique appraisal booth at the local flea market. The first Sunday of the month they have the booth. Of course this was no Antique Road Show event so the appraiser could offer me few more clues that it had huge condition issues (which I already knew) and might retail for $150-$200 (which I suspected). My main question was should I try to clean it and the appraiser answered that I shouldn't because part of the charm lay in the condition issues and would cost a fortune to boot.
I would like to know more but this does not seem likely. I tried to search some photos on the internet of homes that were similar. It has a wrap around porch and seems plantation gates. It should be somewhere in the South due to subject matter the fact that is was in Oklahoma for part of its history.
What ever its history, I love this painting and am somewhat relieved that it isn't worth more than I thought it is because now I don't have to worry about having to get and pay for special insurance. I would be devastated if something happened to it so no amount of insurance money would ever replace the fascination I have with this piece of our American history.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Julie & Julia the books and the movie

During the first quarter of 2008, I set a goal for myself that I would only read books on cooking for the first 3 months of the year. The first book I read was The United States of Arugula by David Kamp. This turned out to be an excellent choice as it gave me a general background on the movers and shakers in the developing the American palette. I had of course heard of Julia Child and of the Galloping Gourmet but James Beard ?, Alice Waters? Ruth Reichl? These and others were names that I would become intimate with in the following months. But the woman who towered above them all was of course Julia Child.
For some reason, I felt intimidated to read a book on Julia. I am not quite sure why but I felt great reluctance. I saw My Life in France on the shelf day after day but always put it off for another time. The in late January, I picked up Julie Powell's Julie & Julia: 365 days, 524 recipes, 1 tiny apartment kitchen. I thought the cover was whimsical and decided to give it a go. Once I opened the book, I delightfully plunged into Julie's world of neurosis and and search for meaning in a world that a times appears to be unraveling at the seams. Julie had wit and a rough edged charm and I found myself laughing madly out loud. I devoured the book and then encouraged everyone I knew to read it--even a 70 year old man that politely gave it back to me. I dubbed the book as Sex in the City in a tiny grimy kitchen.
Through Julie & Julia, I learned a bit about the Grand Dame herself and became intrigued, so I picked up the My Life in France audiobook--I was still worried that I just wouldn't get into it. But Oh, how wrong I was. Paul and Julia had a fantastic marriage and love affair. Julia's story is beautifully told by her nephew Alex Prudhomme. I instantly became a fan of Julia Child. What woman wouldn't be when it became clear that she didn't even start cooking until she was almost 40. Clear proof that at any point we can be who we want to be if we can only imagine it and try hard. Julia and Julie truly inspired me.
Needless to say, I was excited when I heard the movie was coming out. I added a copy to my collection and marked it New although by it clearly wasn't. I also added it to my Recommend list on our digital photo frame in the library. And this summer, I had a book club discussion and pot luck on the book as part of the Summer Reading Program.
All this but I was afraid that I wouldn't like the movie. I know that Nora Ephron is entirely capable with titles like When Harry Met Sally and Sleepless in Seattle under her belt; but when I found out that Meryl Strep was going to play Julia Child in the movie, I just didn't get it. And then I realized that the movie was actually going to be based on both titles covering both Julia Child's and Julie Powell's stories. I became hopeful that all would be good. And indeed all was good. This is an excellent film, well told and leaves you feeling generally good about yourself. This is a movie that proves that even with set backs when you are determined and have the support you can accomplish great things. I highly recommend this film and the two books. They are all very good. Each can stand alone but are best when enjoyed together.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

What a Relief!

All the drama of the past 2 months has dissipated with a huge sigh of relief. The doctor says that Louise is shrinking and may disappear on her own. I don't have cancer and that the bleeding was probably caused by a polyp that he may have gotten during the biopsy. I will go back in 3 months for another ultrasound to see if Louise is still packing her bags and vacating my abdomen. So for now, I am OK! I am so happy.
Yesterday, I had a few moments of panic when I checked in. Usually they just have me verify my birthday and last four of my social to make sure it is me. But yesterday, they asked to see my ID and my health insurance card and had me sign a paper making sure that everything was correct. I asked if I was the only person she was doing this to, but all she said was that she wanted to check to make sure everything was right.
Of course here I am thinking that the worst and that I might be asked to directly to the OR to take care of what ever they found in the biopsy. So it was with some trepidation that I entered into the cubicle to wait for the doctor.
The one thing I noticed was that everyone asked me "How are you today?" Somehow our social conventions seem weird and awkward in situations like this. "Hmmm...well I don't really know, you are hold the answer to that question not me" is what I wanted to say but I just meekly said, "fine" and added "I think" to the end.
But what a relief to be able to answer the question without thought a few minutes later.
I of course called my mom who has been on pins and needles waiting for the results. She even said that she would drive across the huge desert alone and brave the LA traffic to come to see me--although she wouldn't actually have to brave LA traffic due to the fact that we are on the East side of LA, but it is the thought that counts--she doesn't know that you hit Santa Clarita before LA. But I was so happy that at some point I laughed while I was talking so she couldn't understand what I was trying to say. Mom said "Stop giggling and talk to me." My poor mother has had to put up with the strange and varied sense of humor that all three of her children inherited from their father. My poor mom has to put up with so much she really is a saint and I am so proud to have her as a mother.