New and Improved 2017

Four days into 2017, and I’m lying in bed, sick with a cold. I wanted to start this year with bright eyes and a bushy tail, but instead I have watery eyes and a droopy tail. My nose is congested, but my mind is clear, and I might as well be doing something productive and reflective.

It’s been a while since I’ve set formal resolutions for the new year. It’s not that I don’t believe in them; it’s just that I see every day as an opportunity to improve. And that can sound like a copout, so here are my thoughts.

Two main categories stick out most for improvement: My interactions with others, and self-care. I want to be friendlier and kinder. I want to be an exceptional listener and strive to understand all sides of a story. A Christmas card I received said that I work with my team in a service-oriented way. Which I wasn’t aware that I did. But I guess it’s a thing that I do that’s become more or less second nature. I’m pleased about this, and I want to keep doing it.

I want to treat myself better, with higher esteem. This may amount to more concrete actions, such as regular hair appointments, massages; decent bedtimes; more honeytime with my husband; more playtime with my amazing daughter. But I also want to read more books and nourish my brain and body as best I can.

Blog/Write/Brainstorm more!

Stay away from Facebook: I’m on a break. I check in once in a while to see what friends are up to. If they’re up to anything mean-spirited, then I check out right away. I’m finding that I don’t really miss it.

Oh, yeah. Exercise. Do more of that. I’ll say at least twice a week.

But I got to get rid of this darn cold first.

Rest more.

Nay, Neigh

About a month ago, I finished Cormac McCarthy’s All the Pretty Horses. I’ve never seen the movie; the only McCarthy movie adaptation I’ve seen is No Country for Old Men, which I thought did a terrific job. I do know that Pretty Horses stars Matt Damon and Penelope Cruz, and I wonder if I could let myself believe that Damon’s character is 16/17 years old. I’d probably be okay with it, only because I adore Matt Damon. But I don’t know if I could accept Billy Bob Thornton making a movie from a Cormac McCarthy novel, only because I just don’t know about that guy. He creeps me out.

The movie also stars Henry Thomas, who takes me back to E.T. and especially Cloak & Dagger. I guess I can understand casting men in their late 20s (or so) in a movie meant to portray young men in their late teens aged and roughed up by the Wild West. But since I didn’t see All the Pretty Horses, instead of imagining Matt Damon and Henry Thomas, I actually used my imagination.

Of course, McCarthy’s language gets to me every single time. His integration of Spanish in this novel feels perfectly natural, and the lexicon referring to ranching in Mexico helped keep me engaged.  On my Kindle, I can put my finger on a word, and its definition pops up. That tool is pretty nifty. With some of the words in this novel, however, a few of them made it into the English dictionary, but most of them did not. I was okay with that.

One of my favorite excerpts:

The world’s pain and its beauty moved in a relationship of diverging equity and that in this headlong deficit the blood of multitudes might ultimately be exacted for the vision of a single flower.

Right? How about that contrast and almost palpable effect? Here’s another:

They stood and watched him pass and watched him vanish upon that landscape solely because he was passing. Solely because he would vanish.

For me, this captures the entire tone of the novel. Vanishing points provide lengthen a field, deepen perspective, and create a little pocket of time-space to help us grasp the present before it becomes the past.

And, finally:

Sweeter for the larceny of time and flesh, sweeter for the betrayal.

When I first came across this phrase (which comes earlier than the previous excerpts), I looked around on the train and wondered if any of the other passengers felt the sheer power of the combination of these words. Larceny of time! Larceny of flesh! Could a word be so perfect, just so utterly perfect?

What should I read next?

One of Those Situations Where I Absolutely Kill It

A nice young man leads me behind the checkout desk toward the director’s office. I see she’s on the phone, but she waves me in and motions for me to sit down.

I try to tune out her conversation, but I can’t help internalizing an offer to help the person on the other end of the line. At the same time I try to take in details of her office without looking nosy.

She has books, of course. She has big plants. I like that.

She wears an olive green dress. I wear an olive green skirt. I wear brown shoes. She wears brown shoes and brown stockings. Fun coincidence, but I think it’s one of those unspoken connections.

She introduces herself and describes the interview process. She explains what the questions entail and asks if I’m ready to begin. I rub my hands together and say let’s go.

I sort of don’t believe that I rubbed my hands together. But it happened.

She starts out with questions like what do I do for fun, what role do librarians play today, what are my passions.

She asks about my leadership and  teamwork experience. What qualities make a good leader? A good team member?

She asks why I want to pursue a master’s degree in library science.

I elaborate on all the answers to these questions.

My armpits give away my nervousness and adrenaline levels. Thanks a lot, armpits.

As I give examples in my answers and talk in paragraphs, which is something I generally don’t do in everyday conversation because most of the time I talk in sound bites and snide remarks, she nods and gives affirming feedback. This encourages me. I feel I could keep talking.

Throughout our conversation, I catch how her eyes agree with my answers and the momentum I gain carries me through to the end.

She makes me feel as if I’m already a librarian.

We make good time. She says I’m doing a terrific job. She wraps up the interview and asks if I have any questions for her. I listen to her describe the timeline for the different tracks within the program. She talks about getting me involved in networking and conferences and I wonder if I should have worn a darker shirt. A black one, because I can’t stop sweating. The anxiety about sweating makes more sweat. We know how it works.

She said that I seemed really in tune with what the program is about, and that she would strongly or highly recommend me. She says that I seem a perfect fit, and I say it feels pretty good. She’s pleased.

Then I ask her what her favorite part of her career has been.

This is a nice way to end an interview for me because I get to hear someone talk about a career she loves. In this particular situation, we both finish confidently.

Thanks to those who answered polls about whether I should pursue an MLS or an MFA (though the MFA may still be in the future) and about times where I have been a good team member. All of you were extremely helpful.

Thanks to those who have supported me in whatever decisions I make even though it takes me years to make up my mind.

Thanks also to Reilly for taking the day off to drive and give moral support, as well as setting off the alarm at the library where I interviewed by bringing a book from a different library. That was great.

Now, it’s just a matter of waiting to see if I get in. I don’t mind waiting.

Another Book I’m Reading

Gulp: Adventures on the Alimentary Canal, by Mary Roach

I just started reading this, and asterisks twinkle sporadically throughout the text. Because the content is so interesting and the style is so quirky, it’s actually quite hard to not look toward the bottom of the page to see what the asterisks mean.

So far, the book is about eating. Later on, I’m sure the book will also be about pooping, because that’s a part of the “adventures” in the title. I’m currently in a chapter about how organs are very, very nutritious and American culture grimaces at the thought of eating narwhal skin, for example.

But, footnotes. Chapter 3–entitled “Liver and Opinions”–describes an experiment where scientists served children 16- to 29-months different things to taste, for “until kids are around two, you can get them to try pretty much anything.” Among the lowest-accepted items was human hair. An asterisk bedazzled the word hair, so I rushed to read the corresponding footnote and now I have to share it with you. If you’re squeamish, I suggest you ignore it, but if you can detach, here you go:

Compulsive hair-eaters wind up with trichobezoars–human hairballs. The biggest ones extend from stomach into intestine and look like otters or big hairy turds and require removal by stunned surgeons who run for their cameras and publish the pictures in medical journal articles about “Rapunzel Syndrome.” Bonus points for reading this footnote on April 27, National Hairball Awareness Day.

I read that last sentence and felt I’d missed out on serious bonus points. Still, I feel that I shouldn’t be giving myself so much credit for reading a book with so much  gross-out potential, because it’s actually a lot of fun to read. If you’re in the mood for some fun science writing and need a break from dense literature (like I do), check out this book.

Back to reading before dinner.

A Book I’m Reading

I recently checked out an ebook called, Antifragile: Things That Gain from Disorder by Nassim Nicholas Taleb. It has some really interesting ideas about unpredictability and causality. The author expounds on his theories about the Black Swan phenomenon, which I won’t dwell on here.

A few days ago, this quote caught my attention:

“He who has never sinned is less reliable than he who has only sinned once. And someone who has made plenty of errors–though never the same error more than once–is more reliable than someone who has never made any.”

I don’t think the author’s calling Christ unreliable, at least if he knows Christ and sin the way Christ knows sin. I think Taleb statement works particularly well here because the Atonement accounts for all mistakes. Because Christ knows what it feels like to make them, he becomes the most reliable person that will ever exist.

Now if we separate Christ from the rest of mortality, I can understand being a little skeptical of a person who has never sinned. Taleb’s premise states that the fragilistas have little to gain because they fear making mistakes, and the ones they do make are huge and destructive and difficult to bounce back from. The antifragile don’t fear mistakes; they thrive on them, and the mistakes they make aren’t as big and they can make more of them. The more mistakes they make, the more they have to gain.

This is a little aspect of the book, but I like it not because it encourages me to make mistakes. It actually supports what I believe on a religious and spiritual basis: Even though I don’t go out of my way to make mistakes, I can rely on the Atonement when I do make them. He already knows all the lessons, and my sins can help me learn them. Taleb emphasizes that reliable people don’t make the same mistake more than once. This is repentance. If what I have to gain from the sins I commit is to become a better person and strengthen my relationship with Christ, that will in turn help me to become more reliable. However, because I won’t or can’t commit all the sins I can’t ever become as reliable as Christ. At least in my finite perspective. But that doesn’t mean I can’t be helpful to others. That doesn’t diminish any meaning or fulfillment my life should have.

Anyway, Antifragile presents some fun philosophy. I enjoy following the author’s thoughts as they wander. Antifragile is a good book because I can allow myself to disagree with some of the author’s ideas. While I haven’t formed full arguments yet, I quite enjoy the inner monologue. Certainly, this book offers a lot of unpredictability through its structure and ideas, and my quasi-formalistic mind can appreciate how the book’s form contributes to its function: As I stumble through ideas I haven’t thought about before, I find myself learning new things. Not necessarily because Taleb lays it all out in the open, but because what he does present helps me tinker the new things with what I already know. That experience alone holds a lot of potential.

That experience is so very easily practical, because we all know that we ought to try to make the best of what we can’t always predict. There’s only so much we can do to prepare. But if we can rely on true sources of strength and love and if we can thrive from volatile circumstances, then we phoenix our way out of any ambush, the ashes. Resurrect in more than one way.

Not sure why I’m reading a 500-page book to explain what I already know. Well, yes I do.

Free Books to Utah/Salt Lake County Friends

You guys, we have a lot of books. Some of them are duplicates. Some of them we don’t want.

Here they are. If you can come pick up the books you want, or if I can meet you to give you the books, let me know. Text, email, or call. First come, first served. I am not paying to ship free books.

All books are paperback unless otherwise noted.  As we continue sorting through our books, we’ll probably have more to give away.

Author Title Condition
 

Ancient Prophets

 

Mormon, Editor

 

Le Livre de Mormon – Hardcover Missionary Copy

 

Excellent

Who wouldn’t want one of these, n’est-ce pas?
 

Boccaccio

 

Giovanni

 

Collected Works – Hardcover

 

Excellent

Copyright 1931; has a nice old-book smell.
 

Bradbury

 

Ray

 

Zen in the Art of Writing

 

Good

I annotated and highlighted throughout the book. As writers should. You may discover my secrets.
 

Camus

 

Albert

 

The Stranger (English)

 

Excellent

This will put you in an AMAZING mood of despair!
 

Chabon

 

Michael

 

The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay

 

Excellent

Best read when wearing a cape.
 

Eco

 

Umberto

 

The Name of the Rose

 

Average

The last name makes me thinks that he writes about the environment. Reilly likes him a lot.
 

Frazier

 

Charles

 

Cold Mountain

 

Good

Did anyone see the movie? Did you really?
 

Gaiman

 

Neil

 

American Gods

 

Excellent

Brush up on your ongoing and intense chases involving all sorts of mythology.
 

Lowry

 

Lois

 

The Giver

 

Good

Seriously, every home should have a copy of this book. I am giving one to you.
 

Osteen

 

Joel

 

Your Best Life Now  – Hardcover

 

Excellent

Spice up your life with a little pomade and evangelism.
 

Phillips

 

Caryl

 

Cambridge

 

Average to Poor

According to the NYT book review: “Swiftly moving, adroitly told.” So, it’s halfway like Twilight.
 

Robinson

 

Marilynne

 

Housekeeping

 

Good

Fall in love with language and uplifting themes all over again.
 

St. Augustine

 

Confessions

 

Good

I agree with a lot of his philosophy and observations. Also, St. Augustine is one of my favorite towns.
 

Wharton

 

Edith

 

The Age of Innocence

 

Good

How can the Post-Bellum/Gilded Age be all that innocent? Edith Wharton will explain to all the ignorami.

Mine

My name is May. This is my month.

Of course I’ll share it with you. I mean, 31 days is more than plenty to go around.

What are you going to do with my month? It’s the best time of year with spring in full swing. Are you going to go on hikes? Go camping? Start exercising again?

Are you going to try to write more poetry? Start submitting your work to various publications?

What are you going to do with your garden? How do you plan to landscape your yard? Is mowing the lawn something you look forward to, more than raking leaves in the fall?

Will you get a puppy? I know people who really want puppies.

Will you be going on more dates? Will you try kissing more? Maybe you should work on your moves because then at least you’re working on something.

Go dancing. Fly kites. Sing scales. Don’t forget to include arpeggios.

Also, don’t forget Mother’s Day. Seriously.

We just renewed the lease on our apartment. We’ve been sporadically working on making our home cozy, a nice nook for us and books to live. Now that we’ll be here for another year we’re starting to feel more settled. We rearranged our bedroom so that it feels bigger. We put up a shelf for more of our books to live. We’ve hung some photographs and posters, and I’m considering curtains, but that seems too big of a commitment right now.  I know that sounds weird, but the idea of curtains excites and scares me at the same time.

We moved the bookshelf from our bedroom into the living area. We also bought another bookshelf for the living room. We rearranged a lot of the living space for the books, and now many hardcovers reside on the shelves in the living room. This opened up space in the library for us to get books out of storage so that they wouldn’t feel left out. I’m grateful they have a place now, but I can’t even imagine how the books feel.

As I write I realize that I could go on about how Reilly organized the paperbacks according to publisher but we have a lot of books from independent publishers, and I’d also like to organize his Spanish novels and my French ones, but then I wonder if I actually have a point to this post.

I mean, I guess I could liken books to people and this post could be about creating space for all types of people. Taking books out of the closet, that sort of thing. That would come across as pretty heavy-handed,  but I really can’t explain how much better I feel now that all our books are on the shelves.

We did all that in April.

Maybe my point is that I can’t wait to see what May brings.

Pun absolutely intended.